The Philippines

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The Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) fully supports the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s initiative to allow telecommunications companies to occupy a portion of the government’s Right of Way (ROW) to facilitate infrastructure build-up and speed up improvements to connectivity services in the country.

This is under the DPWH Department Order No. 29 (DO 29) or the “DPWH Policy on Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure under Republic Act (RA) No. 11494” that eases restrictions on telecommunications companies aiming to construct information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure projects along national roads.

To put things into perspective, in 2014, the DPWH issued DO No. 73 prohibiting telecommunication and power companies from constructing posts along national roads as it “creates an imminent danger to lives and properties and hamper relief operations” during calamities. But during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the DICT and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) asked the DPWH to consider changing the order as it slowed down the rollout of critical telecom infrastructure.

The DO 29 amendment complies with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1), or Republic Act (RA) No. 11469, that paved the way for accelerated approval of permits and other documents from the local government to speed up the construction of telecommunication towers. Also, Bayanihan 2, or RA No. 11494, further eased the construction of telecommunication infrastructure by waiving several other permitting requirements for telecommunication companies.

DO 29 allows telcos and ICT service providers to construct and undertake excavations and/or restoration work for ICT Infrastructure Projects within the allowable ROW limits of the national roads. DO 29 however, shall automatically cease application in 2024, after the lapse of three (3) years from its signing and approval.

DICT said that to address the increased need for Internet connectivity services during the state of public health emergency such as COVID-19, they thought that governing agencies must prioritise faster rollout of ICT infrastructures like cellular towers. The agency fully supports the DPWH’s initiative, and they hope that this will help address the issues of congestion, connection reliability and coverage soon.

Moreover, the DPWH stated that the DICT, along with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), were instrumental in paving the way for the issuance of DO 29. Since last year, these agencies had urged the DPWH to revisit and establish more conducive ROW regulations to help improve internet connectivity in the country.

The DICT and the DPWH are working hand in hand to ensure compliance with their respective commitments under the Memorandum of Agreement signed during the First Philippine Telecoms Summit in 2017 to eliminate barriers to the expansion of connectivity services in the country.

Meanwhile, telecommunications companies thanked the DPWH for releasing DO 29, removing a bottleneck that prevented telecommunication service providers from constructing infrastructure projects along national roads. With this, telco companies now see faster network builds in the country. They also said that the DO 29 allows ICT service providers to construct and undertake excavations and restoration works for infrastructure projects within the allowable right of way limits of national roads.

Accordingly, reports say that as the lockdowns restrict business operations and limit the movement of people in the Philippines, internet connectivity has never been more urgent to enable digital transformation as the country adapts to new landscapes brought about by the pandemic. In times of crisis such as COVID-19, the telecom industry plays an important role in ensuring business continuity and household sustainability as a dependency for reliable broadband connectivity becomes more critical. The report added that Internet connectivity will serve as one of the main foundations in supporting the overall digital infrastructure development in the Philippines.

The Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launched nine new research projects on artificial intelligence (AI) that are intended to aid various sectors in the country, from agriculture to the education sector.

In a virtual launch, the DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) unveiled the AI projects to be undertaken by the DOST-Advanced Technology Science Institute (ASTI), along with various universities in the country.

First is the Autonomous Societally Inspired Mission Oriented Vehicles (ASIMOV) Programme, composed of two-component projects, to be handle by ASTI and a university based in Mindanao. It will take on the challenge of developing AI-enhanced, mission-driven robots working autonomously or with humans to help address society’s needs. In its initial phase, it will focus on laying the groundwork by developing and innovating these key functional modules of intelligent mobile robots: sensing, actuation, control, navigation, and communications.

They will also handle the Harmonised Aerial Watch and Knowledge-based Survey (HAWKS) Project, the aerial component of the ASIMOV Programme and will primarily conduct R&D towards the development of core technologies necessary for autonomous drone deployment.

Moreover, the Mindanao-based university will also spearhead the Philippine Sky Artificial Intelligence Programme (SkAI-Pinas). Its main research component is the Automated Labelling Machine – Large-Scale Initiative (ALaM-LSI), which will be conducted in partnership with the DOST-ASTI once again. SkAI-Pinas aims to bridge the gap between the availability of massive remote sensing data in the country. It is comprised of an AI knowledge base, including experts, protocol, and an AI repository for models and labelled images to accelerate the workflows of remote sensing applications and fill the gaps in past and present remote sensing projects.

Also, to help protect the environment and reduce marine pollution, the same team will also develop a simple, cost-effective technology to monitor and quantify the marine litter in shallow coastal areas. The developers will base their technology on an existing towed optical camera array system for deep-sea monitoring that has undergone sea trials. They will redesign and improve this by adding sensors and cameras to be efficiently used in shallow coastal water surveys.

DOST-ASTI, on other hand, will work on the Robot for Optimised and Autonomous Mission-Enhancement Response (ROAMER) Project. It will develop prototypes of unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) that will help increase the productivity of different industries in the country, especially agriculture. Techs under Project ROAMER are envisioned to monitor, survey, and map agricultural farms for better decision-making and management.

Meanwhile, another university intends to develop a low-cost, wireless structural health monitoring system with visualisation through the Intelligent Structural Health Monitoring via Mesh of Tremor Sensors (meSHM) Project. The system will be made up of less than 50 sensors, that will utilise internet of things (IoT) technology and mesh networks, and can be installed in buildings, bridges, or metro rail systems.

Another project from them is the Development of Multi-lingual Chatbot for Health Monitoring of Public-School Children Project. They will create a system that can interpret audio input and can converse with students using two major Philippine languages, Filipino and Bisaya. The information gathered by the healthcare chatbot will be extracted to update the health database of the students stored in the cloud.

On the other hand, a university based in Luzon is set to develop an automated software that accepts values from a standard Impedance Spectrometer and uses a machine-learning algorithm to identify electrical, mass, and temperature parameters. It also involves properly fitting a spectrum with sufficient parameters that minimise common errors in existing numerical fittings. Industries involving electronics, semiconductors, food, medicine, and agriculture, are targeted to benefit from this project.

Lastly, using an IoT sensor network and deep learning, another Mindanao-based university will design and develop an intelligent traffic control and management system. It will monitor traffic in a selected area by using various devices that can measure several physical traffic parameters like flow, density, volume, as well as pollution. The base station will be established and equipped with intelligent behaviour and direct policy search capabilities using reinforcement learning to manage traffic automatically and efficiently and to avoid congestion. They will also develop and test a prototype of intelligent mobile traffic lights and will design web-based or mobile-based applications that enable easy access to traffic conditions.

The DOST- PCIEERD said that AI is one of their priority areas as it can boost the country towards the fourth industrial revolution. The agency also said that AI can disrupt traditional processes and provide solutions and opportunities that Filipinos can maximise.

The Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it will migrate to a new company registration portal called the “electronic simplified processing of applications for registration of company” (eSPARC).

The web-based system will accept new applications for registration of One Person Corporations (OPC), corporations with two to four incorporators, as well as regular domestic and foreign-owned corporations — both stock and non-stock. With eSPARC, the goal is to provide users with a complete, end-to-end company registration system linked to a unified and centralised company information database that will simplify the company registration process while also refining how they process information, said the agency.

eSPARC will replace the interim registration system (IRS), which is currently used for the registration of OPCs and corporations with two to four incorporators, as well as the company registration system (CRS) for the registration of regular domestic and foreign-owned corporations.

Only applications for the registration of partnerships and foreign corporations will be accepted and processed in the CRS once eSPARC goes live. Applications submitted through the CRS before the implementation of eSPARC will still be processed by the system unless applicants are instructed to resubmit their applications through the new portal.

On eSPARC, applicants or their duly appointed representatives may submit their proposed company names, input company information, and upload the documentary requirements for review of the commission. The system will also feature a real-time inquiry facility on the status of their applications. The new system will be integrated with the SEC cashiering system and SEC payment portal to provide a faster, seamless, and convenient means to pay registration fees.

Further, eSPARC will be linked to the central business portal, the national government’s centralised platform that allows the public to access registration forms, fill out the information, and submit requirements needed for business registration and related transactions.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, in line with the agency’s digital transformation efforts, the SEC said it will also allow corporations and partnerships to file their audited financial statements (AFS), General Information Sheet (GIS) and other annual reports in digital format and remotely through a newly developed online submission tool (OST). The SEC released the draft memorandum circular providing the schedule and procedure for the online submission of annual reports, as part of efforts to further limit face-to-face interactions, automate business transactions and promote sustainable business practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SEC will roll out the OST in time for this year’s filing season. Initially, corporations may use the OST to file their AFS, GIS, Sworn Statement for Foundation (SSF), General Form for Financial Statement (GFFS), and Special Form for Financial Statement (SFFS). The OST will likewise accept submissions of Affidavit of Non-Operation (ANO), together with their GIS or AFS, and Affidavit of Non-Holding of Annual Meeting (ANHAM), together with the GIS, during the initial implementation.

To use the OST, corporations, partnerships, and their authorised filers are required to enrol in the online submission facility by accomplishing the online application form and submitting the required documents. The SEC will require a corporation or partnership enrolling in the OST to submit a board resolution authorising its representative to file reports on behalf of the corporation or partnership, and a Special Power of Attorney from the authorised filer/representative to file reports for and on behalf of the corporation or partnership.

The initiative operationalises Section 180 of Republic Act No. 11232, or the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines, which mandates the SEC to develop and implement an electronic filing and monitoring system. It is likewise consistent with Republic Act No. 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, which requires government agencies in the country to adopt a zero-contact policy.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bar examinations will push through in a digitised, localised, and proctored modality – a first in the Philippines’ history.

The Supreme Court (SC) issued Bar Bulletin No. 18, Series of 2021, approving the digital Bar exams that will be conducted in local sites in the country, deviating from the tradition of it being held in a university in Manila. This came on the heels of the pilot (mock) Bar examinations conducted by the high court among 80 students through computer software while being proctored in a testing room. This was done in Metro Manila, Baguio, Davao, and Cebu.

Proving that more equitable and inclusive Bar exams can be done at the height of the pandemic, the SC decided to conduct a digitised one. This year’s Bar exams are for 2020-2021 after the high tribunal decided to postpone last year’s edition. The SC said the local sites have yet to be finalised, as it will still review applications based on minimum requirements that it will release. Applications for the testing sites will be accepted until April, with audit teams evaluating these areas according to the high court’s standards. After the local sites are determined, the court will announce the guidelines for application to take the Bar examinations.

Meanwhile, the country’s highest court also said that Bar exam applications will be accepted via an online application system. Applicants need not go to Manila to visit the Office of the Bar Confidant unless needed to verify the authenticity of documents submitted. Those who have completed the requirements will be able to download the computer software to be used during the exams and will have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with it.

The SC also emphasised that examinees would have to bring their Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, which must have an integrated display screen, keyboard, and trackpad or pointer device, with sufficient internal battery power. The laptops must run on Mac or Windows operating systems.

Also, during the examination day, the computer hardware of the examinees will be thoroughly checked by court personnel. The examinees will then be required to sign an “Honor Code” wherein examinees agree that once they commit cheating or help others cheat during the exams, they may be permanently disqualified for the current and future Bar examinations.

The SC also said that proper health protocols will be strictly observed during the exams, including proper physical distancing in the testing rooms. COVID-19 testing will also be placed in each of the testing sites. The Court will also explore arrangements for a predominantly Saliva RT-PCR testing modality in each of the testing sites.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the SC boosted its digital transformation by issuing Administrative Circular 37-2020 for the pilot testing of hearings of criminal cases through videoconferencing in select courts in cities nationwide. This year, videoconferencing was formally institutionalised, and the guidelines and the conduct of video conferencing became effective.

For the first time in its 119-year history, the Philippine judiciary has blazed a new concept by allowing remote testimony from parties situated even in different parts of the nation and the globe, said SC. The court administrator said 27,000 courts across the country have carried out 170,000 video-con hearings from May 4, 2020, to January 8, 2021. At present, all courts are authorised to conduct videoconferencing hearings, bringing the total to 2,715 courts.

The SC picked an international communication and collaboration platform which is also interoperable with the judiciary’s other projects. The international tech giant said they are privileged to work alongside the SC in this historic achievement where remote appearances from parties across and beyond the country are now part of court proceedings.

The Philippines Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) recently introduced a photo-sharing app called Kooha (from the Filipino word “kuha”) which means to take or capture, which features real-time sensor data collection.

The data collected by the app are used to draw out insights and generate new knowledge and technologies that can be used across sectors, the agency said. There are four processes involved in using the app:

  1. First is Capture — the app senses data as you take a photo.
  2. The second is Enhance — blends the data into your photo.
  3. The third is Share — publishes your photo through the app’s community
  4. Fourth is Explore — see photos taken by other users from different parts of the world

To further understand the data collected from images taken by users, the app also includes the location, temperature, sound, network signal, humidity, and luminance of each of the photo. The data, which can also be seen by other users in the community, are useful for data scientists, researchers, and citizen scientists in generating insights and making relevant decisions.

If a user has an external Bluetooth sensor device that he or she can plug into his or her mobile device, the app can also collect data such as ambient temperature, infrared temperature, pressure, and acceleration.

While anyone can use the app, the DOST-ASTI team said that the tech is recommended for students, researchers, and scientists. The significant amount of data coming from its users can be used for data analysis and application to transportation and telecommunication companies, business sectors, policymakers, environmental and health sectors, and academe, to name a few, the agency said.

To encourage the contribution of more photos, the DOST-ASTI assured its users that the data gathered will only be used for legal and research purposes. The developers will not disclose any personal information to any other individual other than authorised data processors and organisations, the agency added.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the DOST is preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by strengthening its research and development initiatives in creating innovation ecosystems that will fuel inclusive growth.

Emphasis was given on different areas such as the significance of research and development and technology commercialisation. They also highlighted the enormous potential gains and impacts on industry and the adoption of locally developed technologies. Relevance of sector partnerships and the numerous challenges that the country faces towards the realisation of inclusive innovation and dynamic industrial revolution were also included.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also tackled Industry 4.0 and how the Philippines will adapt to the accompanying changes in policies, industry roadmaps, and gaps. DOST programmes like technology business incubation, the Science for Change Programme, and other R&D programmes are also said to be vital in this endeavour.

As per another report from the World Bank, increasing digital adoption by the Philippine government, businesses, and citizens are critical, not only to help the country adapt to the post-COVID-19 world but also to achieve its vision of becoming a society free of poverty by 2040.

In this society-wide digital transformation, the government can take the lead by speeding up e-governance projects, such as the foundational identification system and the digitisation of its processes and procedures, which will help promote greater inclusion, improve efficiency, and enhance security. Moreover, the government can take an active role in fostering policies that reduce the digital divide and create a more conducive business environment for the digital economy to flourish, said the world bank’s report.

To ensure smooth passage when crossing at the borders of the local government units (LGUs) the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Region 1 urged the residents to seek an S-PaSS code.

The S-PaSS, which stands for Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage, is a one-stop-shop online travel management system platform for communication and coordination among travellers and local government units (LGU’s). This S-PaSS will assist travellers in knowing the travel policies and seeking the travel requirements being imposed by almost 1,800 LGU’s all over the country this time of the pandemic.

To use the S-PaSS, travellers just need to register online using their mobile number at the S-PaSS website. The website features a list of more than 60 provinces, cities, and municipalities with their respective policies and requirements for the travelling public. With the platform, LGU’s can inform the public if their areas are classified as “restricted” or “unrestricted” for travel.

Travellers going to “restricted” areas are directed to create an account on the S-PaSS’s website and submit an online application for a Travel Coordination Permit (TCP), which is equivalent to the previously mandated travel authority. The approval of the TCP will depend on the LGU-destination 

Meanwhile, travellers going to “unrestricted” areas, especially if they need to go through places classified as “restricted,” must secure a Travel Pass-Through Permit (TPP).

Both permits contain QR codes that will be scanned by authorised personnel of the LGU, or the Philippine National Police (PNP) deployed at the border checkpoint.

Technologists from the DOST Region 6 developed the S-PaSS travel management system to provide the LGUs with real-time monitoring of all incoming travellers to the respective localities while the system will also provide the travellers with their travel history.

Recently, Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis V. Singson issued Executive Order No. 22, Series of 2021, institutionalising the use of the S-PaSS code before entering the province.

DOST clarified that the S-PaSS is not a contact tracing app as this will intend to be used before and during the actual travel. The S-PaSS is not a contract tracing system like the StaySafe.ph which is a community-driven contact tracing, health condition reporting and social distancing system being adopted by LGUs and approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said the agency.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, The S-PaSS​ is also meant to benefit not only the travellers but also the authorities to properly monitor the movement of people in different locations in the effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Moreover, rapid adoption of digital technologies can help the Philippines overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, recover from the crisis, and achieve its vision of becoming a middle-class society free of poverty, according to the report released by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The report stated that this pandemic has caused substantial disruptions in the domestic economy as community restrictions have limited the movement of people and reduced business operations nationwide. As we are now living with the new normal, the use of digital technology and digital transformation has become important for Filipinos in coping with the present crisis, moving towards economic recovery, and getting back on track towards the nation’s long-term aspirations.

Although most governments throughout South-East Asia are gradually moving towards complete digitalisation, they are all at very different stages of their digital transformation journey. It is also likely that Governments of the future will increase spending on digital infrastructure, adopt data-driven approaches in response to economic recovery, and leverage technology solutions to implement COVID-19 strategies.

The Philippine government, through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), is taking complete control of the StaySafe contact tracing app developed by a local tech firm. This is after the government and the tech firm signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that will give the DILG complete responsibility and controllership over StaySafe.PH and all sensitive personal data that are collected with the use of the application.

The agency believes that instead of using other apps, local government units (LGUs) must use one app for a unified system that will allow seamless, fast, and efficient contact tracing efforts. The government recognises that they need to further intensify their contact tracing initiatives especially now that the country has a surge of COVID-19 cases. With the help of the app and the dedicated efforts of contact tracing teams nationwide, the agency believes that this can help in successfully tracking down the cases and their contacts and prevent the spread of the virus.

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) welcomed the signing of the agreement even as it stressed that privacy should be considered in government interventions that make use of personal data. When the government collects the personal data of citizenry, they owe these citizens a solemn covenant to protect their data and ensure that we will not use their data for other purposes, said NPC.

The NPC said gaining the trust of the citizens is crucial in the success of the government’s contact tracing efforts. They said that Filipinos need to be assured that data is handled securely; the data demanded of them is proportional to the purpose; they can understand how their data will be used; there is a specific purpose for the processing, and their data will be retained for no longer than is necessary.

Furthermore, the NPC also recognises the immense benefits of data-driven technologies. They said that they treat personal information controllers all the same, and they help those that try to comply with the Data Privacy Act and its principles.

These apps must allow users to opt-in and out of digital contact tracing. Use of the app must be voluntary, with data subjects allowed to withdraw consent at any time. Opting out must not lead to negative consequences for the user. When different purposes exist in the app, there must be a separate consent and the purpose must be explained beforehand to users (e.g., the use of anonymised data for pandemic and epidemiology research and development purposes).

Developers must also ensure that users can exercise their data privacy rights by providing user controls in the initial onboarding and during the use of the app. A user control can be in the form of a dedicated privacy control panel or dashboard. They must also make the contact tracing app’s system access explicit, especially when it tries to access sensitive capabilities of the user’s mobile device (e.g., storage or microphone). When making a permission request, the app must disclose what it is accessing.

They must also define and set where personal data are stored. Put in place strict policies and safeguards to restrict the location points of the digital personal data processed by the contact tracing app. To prevent the data from being retrieved or the data subjects re-identified, delete, and dispose of the personal data securely when the primary purpose for processing has already expired and there is no other legal basis (like law enforcement) to keep the case details for a period longer than the existence of the pandemic.

Lastly, before implementing the app, business, system and process owners, or developers should conduct a privacy impact assessment (PIA) to identify data privacy and security risks.

The national government, as well as the local and regional agencies, are the first responders in crises, as in the COVID-19 outbreak. They play an essential role in guaranteeing the timely roll out of public services to the most vulnerable populations living in informal settlements or slums within and around cities as well as older persons, women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants, and refugees.

Technology has proved a useful and necessary tool to help ensure that local and regional authorities on the frontline of the emergency continue to provide essential public services during the pandemic. As coronavirus continues to spread around the world, governments have put in place important restrictions on the movement of people, the functioning of services, and rules on physical distancing. Within this context, technology can have a profound effect on citizen’s daily lives and ensure them access to health services, access to information and communication with competent authorities.

Dr Enrico Paringit, Executive Director, DOST PCIEERD

OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Dr Enrico Paringit, Executive Director, Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST PCIEERD). The discussion helped gain important insights into several tech projects intended to address the ongoing effects of the pandemic in the country.

To gain some perspective, PCIEERD is one of the three sectoral planning councils of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). It has the mandate to serve as the central agency in the formulation of policies, plans and programmes as well as in the implementation of strategies in the industry, energy and emerging technology sectors through the following S&T programmes:

  • Support for Research and Development
  • Human Resource and Institution Development
  • S&T Information Dissemination and Promotion
  • Support for Technology Transfer and Commercialisation
  • Policy Development and Advocacy

Dr Enrico confirmed that the pandemic was not the only reason why their council shifted to the digital space. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, the council was already shifting to a paperless environment, where the process permitted such a transition. Where possible, it had been made mandatory that internal and external office transactions be done through online platforms.

Hence, when the pandemic hit last year, they are well along the way on their digital transformation journey. The council also continues to improve on its processes involving technology to deliver services and accomplish projects more efficiently amid the pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit, Enrico explained, the council had to tap into technological interventions that could be utilised during the pandemic. This adjustment to the pandemic is divided into two parts. One is creating an avenue for support to address the COVID-19 crisis. The other was creating a coping strategy within the organisation.

Among these coping mechanisms is STRAP – the Science and Technology Resilience against COVID-19 Programme. STRAP aims to determine immediate technologies that could be rolled out from the agency to address the pandemic and adapt to the new normal.

The initial area of concern was the country’s problematic transportation system. A report said that the national public transport must adapt to a new normal in the wake of the coronavirus disease pandemic and adopt technologies that would make it greener and more resilient to future disasters.

This prompted the council’s researchers and partners to conduct studies on transportation amid the crisis. The research and development done by the council further helped the national government in regulating the inflow and outflow of people during lockdowns and quarantines. Such restrictions have been put in place worldwide and help governments control the spread of the virus.

The council’s adoption of digital applications for data integration is also vital in terms of their pandemic response efforts, acknowledged Dr Enrico. One initiative that benefited from the database integration is the country’s Social Amelioration Programme through which the government provides a PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 monthly cash subsidy to low-income families for two months, depending on the area of residence. The subsidies provide marginalised sectors of society the means to afford basic needs during the pandemic.

The database platform provided the government bodies with tools to conduct their programmes more efficiently while also addressing the need for transparency. The council made sure that the government agencies who are championing the Social Amelioration Programme are well-equipped with sufficient data, tools to monitor the status of the assistance given to citizens and to efficiently deliver messages between agencies who are leading the programme.

Moreover, Dr Enrico and the council also learned to evaluate third-party project proposals that seek to address the crisis. For example, a specimen collection booth with tech for COVID-19 tests was also supported by the council. They helped a local start-up by setting up the booth with a proper tech design to avoid further infections between its users and administrators. At the same time, another startup also deployed 3D printed frames for face shields, which are highly encouraged by the national government amid the pandemic.

For Dr Enrico, “these projects are demonstrations of what technology can do… and we are here to support our researchers and developers in this time of crisis”. He agreed that 2020 was about deceleration and trying to slow down the deterioration of the economic and social grids. Dr Enrico’s exhortation to his researchers, engineers, scientists, and partners is that 2021 should be the year of acceleration.

Everyone must put in the effort to help the economy back on its feet while also striving to improve it. Researchers and agencies must continue to find technological interventions and discoveries that accelerate key government processes. Simultaneously, the same government must internalise the lessons from combatting the pandemic for over a year. The new normal demands a paradigm shift, and the public sector cannot afford to operate as it did pre-COVID-19.

In the end, Dr Enrico and the council believe that technologies must be pushed to the limit in terms of rolling out public services. This is more pertinent now when the Philippines is experiencing the highest recorded number of COVID-19 positive cases since the onset of the worldwide pandemic.

The Philippines should increase digital adoption by the government, businesses, and citizens to help the country adapt to the post-COVID-19 world and achieve its vision of becoming a society free of poverty by 2040.

Moreover, the government must take an active role in fostering policies that reduce the digital divide and create a more conducive environment for the digital economy to flourish. Fostering innovation in the country will be critical in supporting its digital economy.

For Dr Enrico, the pandemic is the perfect opportunity for governments to weigh in different technological interventions and by now, they should know how certain measures will lead to certain consequences. This is also a time for the same governing bodies to make a calibration of methods to build an optimal path towards the ultimate goal of overcoming COVID-19.

GLF Forum 2018

OpenGov Government Leadership Forum – Empowering the Digital Business.