Women in ICT Feature
Disaster risk reduction and management is a long-standing issue in the Philippines. An archipelagic country situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is greatly susceptible to typhoons and earthquakes, among others.
Recognizing this, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) continues to provide assistance to the national government and local government units on their disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) efforts through the use of ICT.
“Prevention is better than cure. When you are prepared, you lessen the adverse effects of disaster. It is important to put premium value on preparedness as we also focus on the response,” said DICT Luzon Cluster 3 Regional Director Cheryl C. Ortega, one of DICT’s active proponents in advancing ICT for disaster risk reduction and management.
Director Ortega is a Cum Laude graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce – Accounting at the Ateneo De Zamboanga University, where she also finished her master’s degree in Business Administration.
She started her career as a computer programmer then as an information systems analyst and information technology officer at the National Computer Center – Mindanao (later on turned to Information and Communications Technology Office), before being appointed as Director II for DICT Luzon Cluster 2 (Regions III and IV).
As the current Regional Director of DICT in Regions IV-B and V, two areas that are often hit by storms and typhoons, Director Ortega has placed special focus on how the Department can provide aid to these communities during disasters.
“ICT provides a wide-range of possibilities and opportunities in performing disaster mitigation and response thru mapping and data banking, as well as the utilization of advocacies and information communication,” she explained.
Director Ortega serves as the lead of Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) of the Interagency Task Force for MIMAROPA and Bicol Region. She is involved in the cluster-initiated provision of connectivity support to quarantine facilities, borders and checkpoints amid the ongoing pandemic. The ETC she leads also provides emergency response to areas struck by typhoons. They were able to give assistance to areas severely hit by Typhoons Tisoy and Rolly last year.
“We have acted accordingly in providing emergency communications for the people to have access to their loved ones and ensure that they have government’s support especially in the most challenging times of their lives.”
Director Ortega recognizes the importance of collaboration in executing disaster risk and management initiatives. Covering regions that are geographically dispersed with island provinces. she said DICT LC3 often faces challenges on mobility in the implementation of disaster risk reduction and management initiatives.
“We cover a big scope of eleven provinces which are frequently affected by typhoons and to add to this is the lack of manpower with which we needed to stretch our potentials to cover the gap and deliver the intended activities.”
To address these challenges, Director Ortega shares that they have people trained and equip them with the necessary tools and knowledge in executing disaster responses. They also frequently collaborate with partners like provincial DRRM and OCD (Office of Civil Defense).
Moving forward, Dr. Ortega said she hopes for an improved disaster preparedness and resiliency initiatives for the country.
“Improvement comes with continuous forged partnerships, by capitalizing on each other’s strength and collectively working together. We must be equipped with the know-how and with availability of resources to be able to perform essentially the Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery as needed,” she explained.
As one among those who have successfully thrived in the field of ICT, she encourages fellow women to break gender expectations and pursue a career in a field once dominated by males.
“Women are undeniably equally competent in the field of ICT just as men,” she said.