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Government & IT Infra: Lacking a Backbone?

I must admit, when I first heard of the National Broadband Network (NBN), as planned by the national government, I thought of it as a progressive move by this administration. The formulation of this plan, which at first was a seemingly harmless infrastructure project, came in the heels of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s SONA last year. In her speech, the President attempted to impress the I.T. industry with the declaration of her “Philippine Cyber-Corridor” concept. Recognizing I.T. and I.T.-enabled services as the next sunrise industries, the Philippine Cyber-Corridor is envisioned to lead the country’s development efforts.
But, in light of a position paper published recently by two U.P. School of Economics (UPSE) professors, I believe we must step back and seriously consider this multimillion-dollar undertaking that proposes to establish a third telecommunications backbone. Professors Raul V. Fabella, UPSE dean, and Emmanuel S. de Dios are of the educated opinion that there is no real need for the NBN, much less a fourth backbone. The NBN comes side-by-side with the Cyber-Education Project (CEP), which, if implemented, will be another telecommunications grid. In a nutshell, the NBN is supposed to interconnect government agencies (from national down to barangay level) via the Internet. The CEP, on the other hand, is meant for connecting public schools across the country.
There are a handful of grave issues here. Do we need the NBN, much less the CEP? Aren’t existing telecoms infrastructure adequate? The UPSE paper in fact states that the two existing backbones — PLDT’s loop and Telecphil’s fishbone — are under-utilized.
What of the financing behind NBN and CEP? The government of China, in its newfound capitalistic role in the region, has agreed to fund these two projects via ODA. Provided, mind you, that the major contracts be awarded to mainland Chinese companies. No bidding, apparently no questions asked.
Professors Fabella and de Dios present very compelling reasons why the government, in the interest of public trust, vis-ŕ-vis the failures known as NAIA 3 and Napocor, should abandon NBN and CEP. Let’s not dwell on corruption issues anymore — this is a never-ending tale in Philippine politics.
The arguments of these economics professors, in their paper entitled “Lacking a Backbone: The controversy over the ‘National Broadband Network’ and Cyber-Education Projects“, may be summed up in this statement: Government should concentrate on its core competencies. It is not, after all, an entrepreneur, much less a technopreneur.

By Blogie


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