As we enter the new year, many tourism-reliant ASEAN countries are still struggling to recover from the pandemic-induced economic slump as neither the volume nor the travel experience is even close to the usual. Some parts of the world did witness some travel-related activity in quarter four, but for the most part, ASEAN borders remained tightly closed. The unavailability of significant stimulus packages combined with the unpredictability of transmission discouraged countries from actively opening up for business.
Initiation of travel bubbles in the region
The year-end did see the opening of some exclusive corridors and bubbles with numerous safety measures and procedures in place, envisaged to promote sustainable tourism in the new normal. Brunei, Cambodia and Vietnam have resumed some international flights but Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and Timor-Leste remain closed to foreign arrivals. Similarly, non-essential travel for leisure and tourism has is not allowed in the Philippines.
A pilot scheme in Thailand was deployed to grant special tourist visas for long-stay travellers, which would have allowed healthy international tourists to go anywhere within the country after serving a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“Travellers can come to Thailand, and they can choose Bangkok or Phuket for their state quarantines,” Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for marketing communications at the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Unfortunately, the scheme almost immediately floundered after a new case was reported, scuttling any hopes of an imminent reopening. Tanes named Singapore and China as countries Thailand is keeping its sights on for possible travel bubbles in the future, which would allow residents from only these countries to move between each other. Singapore is progressively reopening limited safe travel arrangements with other countries, including its Southeast Asian neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and most recently, Indonesia.
Easing of travel restrictions and the implementation of “green lanes of air travel” – which allow visitors from specific countries to enter – could be premature as policymakers and hoteliers alike juggle to balance public health with the economic growth.
Outbreak Management System will be key in 2021
Despite limited and highly regulated travel within the ASEAN region, the risk of contagion cannot be ruled out. Passengers need the confidence to travel across borders while managing various health risks and immigration requirements on a single platform.
This is where technology solutions like the Liberty and Passage Outbreak Management System come in play. The Liberty and Passage Total Outbreak Management System provides travellers with the necessary health and regulatory documentation within the platform. It logs health declarations, provides digital health certificates, records a health status log and has a track and trace function built-in.
Not only does it help passengers track their health status and simplify the travel procedures amid the pandemic, it can also help prevent the rapid spread of the virus within the airport and the airline workforce.
The Liberty and Passage app has been designed to help provide relevant timely information and so build the confidence required to restart free movement between countries and continents. It gives travellers confidence when crossing borders and assures authorities of the genuineness of the documentation when processing foreign visitors at their borders.
Technology solutions like the Liberty and Passage app will be essential not only for the citizens but also for the authorities who have been entrusted with the critical responsibility of keeping citizens safe as more cross border travel takes place in 2021.
For more information on Liberty and Passage Outbreak Management System, please visit: www.libertyandpassage.com
Like other innovative programmes, data automation has become part and parcel of organisations’ digital frameworks, particularly in workplaces where a more seamless flow of data gathering and analysis is needed to scale up operations. This is the trend today as most government agencies migrate toward digitalisation to boost their services.
The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) is at the lead in harnessing the advantages of the automation technology. According to a statement, the department urged various local government units of LGUs to set up their own electronic Business One-Stop Shop (e-BOSS) in order to beat the June 17 deadline for automating their transactions as required by the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) and Efficient Delivery of Government Service Act.
The statement comes after Jeremiah Belgica, ARTA Director General, led on-the-spot inspections in LGU offices, including those in Malabon, Quezon City and Pasig City, to ensure that they are complying with the EODB law which mandates that government offices must put up BOSS applications to provide improved public service.
The BOSS is an application that runs on a single-window system. It is integrated into most agencies’ work models to expedite the processing of application forms and submission of documents in government offices.
Improvisations were later introduced to this programme by digitalising it. The e-BOSS currently utilises the Electronic Business Permitting and Licensing System or eBPLS, a software that was developed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). With the implementation of the e-BOSS, transactions with the government were integrated and were allowed to be undertaken virtually.
It likewise allows the use of e-signatures in public documents and features for online payment of transaction fees.
Compliance with ease of doing business measures
The ARTA Director General expressed his approval over the efforts of city governments to comply with measures aimed at promoting ease and convenience in public transactions. He emphasised: “This is compliance with the President’s directive to put everything online. The local governments’ initiatives were in line with their motto that we can see through the facilitation of online payments.”
He lauded Pasig City’s e-BOSS programme for permit applications and renewal processes. The Director General slipped in a quick reminder for other LGUs to fully automate within the coming months and before the deadline for compliance.
Under the EODB law, all LGUs, government-owned or controlled corporations and other government instrumentalities both in the Philippines and abroad which are providing services, are required to promote ease of accomplishing business and government transactions by establishing applications that can streamline operations. The goal behind this measure is to ensure compliance with the standard turnaround time for transactions, automated business processes and improved government transparency and accountability among government agencies and personnel.
One of these methods is through the establishment of an e-BOSS. The ARTA Chief said: “LGUs who will be found to be non-compliant with the requirements of the law shall receive Notice of Deficiencies and may be subjected to a formal investigation which may result in an administrative case.”
As provided under the law, officials and employees who violate provisions of the EODB measure shall be meted with administrative and criminal sanctions. These violations include refusal to accept and process government application or permits, the imposition of additional fees, collusion with “fixers” and missing deadlines.
In promoting ease of doing business in the country, several key reforms have been introduced by the Philippine government. Among them is the establishment of online platforms to assist startup enterprises. As earlier reported by OpenGov Asia, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced the launch of an application that will allow owners of businesses located outside the country’s capital to showcase their products and services.
The astronomical rates of transmission and a lack of a sure cure for COVID-19 till now has been reason enough for global leaders and citizens to have grave concerns. With the promise of a slew of vaccines, this panic has been somewhat assuaged but extreme caution is still the order of the day.
To their credit, many countries were quick to realise technology’s potential in effectively managing the impact of the virus. Tech giants across the globe supported governments by launching AI-powered solutions and applications to help citizens control risk.
Solutions had to be created under extreme pressure and absurdly tight timelines, leading to phenomenal creativity. Here are some of the significant ways in which technology has and can help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic:
Using AI to Identify, Track and Forecast Outbreaks
AI-based solutions have been designed to detect an outbreak with the premise that the better one can track the virus, the better chances of dealing with it. Such solutions can detect an outbreak by analysing news reports, social media platforms and government platforms.
Canadian startup BlueDot’s, San Francisco’s Metabiota, and Boston’s health map are few examples where the power of AI was harnessed to warn people of the threat days before the WHO issued its public warnings.
Liberty and Passage by Access Anywhere is a prime example of this technological application. Developed by Access Anywhere, it is a total outbreak management system that combines a plethora of cutting-edge technologies on a single platform. Liberty & Passage is an outbreak management solution for individuals, organisations and the entire travel industry.
Extremely versatile, it can be deployed across various sectors including airports, cruise lines, immigration and tourism boards. Its ease of use, flexibility and scalability means it can be a significant tool for organisations in almost any sector to restart their business safely.
Using AI to Help Diagnose the Virus
Infervision, an AI company had launched a coronavirus AI solution that helps front line healthcare workers detect and monitor the disease efficiently. It also has the capacity to improve the speed of a CT diagnosis. Alibaba has built an AI-powered diagnosis system, which is 96% accurate in diagnosing the virus in seconds.
Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies
Drone delivery is considered the safest and fastest ways to deliver medical supplies during a disease outbreak. For example, Terra Drones is using their unmanned aerial vehicles to transport medical samples and quarantine material with minimal risk. Additionally, drones are being used to patrol public spaces and track non-compliance of quarantine mandates.
Using Chatbots To Share Information
Chatbots are an effective way for people to get specific information and advice. For instance, Tencent operates WeChat, where people can access free online health consultation services. Similarly, the travel and tourism sector has immensely benefited from the use of chatbots.
Using AI to Identify Infected Individuals
As the COVID-19 virus transitioned from an outbreak to a full-on pandemic, China’s sophisticated surveillance system used facial recognition technology and temperature detection software from SenseTime to identify people who have developed a fever and were likely to have been infected by the virus.
Technological innovations like ‘Smart Helmets’ are also being used by officials in Sichuan province to identify people with raised temperatures. Additionally, the Chinese Government’s monitoring system, Health Code, uses big data to identify and assess the risk of each individual based on their travel history.
Innovation in technology is helping to mitigate the impact of the current pandemic by keeping people informed and abreast with the latest developments and encouraging them to take all the necessary precautions.
With the discovery of the new COVID-19 strain and experts declaring the pandemic to be a recurring feature in the future one can only see technologies like AI and Machine learning playing a pertinent role in keeping people and organisations up and running.
Tracking infections and their geographical location are of paramount importance in managing the transmission of a contagious disease. The manual ways of collecting data and tracking numbers in similar situations, which was in use until the recent past, is been an extremely labour-intensive activity, rife with opportunities for error. Digital technology (track and trace applications on mobiles) has proved to be a game-changer in the current pandemic.
Manual processes are long, complicated and can be flawed. The interviewee may not remember or know everyone they came into physical contact with. And even if they do, it may not be possible to trace each person. To compound the hazard, the tracers put themselves at risk through their proximity to likely carriers as they navigate complicated encounters with people who have been traced.
Today, contact tracing apps are being developed and deployed across the world fall into two broad categories:
The centralised approach takes data from your phone and stores it on a central system that ‘trusted experts’ can access, using data gathered in ways they think most useful.
The decentralised approach, which is at the heart of the recent partnership between Apple and Google. This aims to put the user in control and minimise the risk of privacy violations, producing alerts for them automatically with no intervention from a third party.
For the most part, apps rely on the short-range Bluetooth connectively that usually comes with smartphones. Bluetooth enables the phone to keep a log of everyone a person has come into close contact over a specific period, provided those people also have a similar and compatible app. If one of them has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and this has been registered with the app, the technology can alert all the people who have been linked. The app will notify these contacts, allowing them to take appropriate action, such as getting tested or undertaking quarantine. Users can be alerted without knowing the identity of the ‘positive’ case.
While the technology itself cannot stop the spread of the disease, it plays a vital role in educating and empowering people to be aware of their surrounding and take the right measures to minimise the impact. The advantage of this technology is that it can help people avoid spreading the disease they may have been potentially exposed to it without physically having to track them down.
Liberty & Passage developed by Access Anywhere is a total outbreak management system that combines a plethora of cutting-edge technologies on a single platform. Liberty & Passage is an outbreak management solution for individuals, organisations and the entire travel industry.
Extremely versatile, it can be deployed across various sectors including airports, cruise lines, immigration and tourism boards. Its ease of use, flexibility and scalability means it can be a significant tool for organisations in almost any sector to restart their business safely.
Liberty & Passage, using AI and ML, has been designed to help provide relevant timely information and build the confidence required to restart free movement between countries and continents. It gives travellers confidence when crossing borders and assurance of authenticity to authorities when processing foreign visitors at borders.
The application is of high value in the corporate world as it can help check the spread of the virus within the workforce. It is able to identify high-risk employees through data analysis and constantly review their health records to ensure their daily well being.
It is technological innovations like this that will instil in individuals and nations the confidence to manage the pandemic better and move forward on their path to recovery. Outbreak management systems will be the key to mitigating risk and enhancing safety in everyday life.
For more information on how the Liberty Solution works, please visit www.libertyandpassage.com
The new vision of local government units as they move towards digital innovation is to avoid having their citizens stand in lines for transactions; instead, they motivate the public to go online.
This is exhortation the Valenzuela City government gave its constituents who still opt for physical transactions and avoid taking their business transactions online. The city has launched a string of innovative solutions that the city has laid out this year to streamline its operations and want to ramp the uptake of online services.
To encourage the public to shift to online transactions, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian announced in a statement that the city government has inked a Collections Services Agreement with Union Bank of the Philippines. Under the deal, a new payment option shall be added in the recently unveiled Paspas Permit System.
The Paspas programme integrates several key business transactions with the local government. These include dealings regarding zoning procedures and issuance of sanitary permits to establishments. Applications for health certificates are likewise included in the list of services catered by the online system.
Under the new payment option, account holders of the partner bank may settle their business taxes without convenience fees. For non-account taxpayers, they may still use the payment scheme to pay their taxes virtually. However, they will shoulder fees at a rate of 1%. Payment can be made using credit cards or debit accounts under selected lenders through the PCHC PayGate.
Meanwhile, the delivery of permits and documents are coursed through commercial courier service and will ordinarily take about three to five working days.
Contributing to ease of doing business in the country
The mayor expressed his confidence that the ease and convenience brought by the virtual payment scheme will further improve tax collections in the city. He added that the partnership came at an opportune time, a month before the “tax season in Valenzuela”.
He also encouraged the public to take advantage of the benefits of the new payment scheme amid restrictions and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor added: “Use Paspas Permit system as it is now completed with new enhancements to ensure safety and convenience and to avoid convergence of people during the business permit renewal season at the designated payment centres.”
The Paspas Permit programme is part of the 3S Plus online service launched by the city government last month. This service aims to integrate the application for permits and other requests for public documents into one platform.
Before the introduction of the Paspas Permit, the city said that processing through physical transactions usually takes 30 minutes. With the integration of the new programme, the city anticipates that it can shorten this turnaround time.
The new agreement is in line with e-governance initiatives undertaken by several other local governments and departments in the Philippines in a bid to comply with the provisions of Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018. This Act was signed into law to amend the existing Anti-Red Tape Act. Its purpose is to facilitate faster and more seamless government transactions. It covers all offices and agencies in the Executive Department, local government units and government-owned and controlled corporations.
Local governments are not the only agencies investing in innovative technology to ramp up their operations. Several agencies have undertaken necessary improvements in their digital transformation. In an earlier news story by OpenGov Asia, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced that the smarter way to upscale operations is by introducing “smarter” technology. The DTI explained that the role of innovation in boosting economic growth has been made more apparent in the face of the global pandemic. The department thus urged key market players, particularly those in the manufacturing sector, to invest in tech and cultivate an innovative mindset.
To assist Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the Philippine government has put up a new digital platform where small businesses and start-ups can offer their products. In a statement, the Department of Trade and Industry- Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion (DTI-BDTP) reported that it has organized a National Trade Fair (NTF) mall as the agency strives to continue assisting MSMEs during a phase marred by restrictions and regulations brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new mall allows MSMEs to offer their products while navigating their way to online selling and other e-commerce promotions. The NTF was put up through a string of collaborative efforts from the DTI-BDTP and the DTI-Regional and other provincial offices.
Last year, the DTI’s Trade Fair, themed ‘A Green Show’, was able to showcase products of 285 MSMEs hailing from various areas in the Philippines. The number of participant businesses was 14% higher than that recorded in 2018. In terms of the number of visitors, attendance during the 2019 fair increased by as much as 10%.
As in previous trade fairs organized by the trade and industry department, the newly launched online mall is a depository of some of the top products of some 223 businesses in the Philippines. Some of the products showcased in the NTF mall are processed food and drinks, houseware, fitness items and souvenirs. Shops offering fashion accessories and other wearables are also part of the digital mall.
The NTF digital mall features a product catalogue with a facility to search for a specific product or product category and the platform provides for a more convenient online shopping experience. Buyers can also opt to reach out to MSMEs by messaging them through Viber for easier transactions. Visitors of the NTF mall shall be able to attend DTI webinars, as well as browse through writeups on exhibitors’ inspirational stories.
Tapping bigger markets through innovation
The NTF mall is a digital marketplace which allows for viable promotions of a plethora of products from various regions in the country. Food and non-food products may be advertised and sold to consumers through this mall.
What sets it apart from other e-commerce apps in the market today is that it allows for business-to-business (B2B) and also business-to-consumer connections. Through the app, MSMEs are granted new avenues to connect not only with their potential clients but with their partners and suppliers as well.
In addition, the NTF platform has networking capacities that link MSMEs to “financial service providers, point of sale, accounting, inventory, human resources, tax and payroll services, supply chain management, and B2B and B2C marketplaces”.
The NTF e-commerce platform is integrated within another linking application, which allows owners of MSMEs as end-users to create their own online shops. Through this software, small business owners are able to tap overseas markets and jumpstart their journey in digitizing their operations. This way, MSMEs may also learn a few tricks from bigger businesses who also have their companies linked in the app.
The Philippines is ramping up initiatives geared towards employing innovative methods in government transactions. Congress has doubled the country’s 2021 budget for broadband services. The executive branch of the government has also introduced a number of improvements in handling permits applications, passenger screening in immigration, and tax payments.
In an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the Bureau of Internal Revenue has announced the launch of an electronic tax clearance scheme that bidders in government projects can use. The new tax payment method comes after a statement from the Finance Department that 86% of all tax payments were coursed online during the quarantine.
A recent study showed that the majority of business leaders in the Philippines consider innovation a ‘must’ amid market uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the study, 88% of Filipino decision-makers treat innovation as a tool with the capacity to accelerate progress, and not just a ‘good-to-have’ element of the business. This number, while less than the response recorded in a broader study among Asia Pacific innovation leaders (98%), is still more than the average 74% positive response recorded for all business organisations in the region.
Meanwhile, Philippine organisations were also found to have increased their ability to be drivers of change in innovation by 4%.
The report also showed that technology was the top priority of businesses (44%). However, the same data revealed that people were considered by decision-makers as the least of their priority when it comes to building resilience.
The survey, which was conducted within a period of six months and included 213 business decision-makers, is part of a bigger report which involved 3,312 business leaders in 15 business markets across Asia. The research also showed that within this six-month period, an innovative mindset among organisations in the Philippines was quickly adopted. The positive response was recorded during the pandemic, the impact of which has left many businesses in a slump.
A senior executive who was part of the report said, “Innovation is no longer an option, but a necessity. We’ve seen how the recent crisis spurred transformation across the region, and organisations will have to integrate the ability to innovate into their core to recover.”
Innovation during the pandemic
The number of business leaders who had a change in sentiment regarding innovation was also reported. While 77% of decision-makers admitted that shifting to innovative methods is difficult pre-pandemic, 36% of leaders exhibited a turnaround in their perception.
“We see amongst leaders a constant appetite for growth and evolution. During COVID-19, 45% of them said they think their business model will lose competitiveness in five years’ time, as compared to 21% of firms in the Philippines. This desire and urgency for continuous improvement through agility and adaptation to change will determine the success of businesses in this new normal,” said the Associate Vice President, Head of Digital Transformation of one of the organisations involved in the research.
Data gathered from the survey were used in modelling called an ‘innovation framework’. In this model, various organisations were classified in four categories: traditionalist, novice, adaptor and leaders.
The results of the study are consistent with earlier news reports on the steady rise of the Philippines in the Global Innovation Index. In September 2020, the Philippines was reported to have ranked 50th in the said global index for 2020 which included 131 economies. In 2019, the Philippines ranked 54th in the Global Innovation Index.
The Philippine government, through the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) earlier announced that efforts at digitalisation are in the works. In 2017, the DICT introduced the National Broadband Program which aims to fortify connectivity services in the country. In addition, the department also unveiled plans for pursuing information and communications technology or ICTs.
The Open Group, the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs) have announced a collaboration to accelerate public service innovation for better citizen outcomes and improved utilisation of ICT infrastructure.
The Open Group and ITU aim to promote, guide and build capabilities for digital government strategies and citizen-centric enterprise architecture (EA) across the globe.
ITU Secretary-General noted through this partnership, ITU is redoubling its efforts to help governments everywhere accelerate the deployment and scaling up of impactful citizen-centric digital solutions in support of economic recovery and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With the necessary guidance and materials, resource-constrained countries will be able to convert digital strategies into implementing large-scale systems. As such, the alliance between ITU and The Open Group will fill the gap between digital investments and best-practice architectural approaches for the achievement of the SDGs.
The Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of ITU noted that using digital solutions and technologies to upscale digital public services is fundamental for supporting the response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic.
She noted that when it comes to designing, implementing and rolling out digital public services at scale, adopting architectural approaches is key. EA allows governments to meet the needs of sectors with varying requirements, while at the same time to facilitate the organisational change process and the modernisation of government services as a whole. Alongside The Open Group, the ITU can create the tools and guidance needed for countries to put an EA approach into action.
The work undertaken as part of the collaboration will be carried out by The Open Group Government EA Work Group. The Work Group will develop processes that enable seamless information flow across various government ecosystems, making existing EA resources — including guides, frameworks, use cases, and methodologies — easier to use.
By providing access to these resources, The Open Group and ITU will help governments build the capabilities needed to implement architectural approaches at scale, based on country-specific needs.
It is evident that the countries able to yield the best outcomes from digital investments are those that have created and adopted a fit-for-purpose digital government EA. This is why, together with ITU, The Open Group will strive to democratise the use of methodologies and tools required to establish futureproofed digital architectures and infrastructures, particularly for countries with limited resources.
Pushing the digitalisation of governments
According to a 2017 report by a British multinational professional services network, digital technologies have the potential to deliver enormous benefits in the public sector, helping governments to:
- Understand their citizens better and deliver better outcomes
- Provide services more effectively and efficiently
- Find new solutions to policy challenges
- Engage with external partners to develop new delivery models
- Commercialize some public services and develop fresh sources of revenue
Governments that exploit digital technologies are also in a much stronger position to compete on the world stage, as the firm’s Global Advisory Leader, Government and Public Sector, pointed out. Being at the forefront of digital government is a badge of prestige that can raise the global profile of a country or city and help create an economy that is a magnet for talent, enterprise and investment, he added.