Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” Ballesteros Honasan II of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones of the Department of Education (DepEd) strengthened the partnership between their respective Cabinet departments to clear the path towards the digitalization of the education sector with the establishment of the Public Education Network (PEN).

“No matter what state the world is in, education shall continue to play a key role in the socio-economic prosperity of a nation. Hence, it is important for us to envision how education can emerge stronger, more responsive and more effective from this global crisis than ever before. To do this, we are continuously assisting the DepEd with the transition from a traditional classroom setting to blended learning. We shall draw on the benefits provided by ICT to make this shift possible,” Secretary Honasan said.

“This partnership is designed not only to deal with COVID but really to deal not only with the present but also with the future. We feel braver. We feel more courageous since we are holding hands with the DICT and other institutions who could help us out. With this partnership, we offer hope to the education sector with the help of our partners,” Secretary Briones added.

The DICT and DepEd started coordinating on the development of the PEN in April 2020. It is aligned with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s directive during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last 2020 for both agencies to connect all schools, especially last mile schools, and DepEd offices nationwide.

Under the memorandum of agreement signed between the two agencies, the DICT will provide medium to long-term assistance to DepEd, including the allocation of bandwidth from the FB-BCDA-DICT high speed Internet infrastructure project, augmentation of DepED’s future satellite capacity through DICT’s existing very small aperture technology (VSAT) satellite and teleport facilities, building of Internet backbone up to last mile schools under the DICT’s National Broadband Program (NBP), and the provision of data transport service using DICT’s fiber optic network under the Government Network (GovNet) project and Microwave towers.

“All these are especially useful for our students attending last mile schools since these will offer connectivity services through the Department’s existing digital infrastructure,” Secretary Honasan said.

Under the agreement, the DICT will also give immediate assistance to the DepEd on advocating for the presence of ICT service providers in public school premises; provisioning of online resources, materials, and systems for educational use; giving teachers and learners access to DICT’s Tech4Ed facilities and its attached computer laboratories and research facilities; and coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), among others.

Secretary Honasan II and Secretary Briones also inked a separate memorandum of agreement for the use of suitable real estate properties owned or under the administration of DepEd as sites or locations for the implementation of DICT’s Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) or the Common Tower Initiative.

“Moving forward, we shall exert our utmost efforts to ensure the delivery of quality education to our children—education that they will need to live fulfilling lives as adults and to participate in and contribute to the global digital economy,” Secretary Honasan II said.