THE adoption of e-government systems has been “incremental” with the pandemic exposing areas still untouched by the digital shift, such as cash aid distribution, a government think tank said.

In a statement Monday, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said its upcoming discussion paper, “Innovating Governance: Building Resilience Against COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Risks,” will highlight the importance of accelerating e-government to deal with crises.

“As the government intensifies its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, well-designed e-government platforms are crucial to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of public services,” PIDS said.

However, “the application of e-government solutions has remained incremental” according to the paper’s authors, Aubrey D. Tabuga, Sonny N. Domingo, Charlotte Justine Diokno-Sicat, and Valerie Gilbert T. Ulep, PIDS researchers.

PIDS cited the physical distribution of cash aid during the lockdown as an example of a process that could have been facilitated by digital tools like an up-to-date beneficiary database or direct deposit. The system also lacked a real-time monitoring system, they said.

Obstacles to achieving efficient e-government include the digital divide, or the lack of access by large segments of the population to computers and other devices.

“Outdated laws and policies, overlapping functions of authorities can (also) hinder the implementation of e-government initiatives,” the authors added, noting that the “complex laws and regulations” may result in higher cost of collaboration for government agencies.

The lack of information technology infrastructure also poses a challenge in establishing an e-government system.

“Among the gaps identified in this area include the lack of technological skills among leaders, employees, citizens, and vulnerable population; lack of qualified IT developers or managers; lack of interoperability or lack of shared standards and compatible infrastructure across government agencies; and lack of hardware,” it said.

The Philippines slipped in the E-Government Development Index report of the United Nations (UN) issued in July, placing 77th from 75th in 2018, out of the 193 UN member states.

PIDS cited as possible models for e-government Canada and Estonia.

“The Philippines can draw lessons from these e-government models to be able to improve its ICT system. One such lesson is to adopt a policy with a uniform set of guiding principles and standards. Another is to address the causes of the digital divide.” — Beatrice M. Laforga