By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
A consumer advocacy group has asked the government to remove the bureaucratic barriers that hinder the development of digital infrastructure, which is critical during this no-contact mode of interaction period.
“We call on the government to fully enforce the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) law and permanently demolish the bureaucratic barriers in national and local levels,” said CitizenWatch Philippines convenor Orlando Oxales.
Oxales said this is all the more important because the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a rush towards a digital transformation of society.
“We have learned to embrace digital platforms as a convenient, safe, and reliable tool for business activities. Information and communications technologies have become the default tool as we are learning to adjust to a no-contact mode of interactions,” he said.
Oxales said that with the new normal, the demand for fast and reliable internet access and mobile phone services will grow exponentially as more of people integrate digital tools into their lives. “Hence, there is urgency in strengthening our digital infrastructure to provide the reach and bandwidth to efficiently serve this surge in cloud users,” he said.
CitizenWatch therefore called on the government to prioritize the strengthening of the telecommunications and digital infrastructure in both urban and rural areas to expand the reach and access to cloud-based services for the entire population. “This should be among the top priorities in the government’s recovery strategy,” the group said.
It said the first step is to demolish the bureaucratic barriers that have been causing construction delays of telco towers and other for decades. “This is a reality that continues to impede the development of underserved areas that need these digital technologies to boost economic activities and attract investments,” CitizenWatch said.
The group asked regulators to audit and rationalize the permitting and certification requirements imposed on all telco projects and ensure that the seven-day limit on permits prescribed in the recently released Department of Information and Communication Technology Circular No. 8 on Common Tower Policy Guidelines are strictly implemented.
“This is the time to wield the political will of this government to permanently resolve the frustrating reality of long and circuitous bureaucratic gauntlets that civil works contractors of telco projects must go thru causing months of delays and unnecessary costs before construction can even start,” Oxales said.
CitizenWatch noted that Filipino consumers have been learning fast and embracing technology as the default tool to work and conduct daily transactions.
“We have long been the world’s top social media users and now use e-commerce platforms to order goods online. We hold meetings and virtual get-togethers online; we get our news and entertainment online and we are consulting our doctors online. This fast-growing demand for more bandwidth and higher internet speeds threatens to strain our current telco capacities if capacities are not expanded quickly,” Oxales said.
“The government must enable the telco industry to help build a future-proof digital infrastructure network to meet the fast-growing demand of a digitized society linking the ecosystems of government, private industries, and consumers to cloud-based services that are secure, stable, and fast. This fits well with the all-of-society approach to recover from this crisis,” he said.