MANILA — Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Monday, 27 July, filed a measure institutionalizing the transition of the government to e-governance in the digital age amid the current challenges caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Go, targeting better health service delivery to every Filipino, stressed the gravity of easily accessible and superior health service every Filipino deserves and the transparency and efficiency of the delivery systems applied.
Senate Bill No. 1738, or the E-Governance Act of 2020, mandates the government to establish an integrated, inter-connected, and inter-operable information and resource-sharing and communications network spanning the entirety of the national and local government, an internal records management information system, an information database, and digital portals for the smooth and seamless delivery of public services.
The measure likewise pushes for the digitization of paper-based and other traditional modes of workflows for a more efficient and transparent public service. In the explanatory note of the bill, Go states that the transition of the government to the digital age has been a long time coming.
“In an age where almost everything can be done online and through other digital platforms, the government must harness the power of information and communications technology to better serve its purpose and bring the government closer to the people,” Go said.
The Senator also mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic “highlighted gaps, both foreseen and unforeseen, in the delivery of government services in the country.”
As the number of infected cases continues to increase, he said, long queues and appointments with government agencies, financial institutions and other public offices have worsened. He added that major government social services and programs are also being forced to shut down, limiting the public’s accessibility to public services at a time when the same are needed the most.
“The new normal warrants the government to consider and adopt, in a very radical but pragmatic way, the importance of digital transformation and use of electronic services and platforms to enable the government to do better,” Go explained.
The Senator also cited that a number of government agencies and local government units have already begun their own transitions to the digital age, offering online services to the public.
“This bill takes into consideration what we have learned from what has been and is being done, drawing from the experiences of technologically-advanced countries and the best practices of those who have started the push for e-governance, to initiate the country’s first big step to an institutional and whole-of-government approach to digitizing governance for a better government and a safer future,” Go mentioned.
Under Go’s proposed measure, the heads of government agencies are mandated to comply with the requirements of the bill, including related standards for all information, communication and technology (ICT) infrastructure, systems, equipment, designs, and other technologies promulgated by the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
The DICT will also be mandated to harmonize and coordinate all national ICT plans and initiatives to ensure knowledge, information and resource-sharing, database-building, and agency networking linkages among agencies, consistent with e-government objectives.
The bill also provides for the establishment of the integrated government network (IGN) which will act as the primary means for the sharing and communication of resources, information, and data through and on digital and electronic platforms across all of the government.
The IGN will also act as the government’s primary and focal information management tool and communications network.
The measure then creates a corporate body to be known as Philippine Infostructure Management Corporation for the purpose of ensuring the proper and efficient operations and management of the country’s ICT assets, as well as a training institution in recognition of the critical role of educating both the public and the government in ICT.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, during the opening of the second regular session of the 18th Congress, expressed the need for the digitalization of government processes in the country amid the pandemic.
“For as long as the pandemic remains uncontrolled, there will be a need to upgrade and improve the digital highway for support of various communication and support of transactional needs,” Sotto said.
In support of this endeavor by the government, Go said his measure will promote such transition to digitalization, eliminating delays and other problems associated with the traditional way of governance in communications and resource and information sharing.
More importantly, Go stressed that the public will feel that the government is actually and truly at their fingertips.
“Nakita natin ang importansya ng digital transformation in government. Sa private sector, napilitan ang mga negosyo na mag-adopt ng e-commerce techniques para mapabuti ang mga serbisyo nila,” Go said.
“Lalo na sa gobyerno, there’s no better time than now to prioritize the government’s digital transformation,” he added. (ia/SPH)