By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Wednesday assured that the government has sufficient funds to become more digital and interconnected.
Angara said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) was granted an increase of P6.2-billion under the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to enable the government to transition quickly to the digital age.
From the P3.7-billion in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) that was submitted by Malacañang to Congress last year, Angara said the DICT’s 2020 budget was hiked to close to P10-billion in the P4.1-trillion 2020 appropriations.
Angara, the chair of the Senate finance committee, noted that the budget of the DICT has been increasing over the years—from P2.9-billion in 2017, it increased to P4.7-billion in 2018 and to P6.2-billion in 2019.
“The world is quickly moving towards the digital age. The government has to keep up with the demands brought about by this shift,” Angara said.
“Tech-savvy Filipinos demand this, which is why the DICT, as the agency in charge of all things related to IT, was granted a bigger budget to undertake the programs needed to make this happen,” he pointed out.
With this budget, the DICT will be tasked to make classrooms, workforces, workplaces and communities digital–ensuring they have access to the Internet and mobile forms of communication.
Funding for the establishment of infrastructure for a national government data center will also be made available.
According to Angara, the national government data center will serve as the launching point for many government services such as cloud computing, web hosting, server co-location, and other operations.
“When agencies and offices are able to communicate with each other real time, more work can be accomplished at a faster pace and all of this will mean better service for the public and the taxpayers in particular,” Angara said.
The budget will also support the implementation of the Government Emergency Communications System (GECS), which is intended to provide emergency communication systems in disaster-stricken areas.
Angara said the GECS is essential for the Philippines which is usually hit by natural disasters and calamities, like earthquakes, typhoons or even when volcanic eruptions strike, like the recent Taal volcano eruption.
“One of the most important things that we need when disaster strikes is constant communication with the affected areas. The responders need to know the situation on the ground and what is needed by the communities,” he stressed.
The DICT budget will also contain funding for the development of the National Government Portal (NGP) that will serve as a one-stop gateway for all web-based government content.
The NGP will help citizens and businesses in particular to be able to have access to information useful to them without having to navigate through different and often unintuitive web pages.
Angara also said the DICT will continue its implementation of the Free Wi-Fi in public places and in the state universities and colleges (SUCs) will continue and will expand the program to cover more areas.
But he said connectivity will not be possible though without a fast and reliable internet connection in all parts of the country, which is why Congress also included funding for the implementation of the national broadband program under the DICT budget.