MANILA – Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Ivan John Uy on Friday vowed to renew and reactivate the “dead” free Wi-Fi service areas in three months.

During the House of Representatives appropriations committee hearing on DICT’s proposed budget of PHP 7.2 billion for 2023, Uy disclosed that the department’s Free Wi-Fi for All - Free Public Internet Access Program is no longer operational in many locations.

“I was aghast when I found out that most areas have terminated their (free Wi-Fi) services as of Aug. 31, 2021,” he said. “And there was no effort at all to renew those (sic) connectivity.”

Aside from reviving the connectivity of the free public Wi-Fi in certain areas, Uy also proposed to create a streamlined system to ease the burden of renewal of subscriptions to free Wi-Fi service providers.

Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza noted that the government’s Free Public Wi-Fi program’s target since 2016 was to provide 105,000 free public Wi-Fi spots and that Congress has since allocated approximately PHP12 billion for the project.

Daza, however, cited that only 10 percent of these sites have been established and only 4 percent are operational to date.

“We’re hoping that (the Free Public Wi-Fi) will be a priority for the new secretary and the new officials,” he said.

Daza also pointed out the department’s fiscal performance in the past year, noting that the DICT only utilized about 25 percent of its previous appropriations.

“We understand that the DICT has many good programs and projects,” he said. “But please allow me, as part of our role as fiscalizer, and also as your partner in nation building, to maybe focus on some of the issues and problems that the DICT has faced in the last few years. This is really to support and improve the projects and programs of the DICT.”

Uy agreed that the past projects implemented were not up to par compared to the budget that was allocated to the department.

“Indeed, when I came in two months ago, when I was looking at the utilization of the department, it was pitiful,” he said. “I assure the committee and my fellow workers that (underutilization) will not happen under my watch.”

Uy also disclosed that the DICT is targeting to reach a 70 percent to 80 percent utilization of their budget through various programs as of August.

“In the first eight months, you will see a budget utilization of 20 percent. But in the next three months, you will see a utilization of about 50 percent. The DICT has a huge mandate, and we owe the people the delivery of all these services. Congress has been generous in providing the funding necessary, and we need to implement (the programs),” he said. (PNA)