The Manila Bulletin writes that the President of the Philippines, Benigno S. Aquino III, has now signed the bill to create the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), ending the long wait for a new regulator to oversee the development of the country’s ICT sector. The DICT Act of 2015, also known as Republic Act (RA) No. 10844, is structured to be ‘the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the Executive branch of the government that will plan, develop and promote the national ICT development agenda’. Its far-reaching mandate extends to the establishment of ‘a free internet service that can be accessed in government offices and public areas; assisting in the dissemination of vital information essential to disaster risk reduction through the use of ICT; and ensuring and protecting the rights and welfare of consumers and business users to privacy, security and confidentiality in matters relating to ICT, among others’.
Headed up by a new secretary – with at least seven years of expertise in ICT, cyber security or e-Commerce development, and appointed by the president – the DICT effectively replaces a number of agencies whose functions and responsibilities will be absorbed into the new body, namely: the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO); National Computer Center (NCC); National Computer Institute (NCI); Telecommunications Office (TELOF); National Telecommunications Training Institute (NTTI); and all operating units of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with functions and responsibilities dealing with communications. Meanwhile, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), National Privacy Commission, and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (CICC), will be retained, but will now be attached to DICT to act as agencies for policy and programme coordination, it says. The law allows for a six-month transition to implement the necessary changes, which also includes the setting up of a Department of Transportation, instead of the former DOTC.