New DICT chief Uy bares digitization agenda

The new head of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said that a key part of his ICT agenda is to look for ways to narrow the gaping digital divide in the country, one of which is to bring connectivity to the most isolated areas of the country.

DICT Secretary Ivan Uy in a recent webinar hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry said improving digital connectivity in the most remote and depressed parts of the archipelago is one of his marching orders as he takes over the reins of the agency.

He underscored the importance of establishing digital connectivity in far-flung areas, which suffer the biggest developmental setbacks due to lack of access to digital infrastructure even as more and more areas elsewhere are benefitting from connectivity. He said the introduction of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites such as Starlink satellites is among the solutions seen to connect these unlinked communities.

LEO satellites—pieces of electronic equipment that circle around the earth at relatively lower altitudes—are said to be the technology that will revolutionize the internet by connecting hard-to-reach rural communities.

In May, the National Telecommunications Commission approved the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of SpaceX that will be providing satellite internet service to the country.

“We do look forward to many other players coming in to provide this type of service. This is an ideal platform that could synergize with all the other different platforms that we have, especially in those remote and geographically isolated communities,” Uy said.

LEO satellite service has brought down internet cost significantly while providing “quite reasonable” bandwidth of 100 to 200 MBPS, which is more than enough to provide connectivity to these areas initially, he added.

Uy said he is also eyeing the enhancement of spectrum management, which is the process of regulating the use of radio frequencies to promote efficient use and gain a net social benefit. He acknowledged criticisms that “there’s really not much organization and policy done and good study made on how our spectrum allocation should be handled.”

He said he looks forward to working with the industry, NGOs and international organizations on the best practices for rationalizing spectrum management.

The executive also revealed his legislative agenda, saying he welcomes the enactment into law of several measures needed to build a “more digitalized Philippines,” citing in particular the recently passed Public Service Act as a key legislation set to open up the telecommunications sector to more international investments and better access to technology.

Another area he plans to look into is the amendment of the National Building Code to require property developers to install not just power and water connectivity but data and telecommunications infrastructure as well before a permit to occupy is issued for the building.

“This will be good legislation to pass so that it will allow for faster and better connectivity” and enable the rise of smart buildings, Uy said.

“Hopefully by legislation we can update many of the really, really old laws that we have on telecommunications and make [them] more relevant in this day and age with internet connectivity being at the forefront of our digitalization efforts,” he said.

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