“This is one question we should ask candidates vying for our votes next May.”
Sage perspectives from digital industry experts in the recent virtual town hall discussion of think tank Stratbase ADRi revealed convergent approaches that the next administration should take to regain economic momentum in a global digital ecosystem.
ADRi president Prof. Dindo Manhit opened the discussion by pointing out that though we are seeing improvements in connectivity, we need to catch up with the world’s pace towards a digitally driven economic system and for government to adopt a developmental paradigm shift from what is a backward, cumbersome, and corruption-prone bureaucratic system to a digitally transformed government that performs efficient, transparent, and accountable public services.
He espoused a “people-centered” approach that must start with developing the people’s skill sets and values. This approach will enable our workforce and highlight the need for more champions in both the private and public sector that can inspire innovations. These, in turn, would integrate the disconnect between processes, policies, and even flaws in governance that have been exposed.
Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gringo Honasan, in his keynote message, rightly stated that access to data and information has become a right and a privilege together with basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, education, health services and access to data.
“Truly, we envision a thriving digital nation wherein our people through complete, accurate, and timely information can make rational, intelligent, and long-term decisions which benefit their personal lives and society as a whole,” he said.
Sec. Honasan acknowledged that the first sector that needs to be educated about the power of ICT-driven connectivity is the government. This limited understanding of the strategic importance of ICT explains why the DICT, to use the Secretary’s words, “was given an obscenely small budget” that “even for the national broadband, is not enough for one region.” Despite this, he readily acknowledged that “by harnessing the power of public-private partnership, and convergence, we are moving forward.”
Globe Telecom Head Senior Vice President and of Corporate Communications and Chief sustainability Officer, Ma. Yolanda Crisanto, shared an aggressive outlook with a 2021 CAPEX program reaching a record USD 2.1 billion on 4G and 5G expansion for mobile data that will enable new services like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and robotics among others.
She believes that there is much room for the government to provide its own network which telcos can readily align and double the pace of digital infrastructure roll-out.
She emphasized the need to drive public sector utilization of digital technologies and a shift in education that veers away from teaching our students to be servants and OFWs to instead pursue the field of information technology that can develop into a globally competitive workforce that will power our own digital industry.
On the other hand, Smart Communications Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Atty. Roy Cecil Ibay recognized Sec. Honasan’s leadership in the DICT’s policy reforms that have substantially helped private telcos speed up their infrastructure projects. He likewise pushed for more government-led digital infrastructure investments especially in the underserved areas. He stressed the need to have symmetry and balance in policy and regulations. Case in point is the measly P9-billion budget given the DICT when the economy is heavily dependent on an online environment.
Facebook Philippines Public Policy Head Clare Amador reiterated the company’s commitment to support connectivity programs and will continue to work with the DICT and partners in the private sector and government. She pointed out that close consultation with stakeholders is key to being responsive to the nuances of the emerging future wherein a one-size-fits-all approach will not work in crafting a policy environment that fosters a digitally empowered small and medium business sector.
Microsoft Philippines Public Sector Director Ms. Joanna Rodriguez maintained that we should embrace a new way of thinking, behaving, and working – a culture of innovation and growth mindset that starts with a strong push from leaders.
She pointed out the need to redesign service delivery which, “might mean breaking down traditional, departmental, and agency hierarchies and boundaries for decision-making and rethinking models of accountability and incentives for government workers.”
Grab Philippines Head of Public Affairs, Sherielysse “Booey” Bonifacio, discussed the need to ensure that platforms are safe and secure for every user. This is needed to develop people’s trust in the use of digital platforms.
HP Philippines Managing Director, Christian Edmond Reyes, discussed how digital transformation is about how we must drive the education and upskilling of the labor force and ensure digital equity in terms of equipment and technology.
To realize a thriving digital ecosystem for our country, each government agency and private enterprise will need digital transformation champions to persistently push the continuous digitalization and integration of government and business services using the appropriate cloud-based solutions.
A question we should ask aspiring candidates in the May 2022 national elections is how digital transformation integrates with their vision for our nation.