MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration has allocated P21.4 billion for programs that would allow the transition to a digital government and ensure the unhampered delivery of vital services under the proposed budget for next year.
In his budget message, President Duterte said digital connectivity and access supported by a secure and reliable information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure system is “paramount” to lay the groundwork for the country’s digital transformation.
“Leveraging ICT will help us improve coordination between essential stakeholders, make sound and data-based policy decisions in responding to the threats of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), deliver critical services to our citizens (that are) compliant to health and safety protocols, and keep the economy running,” Duterte said.
“Thus my administration is providing a budget of P21.4 billion to cover next year’s Medium-Term Information and Communications Technology Harmonization Initiative expenditures to harmonize and ensure interoperability of the government’s ICT resources, programs, and projects,” he added.
Of this amount, P9.4 billion will be used to support the government’s daily ICT expenses, including the maintenance of computers and data centers, replacement of outdated desktops, and internet subscriptions, and payment for license subscriptions.
Duterte said P7.6 billion has also been set aside to fund the ICT requirements for telecommunications infrastructure “to aid in the shift to e-governance post pandemic.” Among the items to be funded are free internet wi-fi access connectivity in public places (P2.4 billion); the National Government Data Center (P2.1 billion); the National Broadband Plan (P903 million) and the national government portal (P197 million).
The administration is also investing on measures to digitize the country’s tax system to provide convenient, faster, and more transparent services to taxpayers. It has allocated P1.4 billion to sustain and expand the tax bureau’s existing ICT programs and projects and develop new ICT systems to enhance revenue collection.
Earlier, the government body created to propose policies that would allow the Philippines to adopt to the “new normal” cited the need for a shift to electronic and paperless systems, zero-contact policies, online transactions, and new channels for service delivery.
In a report, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Technical Working Group for Anticipatory and Forward Planning said e-commerce would play a big role in the new normal as businesses and consumers increase the use of online transactions.
The body recommended more investments in ICT infrastructure “to meet the surge of online transactions and the consumers’ expectations for reliable digital connectivity.”
The administration has also allocated P1 billion for cybersecurity efforts to protect the confidentiality of sensitive information of the government, businesses and individuals. It has also set aside P215 million to enforce the Data Privacy Act of 2012 and P23 billion for the Anti-Cybercrime Enforcement Program.
Duterte said his administration has also proposed a P22-million budget for the development of online information systems for health emergencies and nutrition enhancement.
It has also set aside P77 million for the Supreme Court-led Justice Sector Convergence Program to enhance coordination and interoperability among the different agencies in the justice sector even during the pandemic.
About P5 million has also been allocated to the National Justice Information System to establish a real-time, common, and integrated information system in the criminal justice sector.
The administration has also proposed a P188-million budget for the Support for the Local Governance Program, which seeks to ensure the local governments’ continuing monitoring and capacity development during public emergencies.
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