Digital transformation for Filipinos

Atty. Katrina Clemente-Lua, Executive Director and Policy Lead for ICT of the Stratbase ADR Institute

Just last week, the National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Summit was held, with a good mix of participants from the public and private sectors.

With the theme “Empowering the Filipino through Digital Transformation,” the event showcased the government’s ICT-powered programs. These included the National Cybersecurity Plan, the National Broadband Plan, Free Wi-Fi Access in Public Places, the National Government Portal, and the National ID system. These projects and initiatives show the accelerating adoption of new technologies that would transform the bureaucracy into an efficient, transparent, trusted, and citizen-centered service system.

But with the government’s limited ICT resources and talent, how can it fully roll out these programs? This is where the private sector will need to come in.

The summit showcased a decent number of technologies well aligned with the government’s digital transformation projects. The delegates got a more than adequate download of the latest technologies and trends applicable to the Philippine public-sector environment, including privacy and cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and a plethora of apps all within the context of the governments Cloud First policy.

The session on the National ID System (NIDS) expectedly got the full attention because of the strategic impact to the most productive sector of the population. The successful rollout of NIDS will spark a chain reaction of game-changing technologies that will enable government and private sector to retool services and processes to more cost-efficient and productivity boosting solutions.

One ID that rules them all would simplify public and private transactions en route to seamless service delivery and consequently, enhanced administrative governance, and ease in doing business. The National ID Bill, which was submitted to the President for signing on May 28, has yet to be either signed into law or lapse into law. A long overdue law still stuck in the bureaucracy.

At the summit, the Philippine Statistics Authority said it already has activities lined up for 2018 as well as long-term plans that would drive the full adoption of the system.

Even so, implementation would not be bereft of challenges. The collection and management of data and privacy issues are what can be considered as the most pressing issues, which can make or break the success of the initiative.

Fortunately, these can be addressed by innovative technological solutions. Although it remains to be seen how the government will support this initiative, whether through public-private partnership or other means, this is an area of development that presents an opportunity for the government to increase its potential absorptive capacity.

Connectivity, ubiquity, trust, and interoperability are key to digital transformation. Close collaboration and closer coordination not only within the government but with other stakeholders, such as the academe and industry players, remain to be indispensable in pursuing an effective Philippine ICT Ecosystem. The programs of the government should not be evaluated in isolation but should be viewed in the context of an evolving ecosystem

The DICT’s development of the National ICT Ecosystem Framework hopes to address the following strategic thrusts: participatory e-governance, industry and countryside development, resource sharing and capacity building through ICT, improved public links and connectivity, ICT user protection and information security, and enabling a sustainable ICT environment. It is envisioned for these to bridge the gaps between innovations and policies.

For anyone who has been to a well-developed, hi-tech country, the prosperity and benefits to citizens are obvious.

If we can overcome the bureaucratic and even cultural barriers to change, digital transformation will be the best thing to happen to our country.

To our ICT champions, may the force be with you.

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