Bridging the gap: Challenges in digital transformation

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

The pace of doing business both in the private and public sectors has significantly accelerated.

Gone are the days when transactions are processed manually, which could be inefficient and redundant. For instance, to obtain a business permit from a local government unit, an entity once needed to submit its registration documents to several offices, even if they are remarkably housed in the same government agency.

The drive of the government to pursue digital transformation appears to be unstoppable. Such perseverance to go fully digital is quite impressive and commendable.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology has been aggressive in the roll out of several initiatives, which, no doubt, could contribute to digitization. Among the flagship projects of the DICT are the National Broadband Plan, National Government Portal and the Free Wi-fi in Public Places.

To complement these, the National Cybersecurity Plan was likewise launched. On the other hand, the Department of Finance, in collaboration with the DICT and other government agencies, has launched Trade Net, which serves as the country’s platform for its National Single Window.

Priorities

How are these projects positioned in the ICT ecosystem? Given the simultaneous roll-out of initiatives, which could take a toll in the funding requirements and absorptive capacity of government personnel, there might be a need to prioritize which projects are indispensable initiatives and which would serve as a backbone for future ICT projects.

During the Aquino administration, the Philippine Digital Strategy served as a roadmap in digital transformation. The current administration has yet to improve the Philippine Digital Strategy by adopting its own National ICT Ecosystem Framework, which by the way is a work in progress.

In drafting the ecosystem framework, DICT could focus on challenges that need to be addressed instead of on what it has already achieved. It should also define the outcome sought to be achieve and explore technological solutions that are most appropriate.

Bridging the gap

To be successful, the government has to address the gaps among the four-way components of digitization: hardware or infostructure, software, policy environment and human resource. Each of these components are key to an open and innovative ecosystem. A setback in any of these components can affect the other components, which could eventually only lead to failure.

There are several ways by which the government can foster digitization. Most critical is changing the analog mindset of bureaucrats. A determined ICT champion that reports directly to the agency head is key in evangelizing for citizen centered and technology powered reforms.

To catch up with the fast pace of new technologies, government needs to create a policy environment conducive for innovation and adopting an aggressive infostructure plan. The academic curriculum must be enhanced to build an army of techies for a digitized society.

Digitization is a certainty. It is only a matter of time before every government will be “digitized.” Being in its infancy stage in the world of ICT, the government could use this as an advantage to set a framework or masterplan to transform government bureaucracy to an efficient, transparent, and responsive service machine that Filipino citizens deserve.

 

 
Image Source: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez/philstar.com

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