“We want to map out the blockchain ecosystem in the Philippines, reach out to the key players, and ask them how can the government through the DICT further promote the industry,” Emmy Delfin, Director of the Department of Information and Communications Technology told me days after the National ICT Month celebration last June.
The CHIP Program
The DICT recently unveiled its CHIP Program, the acronym stands for Connect, Harness, Innovate, and Protect. It aims to improve the country’s readiness for a full and inclusive participation in the global digital economy. It also means the DICT will be the agency tasked to lead the Philippines’ digital transformation.
It’s a task that the DICT is doing even before they were a separate agency from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). “For the past years we’ve been supporting the ICT industry, especially the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, we have worked closely with them even before we became DICT,” Dir. Delfin said, reminding me also of the resiliency of that sector, as well as that of the startup and freelancer industry.
The DICT is also responsible for the government’s Digital Cities Program, the Startup Development program, as well as coming up with the cybersecurity roadmap. It’s simply a lot for the relatively new government agency. And this is what Dir. Delfin said their major challenge is: the lack of personnel. “Unlike other agencies, the DICT is not yet regionalized. We don’t have a regional office. What we only have are “clusters” – 8 clusters — and each cluster comprises multiple regions,” she said.
To make up for this, the DICT is active in its hiring and promotion so they are able to keep up with the implementation of the CHIP Program. And most importantly, they use the most abundant resource right now for communication — online — to communicate and also execute their plans.
Doing Things Online
For what it’s worth, in the post-2020 Philippines, doing work online is increasingly becoming the norm. Dir. Delfin admits the celebration of the ICT Month last June was more inclusive. “Before, we do this face to face, but because we now utilize an online platform, we at the DICT can reach even the rural areas — from Aparri to Jolo,” she said, saying that last year, the department was busy focusing on how it can help at the height of the pandemic. Their mandate was to make use of ICT to help address COVID. That was in 2020. “But now we are able to adjust already, so we are able to focus on preparation and planning for the event.”
It doesn’t mean that the DICT is not conducting face-to-face training, which they do in areas where there really is no COVID. Dir. Delfin confirms that the DICT has been very effective in using social media. “Everytime the DICT page posts an announcement, we really have a pool of watchers or audience, so that means our information strategic communication division has been very effective in using media to promote the DICT’s broadcasts.”
This brings us back to blockchain, which is the topic of the webinar I attended during the ICT celebration. The Women In Blockchain group conducted the webinar which covers blockchain basics and even play-to-earn. “We conducted it because we want to further promote blockchain to the public,” Dir. Delfin said, correctly assuming that there are still many who do not understand blockchain and the opportunities it can bring. One such opportunity is play-to-earn, the phenomenon about digital asset ownership made possible only by the blockchain. One game in particular — Axie Infinity — is a hit in the Philippines, and Dir. Delfin said she watched the Play-to-Earn documentary upon recommendation of Leah Callon-Butler, the narrator of the documentary and Coindesk columnist who was also part of the Women in Blockchain group. “What Leah showed us was very inspiring, especially that the game was helping communities in Nueva Ecija , helping people to actually augment their income.”
“Now that we are facing this challenge, as long as it doesn’t harm the community but rather provide support and help to people, then it’s something worth being inspired about,” she said.
But is the government doing something to attract blockchain demand? After all, building Axie Infinity is made possible by people who are experts on blockchain, and the world needs more blockchain developers, just as the world needs more talent in the field of emerging technologies like AI, Robotics, etc.
Dir. Delfin said the webinar with the Women in Blockchain group was one of the ways they are initiating their reaching out to the blockchain community. Blockchain, she said, is one of the goals of the DICT — making the Philippines a center of excellence for blockchain. “Our first initiative was to spread awareness, but eventually, it will be about how we can really develop the Philippine blockchain industry,” said Dir. Delfin,
And the DICT couldn’t be more happier with the stats from the blockchain webinar during the ICT month. Many who attended the webinar were either from the academe and some were looking for new opportunities. Dir. Delfin also said region 5 had the most number of attendees, followed by region 8. WIth the ICT month being a celebration of everything tech, the director touched upon the many opportunities the industry provides. Her advice — Filipinos should have the realization that there are a lot of opportunities around ICT for them, citing free training from the public and private sector, and most especially, the fact that skills training could be done by anyone even if they don’t have background knowledge from the beginning.
“ICT is very inclusive, it doesn’t choose whether you are an out-of-school youth, or a person with disability, or a senior citizen. There’s always something for you in ICT as long as you take advantage of these opportunities,” Dir. Delfin advised.
This article is published on BitPInas: Interview: DICT Aims to Promote Blockchain Awareness