Speakers from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)’s Regional Operations Offices discussed their plans and initiatives to empower and drive digital readiness in the countryside during a virtual event held June 18, 2021.

“To achieve inclusive growth and development in the country, we need to consider the nuances of each locality as we implement our programs, projects and other initiatives. Through our eight regional clusters, we are able to consult and coordinate with local government units (LGUs) and other local stakeholders in formulating ICT policies and developing ICT plans and programs tailored to meet the unique needs of local communities and promote local economic development,” DICT Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II asserted.  “We also eagerly await the approval of our request for the full regionalization of the Department,” he added.

The virtual event titled “Empowering the Countryside through DICT Regional Operations” showcased the accomplishments of the DICT’s regional offices since the onset of the pandemic up to the present. The Department’s regional directors provided an informative overview of their future plans in view of the newly adopted CHIP conceptual implementation framework.

DICT’s objective was to raise awareness on the challenges and local issues that are faced by Filipinos in the countryside, hoping to enjoin partners, stakeholders and the general public in addressing said concerns.

The Regional Operations Offices ramped up the implementation of their programs last year, and the targets for 2021 are aligned with the DICT’s overall goal of accelerating the country’s readiness for the digital economy.

For Luzon Cluster 1, Director Nestor S. Bongato stated that the Free Wi-Fi for All program 2020 accomplishment doubled or even tripled in percentage. LC1 is also hard at work to meet the remaining targets for 2021 and complete 570 sites for COVID-19 facilities.

The LC1 also champions the Barangay Records Automation & Management System (BRAMS), which targets to involve 129 more barangays to assist them in the management of barangay records.

The Department’s Luzon Cluster 2 established 73 new community learning hubs that can access the Tech4ED platform, according to Director Reynaldo T. Sy. The cluster had also conducted 124 total webinars attended by 37,380 participants.

Director Cheryl C. Ortega of Luzon Cluster 3 narrated their Free Wi-Fi Installation in Baao Quarantine Facility for the Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Beneficiaries. LC3 also provided connectivity to the remote islands of Kalayaan in Palawan, and Rapu-Rapu in Albay.

For the DICT’s Visayas Cluster offices, Director Mario P. Cuñado of Visayas Cluster 1 had been intensifying the rollout of the Government Network (GovNet) project for enhanced internet connectivity. VC1 aims to establish a total of 324 total GovNet sites for 2022 to 2023.

On the other hand, Director Frederick Dela Casa Amores of Visayas Cluster 2 shared that they managed to put up 42 Free Wi-Fi for All sites in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) sites in Region 8, and 99 activated GIDA sites in Region 7.

The DICT’s Mindanao regional offices also featured their new normal accomplishments and plans moving forward. Mindanao Cluster 1 Director Maria Teresa Camba highlighted their collaborative webinar series with the University of the Philippines Open University, which was recognized in the global community as a champion project for the WSIS Prizes 2021.

Director Camba also stated that all provinces are now connected to the Free Wi-Fi for All program, including the Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi which is located at the southwestern tip of the country.

For Mindanao Cluster 2, Director Sittie Rahma Alawi shared that their cluster is planning to reach out and provide non-formal ICT education to different communal tribes in Mindanao.

Finally, Director Alimbzar Asum of Mindanao Cluster 3 shared that they established 655 additional Free Wi-Fi for All live sites, including sites in COVID-19 facilities and vaccination sites. MC3 also targets the expansion of GovNet to more cities from 2022 to 2024 as well as the expansion of Marawi City GovNet to Most Affected Area (MAA).

Each of the speakers presented various strategies to Connect, Harness, Innovate, and Protect the Filipino people through their various plans and initiatives.

“We live in a country with lands literally separated, bound by different landscapes and different situations, so we acknowledge the need to raise awareness and learn more about the issues and local challenges faced by the countryside. This will hopefully help us appropriately address our citizens’ needs and exigencies,” Assistant Secretary Kristoffer L. Tiansay said.

The Department is accelerating the country’s readiness for participation in the global digital economy this National ICT Month 2021. With the theme, “Onwards Through ICT: Building a Stronger Philippine Digital Economy”, the DICT is focusing on its medium and long-term plans to advance Philippine digital transformation with its newly-adopted CHIP Framework as a strategic guide.

For more information on the lineup of activities for the remaining days of June 2021, please visit the DICT website or its official social media pages.