June 9, 2016 marks the date that the Philippines welcomes the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) as the law signed by His Excellency President Aquino takes effect, integrating the country’s focus on vital information and communications technologies driving the world today.

The law also liberates Communications from the DOTC, and consolidates all agencies and offices with communications function under the DICT umbrella.

The global ICT arena is vast, fast moving and waits for no one. For the Philippines to even start playing catch-up, it takes a much larger mandate. From a time where there were only 738 million mobile subscribers in the year 2000 there are now over 7 billion worldwide.

The DICT’s time has come, and while the law was still being forged in the Congress, the DOST-ICT Office has been preparing its path. With the support of the Department of Science and Technology and of Secretary Mario G. Montejo, the ICT Office grew and effectively worked towards building the foundation for which the Department of ICT shall be built upon.

The ICT Office first set its efforts in addressing the widening Digital Divide, the divide that separates those who have access to information and communications technology and those who do not. In 5 years, the ICT Office has worked hard to narrow the gap by providing means for the unserved and underserved communities to benefit from the gains of the Digital Age.

Understanding the vital role that ICT plays in nation building, the ICT Office has implemented several programs and projects that not only empower people and provide them with opportunities they otherwise would not have, but also strengthen industries and the economy and enhance government service through transparency and efficiency.

Some of these programs include the Juan, Konek! Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project, which seeks to provide free internet access to almost all municipalities in the Philippines; Tech4ED, which builds digital literacy and ICT capabilities, and Rural Impact Sourcing, a program that enables people from the countryside to use their ICT skills to the fullest without having to go to urban areas.

All the above have been fully incubated and most, ready for full implementation.

With the establishment of the DICT, we join the ranks o f other nations who see ICT as a strategic tool. With ICT now having the authority at Department level, the country’s push to catch-up will be much stronger and its swing of benefit wider.

The establishment of the DICT tells of the government’s full optimization of the Filipinos’ innate intelligence and innovation, melding it with the unlimited potential and power of ICT. Finally, we will have the focus to drive our ICT agenda as a key player for national development.

Signed into law on May 23, 2016 and taking effect on June 9, the DICT is the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the Executive Branch of the government. It is in charge of planning, developing and promoting the national ICT development agenda.

The DICT will also work towards improving public access, either through prescribing rules and guidelines in the establishment, operation and maintenance of ICT infrastructure or by establishing a free internet service accessible in government offices and other public places.

Resource-sharing and capacity-building is also one of the DICT’s functions. This means harmonizing all plans and initiatives to develop the government and the citizens’ capabilities while making the most out of our resources, whether infrastructure or our human resource.

The DICT will collaborate with other concerned government agencies in ensuring and protecting the rights and welfare of consumers and business users to privacy, security and confidentiality as well as promoting trade and investment opportunities and strategic partnerships and alliance between and among local and international institutions and industries.

There is only optimism in the air from both the government and the private sector with the advent of the new DICT. Today our ICT agenda has a fighting chance to bring the country and the people into the global arena of the digital race.