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The Philippine Department of the Interior and Local Government Spokesperson and Undersecretary have urged local government units (LGUs) to ensure regular updating of their respective COVID-19 data in the Vaccine Monitoring System (VMS) as this will give the true scope of the national COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The DILG said that the local government units should expedite encoding the needed information to the system so that the national government can make informed decisions on where to deploy the next round of vaccines or send additional manpower to help in the vaccination programme.

In a report submitted by the DILG Central Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), only 444 LGUs of the total 1,634 cities and municipalities have completed encoding their data to the VMS. Of this number, however, around 1,190 LGUs have failed to update their data.

The country’s National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer has emphasised the importance of monitoring the post-administration of COVID-19 vaccines. The inoculation of 70 per cent of the population is a “Herculean task” and the national government must decentralise the administration of the vaccine. The task force also noted that they must prepare accurate and reliable data because it is critical in the end-to-end vaccination programme.

At the same time, the DILG-10 Regional Director urged the DILG field officers to reflect real-time reports required by the Central and Regional Offices since these data will be the basis in forming key COVID-19 related decisions. The agency said that if they cannot come up with reports about real-time situations, then decisions cannot be made based on correct information.

The agency also shared the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) Vaccine Information Management System (VIMS) and its offer to train the LGUs in using said system.

The DICT is being assisted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), DILG, the Department of Health (DOH) and other organisations in rolling out the system nationwide said the official via news reports. The agency is also trying to tap national ICT councils for assistance in training personnel on using the system in vaccination centres.

The VIMS aims to be the “single source of truth” for all information concerning the country’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. It may be used by the country’s health professionals to organise the actual vaccination in vaccine centres and even LGUs to come up with better actions and policies concerning their vaccination progress.

The agency said that the VIMS also allows for the exchange of information and data with other systems and that the DICT is currently working on its interoperability with the pre-existing vaccine systems of LGUs. LGUs shall submit their master list containing candidates for vaccination so that their information can be filled out in the VIMS base. The submitted information will already be at the vaccination centre and the LGUs only need to look for it, click on it, and they are good to go.

It is vital for them to send their master list immediately because this is important for the agency’s demand planning, distribution and allocation, the DICT noted. The agency, however, admitted that they have been consistently following up on LGUs who have yet to submit their master lists and that the DILG has been helping them in the effort.

The national government hopes to inoculate 50 to 70 million Filipinos against the COVID-19 virus by year-end. It is currently vaccinating health workers, senior citizens and people with comorbidities.

The Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that it is enhancing “e-Presyo,” the agency’s online price monitoring system that was created in 2015, The e-Presyo is a repository of all prevailing prices of basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs) that are being monitored by the DTI nationwide. It allows consumers to access the system and check stores selling products that are lower than the suggested retail prices (SRPs).

With the constant advancement of technology, the DTI said it is targeting to optimise the collecting, processing, and storing of real-time prices/inventory of BNPCs within the new Supply Chain Analytics (SCAn) System. To further enhance the e-Presyo, the DTI partnered with the University of the Philippines Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation, Inc. (UPPAF), a grantee of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The enhancement of e-Presyo will be commenced in two phases.  Phase 1 was completed last March 30 that transferred the BNPCs’ SRPs to the SCAn Application while Phase 2 will focus on the complete migration of the agency’s data and programming of the enhanced features of the system. The DTI is set to meet with its stakeholders on the enhancements to update them on the changes and improvements of the said system, said the DTI’s Consumer Protection Group.

Amid the ongoing enhancement of e-Presyo, DTI reminded the public and business establishments to regularly check the prevailing prices or price freeze of the basic necessities through the e-Presyo page particularly the Price Freeze tab.

The DTI has continued its digital transformation by incorporating online marketing and e-commerce in its training and seminars for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as part of the preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

The agency said that they are preparing the MSMEs for the 4IR with the help or initiative of the government from the national down to the local level, said the DTI-Pangasinan Director. The Director added that the agency is focused on information dissemination and preparation of concepts or conceptualisation on how 4IR will affect the MSMEs.

It encourages MSMEs to adapt to the changes. There is the need to upgrade skills and upgrade knowledge as part of adoption to it, the DTI added. The agency said most of the MSMEs now have their cell phones as means of transactions and communications with their clients, and they are also urged to use their social media accounts in marketing their products.

For micro businesses, they are still very small so having their website is not yet advisable but instead, their social media accounts could be their marketing tool, advised the DTI. They further said that telecommunication and internet services in the country, especially in rural areas where there are also MSMEs, remain a challenge to digitalisation.

Along with the promotion of 4IR should be provisions and logistics for MSMEs like the internet connectivity, stability of electric power because if the power is unstable, it will also affect their production. MSMEs need the support of the government, businesses and the people as well. The government is doing its best to adapt especially during the new normal brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 2019 Export Congress, the President and Chief Executive Officer of a Business Analytics and Strategy company stated that the MSMEs in the Philippines need a lot of help in terms of digitalisation. MSMEs, he said, comprise 65% of employment in the country.

The Philippines’ Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said that digital transactions in the country continue to rise with the public turning to electronic payment facilities to carry out financial transactions safely amid the COVID-19 health crisis via news reports.

Combined PesoNet and InstaPay transactions in April this year were higher by 276% in volume and 127% in value, compared to the figures recorded during the same month in 2020. The PesoNet and InstaPay are two automated clearing houses under the National Retail Payment System (NRPS). PesoNet is a batch electronic fund transfer (EFT) which can be considered as an electronic alternative to the paper-based check system while the InstaPay is a real-time, low-value EFT for transaction amounting up to USD 1,000 and is useful for e-commerce.

Also, the volume and value of QR PH person-to-person (P2P) payments in April this year increased by 23% and 38%, respectively, compared to the figure posted a month earlier. The BSP said a turning point in the country’s digital transformation journey is the National QR Code Standard or QR PH, which leverages the efficiency and affordability of the QR technology.

The BSP also revealed that 82 BSP-Supervised Financial Institutions (BSFIs) were participating in PesoNet and 52 in InstaPay as of end-April 2021. The Philippine central bank said that the data is encouraging. These indicate the sustained adoption of digital payments in the country. The preference of consumers for safety in their financial transactions, coupled with the readiness of the BSFIs to offer digital payment choices that are safe, convenient, and affordable will continue to support the widespread use of digital payments.

With over a year into the pandemic, the BSP said that financial consumers are adapting to the use of technology for their financial transactions. New adopters have experienced first-hand the advantages of going digital. Their positive experiences are expected to create a ripple effect and to promote the wider use of digital payments, the central bank added.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the BSP’s Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap 2020-2023 (DPTR) says that the BSP’s thrust to promote financial inclusion and digitalisation of payments is mutually reinforcing: they go together, each enabling the other. With the sudden onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the shift towards digital payments has become imperative as physical distancing rules become the norm under the “New Economy” environment. By using digital payments with due care and vigilance, Filipinos reduce the need for mobility and prevent health risks from face-to-face and over the counter (OTC) financial transactions. The greater usage of digital payments will also facilitate the growth of Fintech businesses engaged in e-commerce businesses as the consumption of goods and services is increasingly driven by online purchases.

The BSP’s DPTR strategic outcomes are the following:

  • Strengthened customer preference for digital payments by:
  • Converting 50% of the total volume of retail payments into digital form, considering that payment services are the gateway of most Filipinos to the formal financial system. This shift can be made by offering customers faster and more affordable payment options that provide greater convenience.
  • Expanding the financially included to 70% of Filipino adults, by onboarding them to the formal financial system using payment or transaction accounts. With the use of these accounts over time, they can build financial profiles with their payment service providers (i.e., banks and non-bank e-money issuers).

More innovative and responsive digital financial services characterised by:

  • Innovation-driven use of consumer data to design financial products and services that are responsive to the needs of consumers, including those from the lower-income sectors
  • PhilSys-enabled Know-Your-Customer (KYC) to allow more individuals to access financial services; and
  • Availability of a next-generation payment and settlement system to facilitate real-time processing of financial transactions of the banking public and the Philippine economy.

Valenzuela City, Philippines’ local government signed a memorandum of agreement with an international business machines and technology corporation to ensure a career-ready future for students in the city.

The city government committed to provide funds and materials to support students through the tech company’s Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) programme. It also targets to bring partners in local industries on board, ensuring employment for its younger population.

The city mayor said the partnership would strengthen the city government’s existing programmes on education, particularly on emerging technology learning. He said that the P-TECH programme is strongly aligned with their Education 360 Degrees Investment Programme, which aims to deliver holistic quality and inclusive education to citizens.

The tech company will provide technical assistance to the city government’s P-TECH Model involving Skills Mapping, Work-Based Learning, Mentoring, and Internships. It will also launch a free online learning platform, called Open P-TECH, for students and teachers.

The city government is looking forward to how this programme will help ignite the youth’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and improve their local education system’s capacities to produce the much-needed, job-ready talents required by industries, added the mayor.

The programme will cover students from Grades 11 to 14 and help the graduating students get an advanced level national certification from the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for free. It also targets to support students with an associate degree in college across in-demand jobs, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Packaging, Electronics, Automotive, or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industries.

According to the tech company, working within the industry while learning helps students gain early exposure and credentials to be competitive in STEM and new-collar careers, which are some of the fastest-growing fields in technology requiring more than a high school diploma but not necessarily a university degree.

To date, the P-TECH model can be found in more than 266 schools in 28 countries. More than 600 businesses in technology, health care, advanced manufacturing, and other industries across the world are participating as P-TECH industry partners.

The city government added that the P-TECH programme would complement the objective of Valenzuela’s Senior High School-to-College-to-Industry Programme to increase the pool of skilled talents in STEM.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, The Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) announced that the agency is currently harnessing different technology-based projects as part of education’s new normal that is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during the first Asia Pacific Public Sector Digital Summit, the agency’s undersecretary underscored the government’s initiatives to ensure learning continuity amid the pandemic, including DepEd TV, DepEd Commons, and DepEd Radio. If there are no face-to-face classes, then the education department must devise all means to reach out to learners and to bring basic education to them, said the agency.

The DepEd intends to master distance learning, making all the necessary improvements and perfecting its processes for the DepEd Commons, DepEd TV, DepEd Radio, the DepEd Learning Management System, the DepEd Mobile App, and others, the agency added.

The education department’s undersecretary also hinted at a future DepEd project, which aims to update and pattern DepEd TV after streaming services to allow learners to study their learning materials at their own pace. Those who need more time and repetition can easily review and go back to all the lessons, while those who learn at a faster pace can access new lessons and other lessons outside of their grade levels, he said.

Meanwhile, in terms of re-imagining education in the new normal, the DepEd shared that they are advocates for the continuation of online and broadcast learning platforms post-pandemic since classroom shortage remains an issue in the country. With that kind of interface, the country’s education curriculum can adapt to the needs of the entire nation and even the world. Then, basic education becomes relevant and liberating for it serves what the nation needs and what the world needs.

A new research report from a global digital payment firm has found that over 8 in 10 Filipinos (83%) are aware and interested (81%) in using digital banking services. However, only 32% of respondents are currently using services offered by a digital bank.

As more digital-based solutions develop in the market, Filipinos are more open to innovations that make payments and banking more convenient, accessible and seamless, said the global digital payment firm’s country manager for the Philippines and Guam via news reports.

Top interest drivers for Filipinos to use digital banking services include access to banking services any time of the day (68%), time saved from not having to queue at bank branches (68%) and convenience (67%). The study also showed that Filipinos are most keen to work with a financial services brand for digital banking services (93%) and traditional banks (92%), followed by new start-ups with digital banking services (72%).

Filipinos interested in banking with digital banks are keen to use services such as paying bills (84%), transferring money locally (78%), making deposits and withdrawals (76%), and making payments for purchases at local retail locations (71%). However, the preference of using digital banking for traditional bank services such as investments (52%), international transfers (48%) and loans (46%) is lower.

In addition, 86% of Filipino respondents would switch current banking services to digital banking services if the bank provided better rewards and 85% would do so if they can benefit from lower costs for their banking transactions. Filipinos’ interest to use digital banking services increased to 80% compared to 70% in the previous year when the same research was conducted.

Awareness of digital solutions such as biometrically authenticated payments grew to approximately 80% in 2020 from 60% in 2019. Almost 8 in 10 Filipinos express high awareness and interest in using biometrically authenticated payments.

Biometric payment is perceived as a quick (62%) and innovative (61%) way to pay. In addition, 5 in 10 Filipinos (55%) think it is a more secure way to pay. However, usage is low at 23% since its accessibility depends on market availability. Finger scan as one of the biometric authentication methods is most popular amongst Filipinos (59%) especially for making bill payments or purchases at convenience stores. This is followed by facial recognition (31%) and retina scan (16%).

There is an opportunity in the Philippines for traditional banks and new players to launch digital banking services in the country that will better serve the needs of underserved and underpenetrated segments, said the digital payment giant. They believe this will transform the banking and payments landscape in the country and they are keen to work with all their partners to help them create a better user interface and experience when they create and enhance their digital banking solutions.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Philippines’ Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) has a vision for the country to become a digital-heavy, cash-light society to help achieve inclusive growth. According to the BSP, 50% or half of all transactions should be digital by 2023, and 70% of Filipino adults should have formal bank accounts by 2023.

The BSP highlighted how the pandemic has been a catalyst for financial digitalisation, as mobility restrictions prompted more people to use digital payments. In 2020, over 4 million new electronic financial accounts were created in the Philippines. Cybersecurity is also top of mind for the BSP as it seeks to build public trust in digital banking, adding that digitalisation measures go hand in hand with ensuring a safe cybersecurity environment with fintech institutions facing the same regulatory environment as banks.

The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is ramping up the country’s readiness for participation in the global digital economy this National ICT Month 2021.

Sporting the theme, “Onwards Through ICT: Building a Stronger Philippine Digital Economy”, the DICT encourages the public to participate and learn more about its efforts to achieve digital transformation of the country.

The National ICT Month is held annually every month of June and commemorates the value of ICT in nation-building under Proclamation Number 1521, Series of 2008. This year, the department focuses on the digital transformation of the country with its newly adopted CHIP Framework as a strategic guide.

The CHIP framework which stands for Connect, Harness, Innovate, and Protect is to implement plans, programmes and initiatives aimed at accelerating the digital transformation to strengthen the country’s digital economy in the new normal, said the agency. Through this framework, they shall strive for the economy to come out of the new normal stronger and more promising than before, they added.

The CHIP framework was adopted from the World Bank Digital Economy 2020 report, and it outlines and restructures the DICT’s plans and initiatives to accelerate the digital transformation of the country in the new normal.

The CHIP framework is composed of the following initiatives:

  • The Connect component contains the DICT’s digital connectivity and infrastructure programmes.
  • Harness pertains to capacity-building initiatives to upskill Filipinos for the digital economy.
  • Innovate highlights the Department’s government modernisation and digitisation projects.
  • and lastly, the Protect component focuses on the mitigation of risks and threats as the country transitions to a digitally enabled economy.

As the DICT rallies its efforts under the framework, the agency aims to enhance its plans to be more responsive to the actual needs and demands of the Philippine ICT landscape.

More activities featuring the specific plans under each component will be highlighted moving forward. The month-long celebration features various online activities to be hosted by the DICT’s bureaus, services and programmes.

As per reports from the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), 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.

The report says that the use of digital technologies such as digital payments, e-commerce, telemedicine, and online education, is rising in the Philippines and has helped individuals, businesses, and the government cope with social distancing measures, ensure business continuity, and deliver public services during the pandemic.

The use of digital technologies in the Philippines, however, is still below its potential, with the country’s digital adoption generally trailing behind many regional neighbours. The digital divide between those with and without the internet leads to unequal access to social services and life-changing economic opportunities.

Efforts to enhance digital infrastructure in the Philippines are hindered by a lack of competition as well as restrictions on investment in the telecommunications markets, according to the report. These restrictions include the public utility designation of telecommunications, which limits foreign ownership and places a cap on the rate of return.

The report also identifies the low transaction account ownership, the lack of a national ID, nascent payment infrastructure, and the perceived risk of digital transactions as restricting the wider adoption of digital payments.

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

The Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) will introduce the “ISDApp” in the coastal community of Dingalan, Aurora to enhance the fishermen’s understanding of the environment they work in. At least 300 fisherfolk in Dingalan, Aurora will soon be able to properly monitor weather conditions for safe sailing, especially during the typhoon season.

ISDApp, which was developed by an IT solutions company and powered by a local telco converts collected localised weather data into simplified weather forecasts and sends them to the registered mobile numbers of fisherfolk. Since it uses text messaging, fishermen can receive timely weather alerts even without a smartphone. This will help them decide whether to set sail and take the necessary precautions.

This is part of the commitment of the institute to scale up the project and transfer technologies to more coastal communities in the country, particularly in Dingalan where fishing is considered as one primary source of living. Equal access to information is more crucial than ever, especially in times of crisis, said the NFRDI acting executive director.

ISDApp was first launched in Sariaya, Quezon in January this year. Its success prompted the proponents to expand the service to Dingalan given the high typhoon incidence in the province. Aurora is facing the Pacific Ocean and has a shoreline of 45 kilometres. Fishing is the townsfolk’s secondary means of livelihood next to farming.

The initiative will cover three coastal barangays in Dingalan — Aplaya, Butas na Bato, and Paltic. The IT company has conducted the training of the local government unit (LGU) on the use of the ISDAapp, in collaboration with the municipal government and the Municipal Agriculture Office.

The BFAR regional director said that the ISDApp is an effective way to share weather forecasts and it will serve as an early warning system so that our fisherfolk can conduct self-weather monitoring before deciding whether they will continue with their fishing activities for the day.

The developers noted that the province’s fishermen are among the most hardworking citizens of the nation. As they sail in rough seas for a living, the developers aim to support their livelihood by providing them with the latest weather information via the app.

The fisherfolk community leaders will also be trained on how to subscribe to daily advisories. They will work closely with the LGU and will be instrumental in ensuring all targeted fishermen are onboarded for the initiative.

The tech developers emphasised that technology can be a great partner to keep the country’s fisherfolk safe. They are aware that in some communities, access to information and resources may be limited. Therefore, ISDApp was made as simple as possible so that alerts can reach those people who continue to use low-end phones.

In the coming weeks, the NFRDI also intends to equip fisherfolk of Dingalan with mobile phones to help them safely navigate seas. Some 100 mobile phones will be distributed in a separate ceremonial activity that will be complemented by free credit support from the local telco.

The Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) executive director Enrico Paringit said that the partnership between the private and public sectors is the key to the success of ISDApp. These partnerships will help the apps gain traction. The private sector can help in the development, maintenance, and updating of the app, while public institutions, on the other hand, can vet the information to ensure correctness and reliability.

The Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) regional office has aided micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Central Luzon through its Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Programme (SETUP).

The programme provides technical and technological assistance to MSMEs to enable them to improve their production capabilities by infusing science and technology (S&T) interventions. Under SETUP, the assistance provided to MSMEs includes equipment upgrades, food safety standards consultancies, production improvements, and product labelling.

The regional SETUP programme manager said that more than USD 120,000 has been allocated as assistance to six SMEs. They said that the MSME-beneficiaries will use the financial assistance to acquire equipment, machinery, and technology to boost their productivity.

They particularly cited the case of one MSME, a programme second-phaser from Bulacan that has been granted assistance to acquire the enhanced “nutribun” technology developed by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).  They said that the project is expected to have a significant impact in the fight against hunger and malnutrition especially among children in this time of the pandemic.

The agency is encouraging small businesses to avail themselves of the SETUP assistance. They are positive that their terms are customer-friendly and they make sure that they are with the adopters every step of the way so they can achieve success together.

For this year, more than USD 3 million has been downloaded to DOST Region 3 (Central Luzon) for SETUP projects to fund 60 projects of MSMEs. As of May 2021, the agency said that a total of 13 projects have been approved and another 20 have been endorsed for processing.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, a similar project was launched by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF). They presented their various projects supporting MSMEs during the recent online launch of the “Biyaheng Digiskarte” Project. The agency presented SIKAP, Synergising Recovery Initiatives, Knowledge, and Adaptation Practices for MSMEs—a unified online resilience hub that provides information on the latest available loans, programmes, and online events specifically for MSMEs in the Philippines.

SIKAP also offers mentorship opportunities for MSMEs provided by industry leaders and experts, with some tracks focused on digital transformation. SIKAP is in partnership with the United Nations (UN) Development Programme, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Connecting Business Initiative.

Like SIKAP, the “Biyaheng Digiskarte: Digitalisation of Small Businesses for Recovery and Competitiveness” is a mentoring programme that aims to equip MSMEs with the knowledge and skills in using appropriate digital tools and technologies to aid in their business recovery. It is designed to help individual entrepreneurs, cooperative members and officers, and community-based organisations assess their digital readiness in a time when the digital transformation has become the key to success in the constantly changing circumstances.

They defined “Digiskarte” as the use of digital tools, approaches and innovations in doing business, incorporating gadgets, the Internet, social media, and online platforms in business strategies. This new approach allows MSMEs to expand their customer base and sell their products and services online. It also enables more efficient and cost-effective coordination along the supply chain, streamlining raw materials sourcing, logistics, warehousing, payments, and remote work setups.

The project will develop learning modules and materials. These will be conducted in various formats: webinars, coaching/mentoring, self-directed exercises, and experience-sharing opportunities with co-mentees. The project will also establish a pool of volunteer expert mentors and establish partnerships with organisations with existing MSME development programmes such as SIKAP, Go Negosyo, Philippine Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture, and many others.

GLF Forum 2018

OpenGov Government Leadership Forum – Empowering the Digital Business.