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Government eyes creation of info tech agency

- Marichu A. Villanueva () - April 21, 2001 - 12:00am
The government will ask the next Congress to create a Department of Information Technology and Communications (DITC) through proposed legislation billed as the Comprehensive Convergence Law.

No less than President Arroyo unveiled this legislative initiative during her keynote address during the seventh meeting of the electronic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (e-ASEAN) task force at the Oakwood Premier in Makati City.

The President also revealed she would also push new legislation that would reorganize the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) into a National Info-Coms Commission (NICC).

"I will transmit to the next Congress as priority measure a Comprehensive Convergence bill that will define the principles, policies and administrative and regulative framework that will allow digital convergence to flourish in this country," she said.

"Convergence" is the term frequently used in the industry to refer to the growing trend to interface telephones, television, personal computers and other consumer devices, the President explained.

She said these bills will ensure that "convergence" services will be widely available and that the benefits of an information-oriented society are eventually enjoyed by most Filipinos and not just a few.

Mrs. Arroyo said these legislative initiatives are among the strategic actions her administration is undertaking to help the country secure its "niche" in the so-called "new economy."

The President stressed that the Philippines and ASEAN must prepare for this emerging new economy or be left behind in advances in information technology.

"For a developing country like the Philippines, developing information infrastructure is critical to our future competitiveness," she said.

"(We) must pursue as a priority the building of the information infrastructure or a network of broad band, multi-purpose network that will provide Filipinos with affordable access to ICT services to and from anywhere in the Philippines at any time," she said.

She announced the two legislative initiatives a day after she convened at Malacañang the Cabinet Cluster on information and communication technologies which is composed of line agencies involved in the ICT field.

"The creation of a Department of IT and Communications and the reorganization of NTC into a National Info-Coms Commission are important elements in our national new economy strategy," she said.

In unveiling her administration’s new economy development strategy, she said the strategy will focus on enhancing the country’s information structure, creating the legal and regulatory environment and developing human resources toward the ICT industry.

She lamented, however, the "disturbing situation" that of the 6.8 million telephone lines available in the country last year, only 2.8 million were subscribed.

Mrs. Arroyo said this indicated that many Filipinos, probably low-income households living in rural areas, still cannot afford to acquire communication facilities that would improve their lives.

The President stressed, however, that her administration is intent on regulating the ICT industry to promote competition and discourage anti-competitive practices.

"We are already seeing the merger of two leading cable companies, a telecoms company buying into a television station and telecoms companies offering convergence services," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo was referring to the mergers of Sky Cable and Home Cable companies and the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Co.’s acquisition of television network GMA-7.

"While this development was in response to market development, government must ensure the emerging entities will not engage in anti-competitive practices," the President added.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo has also accepted the proposal of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for her to become chairman of the Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council (ITECC), Trade Secretary Mar Roxas announced yesterday.

The move is expected to affirm the government’s resolve to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy in cooperation with the private sector.

ITECC is composed of government agencies and six representatives of the private sector from academe and consumer and industry organizations directly related to the fields of IT and e-commerce.

"While ITECC made progress fast, the speed of IT was even faster. The President’s leadership is a chance for more organizational effectiveness," Roxas said.

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS CABINET CLUSTER COMPREHENSIVE CONVERGENCE COMPREHENSIVE CONVERGENCE LAW DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY INFORMATION INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTRONIC COMMERCE COUNCIL MRS. ARROYO NATIONAL INFO-COMS COMMISSION
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