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EXCLUSIVE – OPENING KEYNOTE 3rd Annual Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum 2019

Eliseo M. Rio Jr. , DICT Acting Secretary

Open Gov Asia Group Managing Director and EIC Mohit Sagar, distinguished guests, colleagues in the government, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

First of all, I’d like to express my relief that this annual gathering pushed through as there were no grave consequences from the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that occurred last Monday – at least in the Metro Manila area.

What the earthquake brought though was a reminder to all of us that there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to efficiently serve and protect our citizens, more especially in challenging times.

Because sometimes, we need a big jolt, a major wake-up call, to ground our plans, to rethink our strategies, and to act accordingly for the benefit of the public. That’s not to say that we are taking over the mandate of PHIVOLCS.

Kidding aside, the Department of Information and Communications Technology is facing a different but also a timely challenge: digital transformation. Since the dawn of computers and the introduction of the internet, we have already heard of this concept, but there was  little understanding on the process of transformation we should pursue.

The DICT, as the lead agency of the country in ICT-related matters, is ready to guide the country in this front and trailblaze our road to digital transformation.

The digital revolution we are experiencing right now has brought a different jolt that shakes up the landscape of not just businesses but whole societies. There’s a scary notion on that but the Philippines has been making key steps in converting these threats into opportunities.

To fully digitize the economy, we recognize that there is a need to establish a network of infrastructures that would boost our current connectivity status. The government is all out on this matter, as it is anchored on our National Broadband Plan, which would accelerate the deployment of fiber in the country. In the coming years, this will be more felt by the public with the landing stations of the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure completed this year, bringing in initially an additional 2 terabits of international bandwidth capacity. The challenge will then be on the distribution side, which we already foresaw and strategically planned on as we tap Transco and rural electricity cooperativesas partners of the NBP.

We are also set to release a policy on passive infrastructure sharing that would contribute to boost the quality of broadband service. Derived from a pro-competition principle, the policy targets the optimum utilization of telecommunications resources and hasten the build-up of 50,000 more towers that we need to bring up the tower density in the country.

With data being the lifeblood of our operations, this also warrants us to recalibrate our systems towards a truly citizen-centric government. This is specially being done in our e-government approaches and cybersecurity initiatives. We have been keeping tabs with the latest developments in systems trends that would ease the public’s experience while protecting them in the cyber realm with our intensified efforts on cybersecurity.

Additionally, we are extending it to the physical world as we are enhancing our government emergency communications system so that in times of calamities like an earthquake, we can still lean on ICT to help save lives and minimize damages.

But all of these won’t be enough –in the long run.

For us to truly embrace the journey of transformation, we need to include our people in the equation. The infrastructures and systems can be fully functional but without the innovative people leading the charge, this can all fail. As the world continues to adapt to the digital demand, the Philippines can only move forward and catch up with the rest if our infrastructures and systems are complemented by people with vision for a brighter future.

It is the very reason why we are pushing projects that are people-centric in nature. Initiatives like the Tech4Ed and Rural Impact Sourcing, which empower people mostly in underserved areas.  As ICT champions and public servants, our roles expand to preparing our countrymen for exciting times ahead.

I hope all of us won’t need a jolt from below to remind us of what’s important. Rather, we should stay grounded and look around our communities, and ask ourselves, “How  can I shake up the future?”

At the end of the day, the transformation will be completed if it revolves around — not data, not emerging technologies — but with our people.

Thank you!

Denis F. Villorente, Undersecretary
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