The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is confident its current administration has now the capacity to fast track the roll-out of Free Wi-Fi sites under the revamped Free Wi-Fi for All Program.
This statement came following Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.’s press briefing last May 3 where he relayed the Palace’s position for SpeedCast to relinquish its role as a sub-contractor for the 2018 Pipol Konek Project.
“Ang posisyon po ng presidente at ng DICT ay itigil na ang involvement nitong current contractor na foreign contractor at ibalik na iyong pera na naibayad na sa kanila dahil pwede nang ipagpatuloy iyan ng ating DICT,” Presidential Spokesperson Roque said.
“The UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Pipol Konel Project was entered into during the early stages of the DICT when the Department still lacks the capacity to procure and implement the project on its own. The DICT has since built up its internal capacity, manpower and resources to increase its competence to implement projects on its own,” DICT Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II explained.
These changes resulted to a 500% increase in the annual rollout rate of the now recalibrated Free Wi-Fi for All Program which was able to activate more than 4,000 Free Wi-Fi sites in 2020 alone. In comparison, there were only a total of 3,251 sites activated between 2016 up to the end of 2019.
“At this rate, if we continue or even improve this pace, we can achieve our target to expand the provision of Internet connectivity and increase the number of live and operational sites to 67,233 by 2022,” Secretary Honasan said.
The DICT has already requested UNDP to return the funds given to SpeedCast so that the Department can use these funds to bolster its implementation of the Program.
The agreement between the DICT and UNDP was for the roll-out of the Pipol Konek Project only and is just a fraction of the Department’s revamped Free WiFi for All Program, which now encompasses all of the Department’s free Wi-Fi Internet initiatives.
“The DICT maintains its position that the DICT took no part in the bidding and selection process conducted by UNDP to select its suppliers, including SpeedCast, when the Pipol Konek Project was entered into by DICT and UNDP back in September 2018,” Secretary Honasan said.
On 3 May 2021, the DICT also issued a Department Order for the creation of a task force to investigate the findings submitted by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on the UNDP contractors’ alleged violation of customs and other Philippine laws.
“The DICT does not and will never condone any form of corruption and violation of Philippine laws. Rest assured that we will do our best within our capacity to swiftly get to the bottom of this matter,” Secretary Honasan stated.