By FMA MANILA, Philippines, 12 December 2003
Several issues which civil society has been advocating in WSIS negotiations are not adequately addressed in the current ICT policy framework of the Philippine government. This was the general observation that surfaced in a workshop which the Foundation for Media Alternatives organized to open up discussions on WSIS and its impact on local policies here. The issues were the use of open source software, security and privacy on the Internet, gender, non-formal education and
youth, all of which are issues that the Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC), the chief government agency for ICT policy-making, is rather silent on.
The workshop, entitled Aligning Philippine Action Plans with WSIS Priorities, brought together 50 key people from the government, civil society and the private sector to examine the 2003 ITECC Strategic Roadmap using various WSIS documents as a benchmark. The roadmap in its present form puts emphasis on five priority areas which are e-government implementation, human resources development, business development, legal and regulatory environment, and information infrastructure. As it is, the roadmap is mum on contentious issues put forward by civil society on the WSIS negotiating table, such as open source software. This is not surprising since according to Virgilio Peña, ITECC executive director, the policy framework was formulated independently and with really no consideration for whatever WSIS documents were already available.
"It is hard to disagree with the roadmap because what it says is universal and probably echoes the policies of other governments. Explicitly it may not address very specific concerns like those of the youth and gender advocates, but I believe these are already embedded in the policy framework," Peña explained.
The workshop was a kick-off activity in a series of consultations which FMA will organize to situate WSIS in the Philippine context. Presented during the workshop were talks on telecenters, country code top-level domain, gender and ICT, and wireless technology, all of which are project areas with particular significance in policy-making. The policy gaps identified during the workshop will be the basis of future discussions. According to Al Alegre, FMA executive director, Peña had personally expressed his openness to the idea of formally submitting the ITECC strategic roadmap for review by other stakeholders.
Tony de la Cruz
Foundation for Media Alternatives
49-B Xavierville Avenue, Loyola Heights
Quezon City, Philippines