Press Release
September 24, 2023

Poe to techies: Work for digital inclusion

Sen. Grace Poe said the technology-savvy Filipino youth is in the best position to spearhead the country's digital transformation that leaves no one behind.

Speaking before a forum dubbed Tech for Good 2023 at the Asian Institute of Management, Poe said the government can make good use of the zeal and adroitness of the youth to bring digitalization to speed, fullness and relevance.

"It's well known that in matters of technology, government tends to fall behind the curve. So, we need brilliant guys like you to bring us up to speed," Poe said.

The head of the Senate public services committee said the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a social disruption that put to fore the importance of the internet.

"The internet and its related technologies have remained a key part of our post-pandemic reality. Digital technology and the business models it enables now define our lives and the choices we make," she said.

Citing data from a Temasek and Google study, Poe said the Philippine Digital Economy moved $20 billion worth of merchandise in 2022. And the Bangko Sentral estimates that monthly digital payments have grown fourfold, from 523 million in 2019 to 2.04 billion last year.

But Poe stressed technology should go beyond wallet applications.

"In fact, tech must contribute to social reform. It must address the inequity of our systems and reevaluate traditional ways of doing things. For digital growth, without digital inclusion, will only deepen the social divide," she said.

Despite the technology around, Poe rued that as many as 80% of households are still waiting for an internet connection.

"The challenge, therefore, is to use technology for good and to drive equitable growth and national progress in all fields," she said.

The young generation can lead the role in the brave new digital world, Poe said, adding that government must play supporting role.

"We will work to create an environment which will enable you to lead the mission of digital inclusion," she said.

Poe said one area young techies and professionals can help is in modernizing legislation, and in building a legal firewall that she said will not strangle innovation.

She cited the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), which is leading the fight against cybercrime.

"The CICC is a small fish in a big pond. Their 320 million proposed budget, which has zero confidential funds, is a drop in the government coffers. They have a staff complement of only 53 individuals, one of whom is the only certified chief information security officer," she said.

"And yet this small agency is leading the fight against cybercriminals. Just last year, they helped arrest three members of a foreign terrorist group. They raided a cyberscam den, which netted 800 computers, 2,000 mobile phones, and thousands of pre-registered SIM cards," Poe added.

"Which goes to show: It really takes only a few good and competent people, to do a lot of good in this world. We will work on giving this agency what they need to succeed," Poe said.

Poe vowed to continue pushing for legislative initiatives to boost digitalization like her bill on E-Government Services Act, which mandates the use of Information Communication Technology to enhance the delivery of government services. It will also mandate the formulation of an "E-Government Master Plan".

Poe also filed the Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Act, which if passed will provide a framework for ensuring the security and reliability of the country's digital ecosystem.

She said the proposed law would create a legal and digital firewall against those who would abuse technology.

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