By Charmaine A. Tadalan

THE PHILIPPINES is on track towards the full integration of e-government systems by 2022 as key agencies push to become more digital.

In its 2018 E-Government Survey, the United Nations (UN) assessed the Philippines as having a “high” E-Government Development Index (EGDI), a measure of a country’s e-government capacity.

The EGDI takes into account three sub-indices, such as the online service index (OSI), in which the Philippines scored “very high,” the telecommunications infrastructure index and the human capital index.

The UN reported that in most of the countries with a high EGDI and very high OSI, like the Philippines, the “human capital development indices are quite high, but telecommunications infrastructure is unevenly developed, resulting in lower EGDI scores despite having relatively advanced levels of online services delivery.”

In the same report, the United Nations also highlighted the need for a comprehensive e-government masterplan to ensure system continuity across all agencies and to protect the public’s data and privacy.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the lead agency in promoting e-governance, is developing an integrated government portal, which will allow the public to avail of various government services by accessing a single website.

Meron tayong ginagawang government portal na platform. Sa platform na ito, narito na lahatyung mga websites ng gobyerno na pwedeng i-access ngayon ng mga citizens natin,” DICT Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. said in a telephone interview. (We are developing a government portal. In this platform, citizens can access all government websites).

Para sa isang integrated na government portal na pag isang access lang ng mga citizen natin, nandun na lahat ’yung mga different government agencies na nagbibigay ng mga serbisyo online.” (This is an integrated government portal that citizens can access, where they can see the different government agencies that offer online services).

The DICT Secretary said the government portal is still undergoing pilot testing, which was further delayed by the late passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Act, but may still be implemented by the end of the year, at least for online services provided by major government agencies.

Hindi pa gaanong nabubuo ito dahil tine-testing pa, pina-pilot test pa ’yung mga connectivity ng mga different government agencies na nagbibigay ng serbisyo online,” he said. (It’s still in the process of testing; the connectivity of online services of government agencies is still undergoing pilot testing.)

Itong ginagawa namin ngayon, nakuha na namin ’yung pondo because di ba nagkaron ng konting delay; by the end of this year.” (This is what we’re currently doing, now that we received funding, because remember there was a little delay, so by the end of this year.)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed on April 15 the 2019 national budget, Republic Act No. 11260, which was four months late, after a months-long impasse between the House of Representatives and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and later between House leaders and Senate leaders. The President vetoed some P95.3 billion in appropriations that he deemed unconstitutional, reducing the total amount to P3.662 trillion from the initial P3.757 trillion.

Despite this, Mr. Rio sees the integration of major government websites by the end of 2019 and local governments, down to the community level, by 2022.

Hindi lang ’yon, pati ’yung mga government agencies na wala pang online services, pwedeng tulungan namin gumawa ng kanilang website with online services capability dito sa platform na ito. Dito sa portal na ito, pwedeng lahat ng government agencies down to the, kahit na barangay, pwede maka-access ng online services,” he said. (Not only that, the DICT can also assist even government agencies that don’t have online services to create their own website with online services capabilities, through this platform. This portal will include all agencies down to the barangay)

“But of course, by the end of this year ’yung mga major department ng gobyerno na nagbibigay ng online services.” (But of course, by the end of this year, only major department with online services will be completed)

The Department of Finance (DoF), whose agencies are largely concerned with the management of revenue collection, included a digital transformation strategy in RA 11063, or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

“’Yung sa TRAIN Law, it was signed in December 2017. There is a program that is part of the digital transformation strategy for tax administration,” Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Lambino said, for one, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has partnered with South Korea to develop an e-invoicing program. The program is still in its early stages, and is targeted for completion by December 2022.

Meron po tayong kasama d’yan na tinatawag na e-invoicing program, ito ’yung sa BIR, in partnership with the Government of Korea, (Along with that, we have what we call the e-invoicing program, which is a project of the BIR, in partnership with the Government of Korea) they will complete the system development by the end of 2022,” he said.

“I believe the e-invoicing system will roll out, at least in terms of the pilot, by next year,” he said.

He added the DoF looked at the e-governance capabilities of South Korea, which is among the top developed countries in UN’s 2018 E-Government Survey.

South Korea ranked third in UN’s list of leading countries in e-government development, following Denmark and Australia in first and second place, respectively.

The UN said South Korea “performed well in online service and technology infrastructure, but its human capital development was relatively low compared to other top-ranked countries.” The 2018 report also noted there is an increasing number of developing countries that have sought out South Korea for help in digitalization, which has resulted in e-government capacity building and training of close to 5,000 public officials from other countries over the past 10 years.

Additionally, Mr. Lambino said the DoF has also prepared a long-term strategy to improve online service to the public.

“There is also a larger effort, a longer-term effort for delivering better services to taxpayers. Ito ay makakatulong sa (this can help with) savings, pagdating sa (when it comes to) tax administration, and it will make the tax bureau more resilient at saka mas makaka-adapt sila sa pagpalit ng polisiya at (and make it adaptable to policy change and) technology,” he said.

“What does that mean? It means a pretty comprehensive digital transformation program from 2019 to 2022.”

He said the digital transformation agenda covers optimizing business processes, implementing an enabling infrastructure, maximizing the use of information for effective business operations, and improving the digital literacy of the government work force.

“For an easier transaction experience on the part of the taxpayers and also for easier tax administration on the part of the BIR. I-de-develop mo pa ’yan further pero ’yung goal talaga (We’ll still develop that but the goal is) a fully automated tax filing. If necessary, paying of tax due online. You can also… over time, it won’t happen right away — we (might) join other countries that offer tax refunds (to visitors) at the airport.”

As for the Bureau of Customs, Mr. Lambino said its digitalization program, known as the Inter-Agency Business Process Inter-operability (IABPI) system, is in a more advanced stage.

“It’s relatively in an advanced stage, that’s the Inter-Agency Business Process Inter-operability System. It will allow us to really be part of the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) kasi meron tayong (because we had) automation and digitalization efforts in the past but those have not really connected us yet to the ASEAN Single Window,” he said.

“For instance, ’yung mga Certificate of Origin, ibang papeles na kinakailangan para sa import and export process ay magiging online na ’yung access n’yan.” (For instance, documents such as the Certificate of Origin, necessary for the import and export process will be accessible online)

The IABPI program aims to cut red tape, by streamlining complicated import and export processing and simplifying documentation. This will allow the Philippines to link up with other states through the ASW, which aims to enable the electronic exchange of border and customs documents among the ASEAN’s member states.