By Jerome Aning, December 27, 2022; Philippine Daily Inquirer

The government activated this year thousands of previously offline areas under the Broadband ng Masa and Free Wi-Fi for All programs of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Malacañang said on Monday.Citing the DICT’s year-end report to President Marcos, the Palace said 4,757 sites were activated in 17 regions, 75 provinces and Metro Manila under the government’s digitalization initiative.This is in addition to 606 cities and municipalities, which have undergone digitalization, it added.

To promote investments, the DICT said it also carried out the Digital Startup Development and Acceleration Program, led the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area ICT cluster for the year 2022-2025, and signed a memorandum of understanding with Singapore’s ministry of communications and information.To improve bureaucratic efficiency, the DICT launched the e-Gov Super App, the country’s first one-stop platform for local and national government services that will streamline processes and transactions and ensure ease of doing business for Filipinos.

To ensure social protection, the DICT pushed for the passage of the SIM Card Registration Act, monitored more than 1,000 cybersecurity threats, conducted sessions on Data Privacy Act and launched Cybersecurity Awareness programs.The DICT also listed its plans and targets for next year, which includes digital infrastructure, investment promotion, as well as improvements in bureaucratic efficiency.

Under its digital infrastructure thrust, the DICT said it planned to complete the Broadband ng Masa’s Luzon Bypass Infrastructure Phase 1 in the first half of 2023, launch more than 15,000 free Wi-Fi sites, and improve satellite connectivity with Starlink and Satellite Systems Providers and/or Operators.To promote investments, the Digital Cities Program will set up Information Technology and Business Process Management locations in 31 cities by 2025 to generate jobs in the countryside.The DICT said it would also push for the development and implementation of interagency initiatives, such as the National ID of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the interior department’s Integrated Local Government Unit System, the health department’s VAXCertPH or the online national COVID-19 vaccination certification process, the trade department’s e-Commerce Philippines 2022 Road map and the migrant workers department’s OFW (overseas Filipino worker) mobile app.

To protect the country from online threats, the DICT said it would also develop the National Cybersecurity Plan for 2023.The plan includes educating and certifying Filipino cybersecurity experts, with the DICT inviting technical people to enroll in either subsidized or free education and then help them to get certified.

Once they get the certificate from IT companies such as Cisco, Oracle, Intel and Microsoft, they become employable and can become Certified Information Systems Security Professionals who are in demand here and abroad, the DICT said.