Rightsizing and reengineering bureaucracy

Nelson Celis / The Manila Times column / August 10, 2022
Posted by CenPEG, 16 August 2022

(NOTE: CenPEG Fellow and long-time AES Watch spokesperson, Nelson J. Celis, has been recently appointed as the new commissioner of the Commission on Elections.)


HOW the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) evolved to its present state is no different from an information technology (IT) or management information system (MIS) department or division in any private company or government offices. It used to be called electronic data processing (EDP) in the 1960s to the 1970s. It is also no secret that when computers are applied to automate a business process (e.g., accounting or production), the usual manual processing time in several days could only take, say, an hour or so with only one employee instead of five. Automation then was focused on internal organizational operations until e-Commerce came to reality through the use of telecommunications (e.g., satellites, phone lines, microwave transmission). When IT became an apparent tool as a versatile means for just-in-time service delivery, it became a permanent part of every organizational operation. In the value chain framework of Porter (1985), one of its building blocks is technology development which refers to the use of IT to knit together the human resources, procurement, logistics, marketing and sales, service and firm infrastructure. Though the assimilation of IT in a traditional office took time from the 1960s to the 1980s, the emergence of DICT as the country's technical arm also evolved slowly.

It all started when Executive Order (EO) 322 (Marcos, 1971) established the National Computer Center (NCC) to "provide computer service or support to national agencies performing basic, scientific, and engineering research and documentation, integrate EDP operations in the Government, develop EDP personnel qualification standards for all government entities; and, act as the primary agency in planning the integrated development of EDP capability in the National Government." This was followed by Presidential Decree 1480 (Marcos, 1978) restructuring the NCC to "formulate policies and standards and coordinate all activities related to computerization in the country," that is, to "encourage the development of government-wide information systems to provide data and information needed for development planning and decision-making."

Rightsizing and reengineering bureaucracy

After a decade, Memorandum Order 237 (Aquino, 1989) required all government agencies and other entities with projected IT resource requirements to submit their information systems development plans (ISDP) to the Department of Budget and Management for approval, upon the recommendation of the NCC to serve as basis for rationalizing the allocation of government funds for this purpose. The ISDP was later known as the Information Systems Strategic Plan (ISSP) that contains the agency's medium-term plan for its information and communications technology (ICT) thrusts, strategies and programs for development.

As discussed in Part 2 of this series, to fast-track the implementation of the E-Commerce Act of 2000, the IT E-Commerce Council (ITECC) was organized (EO 264, 2000). It used the Government Information System Plan, or GISP (EO 265, 2000) framework, also known as "Philippine Government Online," that served as "guide for the computerization of key frontline and common services and operations of the government to enhance overall governance and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the bureaucracy." Later, ITECC endorsed the creation of the DICT to cover not only e-commerce concerns. As a transition to DICT, EO 269 (Arroyo, 2004) created the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), under the Office of the President (OP), by merging all IT and communications functions of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) in one roof such as the NCC, Telecommunications Office (Telof), National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhilPost).

The CICT, EO 269 said, "shall be the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, regulating, and administrative entity of the executive branch of government that will promote, develop, and regulate integrated and strategic ICT systems and reliable and cost-efficient communication facilities and services." After which, the attached agencies were like ping pong balls traversing between the CICT and DoTC. From 2005 to 2007, EOs 454 and 603 put back the NTC and Telof, respectively, to DoTC. Then EO 648 (2007) transferred the NTC back to the CICT! And lastly, EO 780 (2009) transferred the Telof back to the CICT, thus returning the CICT organization back to its original composition.

Years later, by virtue of EO 47 (Aquino 3rd, 2011), CICT was dissolved and its functions transferred to become the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST). The NCC and Telof were also transferred as part of the internal structure of ICTO. The NTC and PhilPost were retained under the OP. The story behind the dissolution was somehow political in nature. In an article, Pinaroc and Calimag (2010) wrote: "During the campaign period, Aquino said in a TV interview that he was categorically against the establishment of the DICT — a similar policy enunciated by... Mar Roxas... when he was still secretary of the DTI... pursued some projects...that somehow overlapped with the functions of the CICT. Apart from Roxas' utter distaste for the CICT... is the fact it was a creation of Arroyo."

On the contrary, what happened after the May 9, 2016 elections was a surprise — the enactment of RA 10844 (Aquino 3rd, May 23, 2016), or "An Act Creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology." From 2010, several bills were filed for the creation of DICT until Senate Bill 2686 and House Bill 6198 were finally approved in 2015. RA 10844 aims "to ensure the provision of strategic, reliable, cost-efficient, and citizen-centric information and communications technology ICT infrastructure, systems and resources as instruments of good governance and global competitiveness; to promote the use of ICT for the enhancement of key public services, such as education, public health and safety, revenue generation, and socio-civic purposes; to promote digital literacy, ICT expertise, and knowledge-building among citizens to enable them to participate and compete in an evolving ICT age; etc."

Will rightsizing the bureaucracy result in streamlining of government processes?

DICT reorganization

RA 6656, or the "Reorganization Law of 1988," governed the DICT reorganization process. As per RA 10844, the DICT creation resulted in the abolition and transfer of personnel of ICTO, NCC, National Computer Institute, Telof, National Telecommunications Training Institute, and all operating units of the DoTC with functions and responsibilities dealing with communications. The abolition consequently renamed DoTC as the Department of Transportation (DoTr). On the other hand, the DICT attached agencies — NTC (EO 546, 1979), National Privacy Commission (RA 10173, 2012) and Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (RA 10175, 2012) — continued to operate and function in accordance with their charters, laws or orders that created them.

Among the abolished agencies, Telof was greatly affected as the demise of their telegraph service in the country happened on Sept. 20, 2013 when the last telegram was sent (The Manila Times, Oct. 6, 2013). Out of 3,000 Telof workers, 1,719 availed of early retirement; those who did not were given the status of "co-terminus with the incumbent" (Newsbytes.PH, July 25, 2013).

Rightsizing and reengineering bureaucracy

The rightsizing and reengineering of the bureaucracy in the DICT would be a good model for other government agencies with similar cases by obliterating services and processes due to usage of obsolete technology or irrelevant procedures through the merger of redundant business processes. DICT could also come up with a strategic plan in integrating and bundling services across government agencies by providing a suite of online services to support citizens' needs. This would surely impact the service deliveries of DILG, PSA, SSS, GSIS, BIR, PhilHealth, DTI, DoTr Comelec, etc. by having access to interconnected digital government services.

It's never too late. Digital transformation is still attainable even if there's an observed slow growth of digitalization in our government services. And to address this, the recent SONA highlighted a serious concern on the proposed legislation related to electronic government, commerce and governance. Past administrations tried to leapfrog digitalization but somehow stumbling blocks intervened. If these are avoided, we can expect that the DICT could perform well in realizing the vision of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.


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