Published on Business Mirror on August 16, 2016 (link here)
Having received his marching order from the President, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Rodolfo A. Salalima can now busy himself further with crafting a national broadband plan.
This is not the first national information-technology plan of the country, as we already have several iterations of it, such as the 2007 National Broadband Network awarded to ZTE and the 2011 five-year Digital Roadmap of the Commission on Information Communications Technologies. However, this plan will be the first one to be handled by the newly created DICT. If implemented correctly, the first national broadband network could finally help the Philippines get on the right track in terms of connectivity and e-governance.
The idea of e-governance is the provision of public service by capitalizing on available information and communications technology (ICT), paving the way for online government transactions. With regard to e-governance, the DICT need not reinvent the wheel, as there are plenty of countries that they could mirror. Take the case of Estonia, the once Soviet Republic has successfully transitioned from a technology deprived nation to the most advanced digital society in the world that has basically written the book on e-governance. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia found itself in a technological backwater where less than half of its population had a telephone and their only connection to the outside world was through a telephone line that lay hidden in a garden. Left as a literal “blank slate,” Estonia rid itself of Soviet legacy systems and implemented a flat-income tax system, free-trade policies and hassle-free business registration process that spurred the rise of local technopreneurs. Eventually, these individuals gave the world its “Skype”, “Hotmail”, and “KaZaa”. When Finland offered its 1970s analogue telephone system for free, the country declined and decided to build its own. In addition, it took the Estonian government less than a decade to provide all of its schools with access to the Internet while giving out free Wi-Fi in selected public grounds. By 2007, the country conducted the world’s first national election with online voting. At present, most government transactions, such as payment of tax, business registration, land registration, access to medical records, social-welfare benefits and even court procedures can be conducted online through the government-initiated “e-Estonia”.
Perhaps, an “e-Philippines” is still far down the road but development of a national broadband plan that is poised to facilitate better ICT infrastructure is indeed a welcome progress. The administration can learn a lot from the experience of Estonia, as they traverse the road to a fully ICT-integrated government and society.