Event Coverage
First i-CiTY Summit: Ushering in a new era of smart cities
By Lionell Go Macahilig - 18 Mar 2017,2:01pm

First i-CiTY Summit: Ushering in a new era of smart cities

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The rise of i-Cities

Spearheaded by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) led by Secretary Rodolfo Salalima, in collaboration with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the first i-CiTY (Intelligent City) Summit in the Philippines gathered industry leaders from the government and private institutions, uniting them to promote the role of ICT for a safer and better Philippines.

“We have this initiative that we call the next-wave cities and we’re seriously looking at ways to level up the program. This initiative was conceptualized to prepare the cities to take on BPO locators and we actually have gone beyond that and most of cities now are moving toward making themselves smart cities. Some of them have started looking at using artificial intelligence, while others have started to get disaster and risk mitigation solutions. This is something that we will continue and this is going to be a natural way to move toward the next-wave cities all over the country. We have around 30 next-wave cities at the moment,” DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio said.

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The i-CiTY or smart city concept brings together four key elements of a city's infrastructure and the services which it offers such as Digital City Management, Digital Public Services, Digital Industry, and Safe City. These four key elements are underpinned by cloud infrastructure as well as communication networks and sensors that will serve as the eyes and ears of an i-CiTY.

DICT in full swing

Earlier, research and consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed that it saw a very little smart city initiative across the country in 2016. But with the DICT moving in full swing this 2017 and in the coming years, IDC is seeing that the government recognizes the value of ICT in nation building. With a dedicated ICT agency, the government is now working on initiatives such as the national broadband plan, the national cybersecurity strategy, and the launch of the national government portal. These initiatives are big steps toward a right direction and IDC is expecting these to be completed in next two years or more. Once these are fully established, the national government can compel local government units (LGUs) to take advantage of these technologies in resolving their respective problems.

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“The estimate that we have is PhP 73-billion as the cost of the entire project (national broadband plan). We are planning to scatter this budget in two to three years or until 2020. In 2018, the estimated budget is PhP 32-billion,” DICT Undersecretary Denis Villorente remarked.

“The (national) broadband is the basic backbone of the network, from north to south, reaching the countryside. As additional components of the broadband (network), we’ll also have Wi-Fi (hotspots) for hard-to-reach areas that do not have access to the Internet. The budget that we quoted as PhP 73-billion is intended if we are starting from zero. But if the government and the private institutions like CATVs, electric cooperatives, and telcos have existing passive infrastructures that we can use, such as the National Power Grid which has complementary fiber optic lines ranging from 7,500 to 10,000km running from north to south, using their infrastructures can speed up and lessen the cost of implementing the project,” DICT Secretary Salalima clarified.

Another project under the DICT, the national government portal addresses the frustration of the people that they need to line up for government services. At the last SONA, President Rodrigo Duterte tasked DICT to develop a government portal or website where people can access government information and services. The website is maybe simple but what behind it and how do you enable services of the government through it are the ones that are critical. DICT is working on it along with the national broadband project.

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Public and private partnership

The private companies and institutions that took part during the Summit include Huawei Technologies Phils. Inc., SAP, Hexagon, IHS, Pacific Disaster Center, PWC, Indonesia FTTH Association, Roland Berger, Delaware Consulting, and Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). Huawei took the event as a perfect avenue to present to the Summit’s delegates it wide range of technologies that can be used in deploying a smart city project.

“We believe the time is right for the Philippines to embark on this digital journey to transform the way we live, work and play in a safe and healthy environment. This will enable the citizens’ to be content in this new sustainable society. In establishing i-CiTY ecosystem, we are committed to this country by sharing global successful use cases, project experiences through partnership with government, academia and business operators,” Huawei Philippines CEO Jacky Gao said.

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“We are having conferences like this because we would also want to tell our people about ICT and there is more to come for them for as long as they become active participants on the matter of use and applications of ICT. To the press, please create awareness to the people, particularly those who are living in the countryside, that there is a department that is about to address their concerns,” Salalima added.

Roadblocks and developments

In spite of the government’s clearer ICT path through DICT, IDC is also seeing roadblocks in terms of ICT growth in the country. One of which are the exhaustive red tape and other bureaucratic obstacles that hinder the construction of adequate infrastructures in the country. Hence, we are among those who have the lowest cell site density in the ASEAN region. Resolving these issues will involve policy changes, organizational restructuring, and solid partnerships. DICT revealed that it is just waiting for President Duterte to sign an executive order that will help in speeding up the processing of documents and permits at the local government level.

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“Upon the submission of the application, all government units and barangays, including the provinces, must act in seven days. If there is no action within seven days, the mayor involved must act within two days. If there is no action, then the application is considered approved. If the mayor denies, then he or she has to put the reasons. If the reasons are flimsy, then I’ll go the Ombudsman then I run after that person. We have been blaming telcos for the inefficient service, but let us also go beyond by looking at their problems. Unless we solve also their problems, we cannot solve our service. So I said I will run after the LGUs the moment the President signed that executive order. In fact, I have also prepared a personal letter addressed to the LGUs in the provinces to issue the permits in seven days, copy furnishing the President, DILG, as well as the corresponding league of governors and mayors, and 8888,” Salalima said.   

Looking back at 2016, technology adoption in the government has seen good traction. Measuring the government’s performance in terms of ICT growth and development, our country ranked 71st out of 150 countries in the 2016 UN e-government survey, a 24-point improvement compared to our 95th ranking back in 2014. We also ranked at the 99th spot in the World Bank’s doing business study where streamlined business processes through online and electronics systems are used as the primary drivers for our ranking. IDC is seeing a more strategic ICT push in the Philippine government by 2021.