The European Center for Digital Competitiveness recently released its Digital Riser Report 2020 recognizing the Philippines as the top Digital Riser in East Asia and the Pacific.

The Digital Riser Report analyzes and ranks the changes in the digital competitiveness of countries over the last three (3) years based on digital ecosystem and mindset. It builds upon data from the Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) every year.

According to the report, one of the strengths of the Philippines is the passage of the “Innovative Start-up Act,” a law aimed at strengthening, promoting, and developing an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture. The act includes the creation of the Start-up Development Program (PSDP) which offers benefits and incentives for start-ups and start-up enablers.

The report also cited other regulations that are expected to have a positive impact on the country’s start-up community. Among which are the Philippines’ regulation of start-up visas for owners, employees, and investors as part of the Start-up Assistance Program 2019-2023; prioritization and expedited processes for state services applications for promising start-ups and enablers; and integration of entrepreneurship in the curricula of education institutions and the provision of incentives to academic institutions.

“The DICT is thrilled by the news that the Philippines was named as one of the top Digital risers, not just in Asia, but worldwide. This just proves that we are now reaping the fruits of the government’s digitalization efforts,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

“Rest assured that the DICT will continue on its plans and projects to speed up our country’s digital transformation. We will continue to collaborate with other national government agencies, local government units, as well as with the private sector and the academe for a more effective and efficient development and implementation of various initiatives,” he added.

At present, the DICT is implementing various digital transformation programs to help the country better adapt to the new normal brought about by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The Department is also in strong support of the passage of the “E-Governance Act of 2020” to institutionalize e-governance in the Philippines. The DICT expects that the law will complement the government’s current digitalization efforts.

Recognizing the value of digital connectivity in realizing national digitalization, the DICT spent significant effort and resources in improving telecommunications and Internet connectivity infrastructure for the country. Issuing the Common Tower Policy earlier this year, it aims to widen the base of common towers in the Philippines towards better Internet quality and wider coverage of Internet services to include the remotest areas in the country.

The DICT has also signed a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and other agencies in streamlining the permitting requirements and procedures for building common towers. The JMC directed concerned agencies to process, approve and issue permits within seven days. This is in accordance with Republic Act 11032 or the “Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.”

In addition, the DICT is also ramping up the deployment of free Wi-Fi in the country. The DICT currently prioritizes the installation of Internet sites in health and education institutions in various regions as support to the government’s COVID-19 response, as well as the adjustments of the education sector to the new normal.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s directive is clear. We should improve Internet connectivity in the Philippines to help the country transition to our new normal. With our digital connectivity programs, we hope to establish a robust and sustainable ICT environment for Filipinos,” Secretary Honasan explained.

Furthermore, the DICT also recognizes the need to further digitalize government services. On this end, it aims to enable secured and legitimate online government transactions by pushing for the adoption of Philippine National Public Key infrastructure (PNPKI) services for both government agencies and the general public. PNPKI ensures confidentiality, authenticity, integrity and non-repudiation of electronic transactions and documents which allows users of public networks to exchange important data in a secure manner.

On 27 August 2020, ARTA released Memorandum Circular No. 2020-06 which directs government agencies to avail of and recognize the use of PNPKI in signing official documents in relation to government issued permits and licenses. Complementary to this is DICT Department Circular 006 s. 2020, which allows for a simplified e-filling or processing remotely of application and issuance of PNPKI digital certificates during the state of public health emergencies. With ARTA’s support and easier means of applying for digital certificates, the DICT expects that more agencies will utilize the services of the PNPKI in online communication and transactions.

“The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is committed to further strengthen its ICT programs and initiatives towards digital transformation. Connect the Filipino to the digital world and provide them with the necessary tools, resources and skills to take advantage of this new realm—that is the simple mission of the DICT in digitalizing the nation—that is what we vow to do,” Secretary Honasan said.