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Philippine ICT body presents roadmap, Civil society takes a stand
05 June 2006

The Philippine Commission on Information and Communications Technology presented its proposed ICT roadmap last June 5, 2006 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Gathering nearly a hundred stakeholders from the government, private sector and civil society, the activity took place in the middle of a leadership transition within CICT.

The proposed ICT roadmap is the output of a process started by former CICT Chair Virgilio Pena, consolidating the strategies formulated by Commission’s four components, namely: Human Capital Development; E-Government; Business Development and Information Infrastructure. On the 1st of May, Pena was replaced by banker Ramon Sales.

The draft begins with a progressive guiding principle of having a “people centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities, and peoples to achieve the full potential in promoting development and improving their quality of life.”

While civil society affirmed such progressive language, it reiterated that the ICT sector should not be driven by the market, a position that appears to be supported by CICT’s Mission and Vision as well as programs under business development and even universal access. As Aileen Familara of Isis International Manila asserted, “It is not the role of the government to merely enable a good business environment. Instead, it should also concern itself with people’s initiatives.”

The proposed ICT roadmap also articulated a reliance on the private sector in implementing a national broadband plan which aims to connect 55 percent of rural villages by 2010, among others. Reuben Ravago of Advanced Software Foundation opined that the government should “reverse its perspective” that instead of counting on the private sector which is poised to serve profitable areas, each local government unit should be given the resources “to own the infrastructure that addresses it concerns and at the same time open its network” to other LGUs.

As a convenor of civil society, APC member Foundation for Media Alternatives compiled the initial set of inputs and submitted this to the CICT. These inputs were the outcome of the two preparatory meetings FMA organized on May 16, 2006 and June 1, 2006.

The document lauds the efforts of the CICT in adopting an encouraging set of guiding principles and a multi-stakeholder process., But it stressed the need for “more references on development goals (not merely competitiveness)” and a deeper understanding of an “Information Society.” The document also pointed out that the consultation process has not been as broad and inclusive as it should be. Hence it recommended a series of consultations with more public interest groups especially outside Metro Manila.

The document likewise explained the need for a more proactive response from the government in providing access to ICTs especially in the countryside, urging the CICT to further reach out to groups such as women and people with disabilities in order to make the Commission's community e-centers program more relevant. It also recommended the waiving of licensing fees for community radios.

Other recommendations include the redelegation of the .ph country code top level domain which has been arbitrarily managed by a private individual and a competition policy which can check vertical price squeezing and cross-subsidization of services. The document also pushed for the adoption of free and open source software; the production of a Gender and Development Plan; and the adoption of a rights-based approach particularly in controversial legislative measures and emerging employment opportunities.

This site was initiated thanks to grants received by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) from CIDA, OSISA and Article 19 to support civil society involvement in ICT policy processes. FMA is a member of the APC. This policy portal is one of series being developed around the world.

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