Pushing e-governance | Inquirer Opinion

Pushing e-governance

/ 04:35 AM March 13, 2023

The House of Representatives approved on final reading last week a bill calling for the government’s shift to e-governance for faster and better delivery of services to the public. House Bill (HB) No. 7327, which seeks to institutionalize the transition of the government to the digital age, is authored by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first cousin. “The bill would make it easier for people to transact with and avail themselves of services from the government through digital platforms. It would make the delivery of services more effective, efficient, and transparent,” explains the lawmaker.

The bill defines e-governance as the “application of ICT (information and communications technology) in establishing interaction between the different levels of government, business, and the citizenry.” It covers all executive, legislative, judicial, and constitutional offices, including local government units, state universities and colleges, government-owned or -controlled corporations, and similar state instrumentalities here and abroad. It will likewise apply to “back-end government operations, within, between, and across agencies, government-to-government transactions, particularly those involving sharing and processing of data and information.”


This will essentially mean the adoption of the “shared services” concept. There is no denying the many benefits of this scheme. Shared services are cost-efficient because they centralize back-office operations that are used by several agencies across the government network and eliminate redundancies, especially in cost and manpower. Its adoption has been the trend among private corporations, giving rise to the growth of the outsourcing industry, where a company focuses on providing a specific function such as customer service, payroll, or accounting to multiple corporations. A shared services unit within the government structure can do the same and a host of other functions for the different public agencies, in the process eliminating duplicative roles, staff, and expenses. The proposed bill actually calls for such, mandating that all services needed for business and non-business transactions and documents, including permits, licenses, and clearances, shall be made efficient by integrating all agencies involved into one portal, mobile application, or similar platform.

Now comes the problem. Will the government really prioritize this measure? The House during the term of former president Rodrigo Duterte had actually passed a bill that would pave the way for digitizing all services provided by government agencies. On Aug. 11, 2020, lawmakers approved HB No. 6927, or the proposed E-Government Act, on final reading with a vote of 229-0-0. Under the then e-government master plan, the DICT was to put up an online payment platform to allow Filipinos and businesses to pay for government transactions electronically, including taxes. Frontline delivery services would also be streamlined by integrating the online registration processes implemented by local government units and government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Securities and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Social Security System, Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG, and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. An online and real-time platform would also be created to cover all procurement processes, from bidding out contracts to the payment of services and supplies. The bill would also mandate the digitization of paper-based government documents and records. However, the Senate version of the E-Government Act languished at the committee level.


In the current Senate, a counterpart bill was already filed in August last year by Sen. Grace Poe. The Senate now needs to work double-time on having the e-governance platform going. It should be swayed into doing this by the many benefits that will be gained from it, not to mention addressing corruption in many agencies that deal with the public. Alongside this, the administration needs to speed up the delivery of the national ID, which has already run into many delays.

Last week, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that more than 50 million physical and digital versions of the Philippine identification (PhilID) have been issued by the government to registered Filipinos as of March 3, a target it was supposed to meet at the end of 2022.

“Filipinos certainly deserve the convenience of accessing government services and information at their fingertips,” Poe had said in filing the bill on e-governance. “Amid the new normal, swift and reliable access to state and local institutions anytime, anywhere is more crucial than ever. Waiting in line for hours for cash aid, loans, benefits, and the like should be a thing of the past,” she added.

It is time to stop government agencies from procrastinating and operating in silos, without any form of interconnection with other agencies’ systems to the dismay of ordinary Filipinos.

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TAGS: Digitalization, e-governance, Editorial, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Grace Poe, information and communications technology
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