by Paolo Romero – The Philippine Star, 21 Sep 2021
MANILA, Philippines — Low annual budgets as well as turf issues among hundreds of government agencies are seriously hampering the development of the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure in the public sector, badly needed in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said yesterday.
Information and Communications Secretary Gregorio Honasan and other officials aired their frustrations on the apparent refusal of other agencies during the Senate finance subcommittee hearing on his department’s proposed P9-billion budget for 2022.
The Cabinet official was responding to questions from Sen. Francis Tolentino, who asked whether or not the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) can help other agencies, like the Department of Health, in their inventory management of medicines and COVID-19 supplies.
“We noticed… that the one with limited appreciation for ICT-driven connectivity is government. It is as if they cannot yet fully understand that ICT is the future. Especially now with the pandemic, we don’t know when this will end,” Honasan told the sub-panel, chaired by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.
Honasan cited the case of DICT, which sought P34-billion appropriation for 2022, but the Department of Budget and Management approved only a little over P9 billion.
“We claim publicly in our speeches that we want to digitize to speed up things in government and end the lines and queues, yet there is subtle resistance,” he said.
Tolentino also cited the case of the Department of Education, which could not provide a clear and up-to-date record on its available textbooks yet insists on printing new ones.
Honasan said every time the DICT approaches an agency to assist or advise, the latter invariably views them with suspicion or outright resistance.
But whether or not the concerned agencies coordinated or cleared with them their respective ICT projects, if they fail, they often blame the DICT, he added.
“They think we’re interested in their budgets. Our only interest is that we all follow the same end-to-end plan so there’s no waste,” he said.