NEDA Exec Says IT21 Moving Ahead

MANILA (03/13/2000) - The National Information Technology Plan for the 21st Century, otherwise known as IT21, is slowly but surely being realized, a key government official said last month.

"Some people say IT21 is not moving forward," said Danny Pabellon, director at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), in an interview with Computerworld. "But if you look at the developments throughout the country, you can see that there is movement. It is not as fast as we want it to be, but we are seeing movement, little by little."

Under Executive Order No. 469, the overall chairmanship of the National Information Technology Council (NITC) lies with the secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The council is also being co-chaired by the director-general of the NEDA and a private sector representative from the IT industry.

Members of the council include the secretaries of the Department of Trade and Industry; the Department of Education, Culture and Sports; the Department of Budget and Management; the Department of Transportation and Communication; the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED); the director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA); and the managing director of the National Computer Center (NCC).

Pabellon said IT21 has an action agenda with specific goals that need to be accomplished. The following are the some of the specific actions and their status: The NITC has yet to organize a task force on monitoring and public accountability to make administrative and policy environment more conducive to investing and doing business in the Philippines. The agency tasked to oversee this initiative is the DTI.

To establish fast lane services for foreign investors, the DTI has established the Blue and Green lanes for foreign investors at ports of entry and exit. The Board of Investments (BOI) will follow with the installation of a one-stop desk for Information and Communication Technology soon.

To further liberalize foreign investment, recommendations have been made for the removal of restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast and other utilities.

To promote private sector investments in product- and location- specific IT projects, the Philippine Export Processing Zone Authority (PEZA) issued IT zone guidelines for developers and locators last October. Under the PEZA guidelines, IT zone developers are encouraged to provide high-bandwidth telecommunication facilities for the use of locators. Pabellon said that the DTI, BOI, and NEDA are in the thick of determining niche information and communication technology products with strong export and foreign exchange earning potentials.

Pabellon said IT21 seeks to promote venture capital (VC) financing for IT development ventures, and today, several companies such as Megaworld Properties and Holdings, Inc. have started setting up VCs for IT startup projects.

Meanwhile, the DOST's Virtual Centers for Technology Innovation (VCTI) initiative seeks to encourage technological innovation and experimentation.

Last December, the department launched a center for electronics, and followed that with a center for information and communication technologies last month.

At the same time, the government has established strategic partnerships and alliances with Intel, Microsoft, the government of Singapore, Amkor Technologies; and the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

In terms of the physical infrastructure, Pabellon said, the second National Telephone Backbone has been established and the Government Information Systems Plan (GISP) is ready for implementation.

Furthermore, DOST is providing support to connect schools to the Internet.

The roll-out programs of the telecommunication providers, especially in underserved areas, is 92 percent complete. As for the Municipal Telephone Program, 87 percent of all municipalities have been given public calling offices.

At the same time, the NITC said, the interconnection of existing facilities has resulted in the establishment of a national telecommunications backbone.

To address the IT manpower requirements of the country, the CHED, DECS and TESDA have submitted the final draft of the IT in Education Master Plan to the DOST. In the absence of the approved plan, CHED has already revised the policies and standards for the program offerings on IT education.

Educational and training institutions have been ordered to upgrade their IT-based tools and programs and continually conduct training for IT teachers and professionals.

IT21 also seeks to standardize and deploy common application information systems in government, including local government units. The target for this is 2002.

The National Computer Center is expected to set up a task force that will fast-track measures to streamline administrative processes and procedures in government procurement, budgeting, accounting, auditing, monitoring, and reporting.

In February last year, RPWeb was launched to serve as the nucleus of what is to become the Philippine Information Infrastructure or PII.

To facilitate meaningful private sector participation in the implementation of IT21 an International Advisory Board was created which includes Craig Barrett, Intel president; James Kim, chairman of Amkor Technology, Inc.; and Robert Holleyman, Business Software Alliance (BSA) president and CEO, as members.

To market IT21, the NCC has organized a task force to develop and disseminate marketing materials on IT21 and the IT Action Agenda.

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