Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Positioning Digital Content on the ICT Roadmap

"CICT will promote the development digital content that is relevant and meaningful to Filipinos."

This is one of the more meaningful principles that the CICT has set out in its roadmap, but it needs some more elaboration and a reorientation. As written, the thinking behind treats the citizens as mere consumers of digital content, thereby severely limiting the scope of what materials can be delivered.
The goal is to make available online the Philippines' stock of content and provide all citizens with easy access to the information that is important to their lives.

So who decides what content is relevant and timely? This is a recurring pattern of intellectual dictatorship, one that stunts the avenues of growth and expression.

Digital content is broadly defined as encompassing educational materials, national heritage collections, government information, research databases, literature, history and entertainment and resources in the various Philippine
languages – particularly the 8 major Philippine languages.

How could we make this digital content more compelling? There's no guarantee that once educational materials are online, citizens will willingly take to it. Government information and research databases are quite possibly the worst leaders for content. Nothing turns off an ordinary user than to be presented with dry information like statistics. This is not to say that the types of content proposed here are not important; but a lot more thought has to go into packaging the software so that it is relevant and meaningful.

Beyond this, the ICT roadmap has to go through a paradigm shift on its views of the constituents. Filipinos should not be treated as mere consumers of information, but instead as producers and participants in the transformation of information. Filipinos should be able to decide what content is important to them; only then can government properly respond to those informational needs.

But first they need to arrive at that mindset where they can make those decisions. This, to me, should be the overarching principle behind the ICT roadmap. Rather than giving people web browsers, they should be given HTML editors, and more importantly, the drive to put together something meaningful with those tools.

A plan like this will not be easy to execute. Most likely, it will go beyond the capabilities of the CICT as an agency alone. And yet to address the fundamental deficiencies in the Filipinos' appreciation for content, information, and culture, this is necessary.