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Philippine National ID System to Re-launch for COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

The Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it will relaunch the multi-billion Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) after it crashed due to the sheer number of Filipinos wanting to register during its launch. Due to the amount of response it received, the government intends to use the PhilSys as another way to queue and register the general population for their vaccination.

NEDA said that they are reviewing the system so that they can increase the capacity to serve more simultaneous users per minute. The agency assures Filipinos that they have experts from all over the world helping them and that they will relaunch the system as soon as they can.

Along with the national ID, the NEDA said that the government is recalibrating its contact-tracing efforts to better manage COVID-19 risks and fast-track solutions. Instead of shutting down the entire economy, the government only close the sectors or the areas with the higher risk and allow 98% of the people with no COVID-19 symptoms or risks to continue working.

The government is also intensifying the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Recover (PDITR) strategy during the lockdown periods to facilitate the reopening of the economy. To strengthen the ‘detect’ and ‘isolate’ pillars, NEDA, the Department of Health (DOH), and other local government units (LGUs), with the help of data scientists from the Asian Institute of Management, are working on a solution to automatically determine likely close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases and immediately notify these people via text message.

Speaking at the recent Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum, Denis F. Villorente, Undersecretary for the National Information & Communications Technology Assets Index, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), spoke about the potential of a robust national ID system that could facilitate multiple types of transactions necessary for digital ecosystems and societies, saving people, government and businesses time and money and unlock new drivers of economic value and growth.

Exploring the rationale of the Philippines’ national ID system, he conceded that there was a need for a foundational ID system. The over 25 functional ID systems do not offer digital authentication services to third parties and highly dependent on paper-based and manual processes. This has led to high costs and fraud in service delivery and prevents the shift to online services.

In terms of public services, the current identification landscape in the Philippines has not just created exclusion but also exacerbated inequality. Citizens often need to provide two or more matching physical documents which is a barrier for many to access services. About 1 in 5 of the poorest (40%) Filipinos have been unable to apply for government services because they lacked the required IDs. Similarly, 1 in 6 of this group have been unable to receive government financial support because they lacked the required IDs.

PhilSys is designed as an enabling platform that unlocks new services and systems for the digital economy, especially online transactions. It underpins sectoral IDs and databases to enhance accuracy, interoperability and integrity. The system boosts the digital transformation of existing services and systems reducing cost, time and fraud. The PhilSys-enabled services will allow governments and businesses to use technology to change how they do business, shifting to transactions that are paperless, automated, and online.

Denis said that by the end of 2021, up to 70 million Filipinos will have been registered to PhilSys and been issued their PSN and PhilIDs. He emphasised that the PhilSys present opportunities for service providers to simplify, secure, and reduce the cost-of-service delivery to citizens/clients. Government CIOs have a critical role to play in ensuring the preparedness and readiness of their agencies in unlocking the opportunities and value of the system.

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