The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) fully supports the vision behind Senate Bill 1738 or the “E-Governance Act of 2020” filed by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on 27 July 2020, as a means of institutionalizing e-Governance in the Philippines to cope with the transition to the  new normal and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 threat.

The Department expresses its optimism that the Bill, once enacted, shall complement and enhance its current efforts to transform public service delivery through prioritization of digitalization initiatives in line with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s call to “make physical queueing a thing of the past” during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“We are ramping up our digitalization plans to accelerate solid client-responsive reforms, and the filing of Senator Go of the Bill is a welcome development towards an apparent shared vision between the Executive and the Legislative when it comes to national digital transformation,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said. “Digital transformation should be done with interoperation as a long-term goal and with client experience always as a top consideration,” he added.

The proposed legislation aims to establish an integrated and interoperable information system for the whole of government, an internal records management system, an information database, and digital portals for government services. The bill also aims to do away with paper-based and outdated models of bureaucratic work within government agencies and units to improve efficiency.

The proposed Bill also envisions the establishment of the Integrated Government Network (IGN) which shall serve as the primary mode of information and resource sharing among the government. It shall serve as the government’s focal information management tool and communications network.

“In an age where almost everything can be done online and through other digital platforms, the government must harness the power of information and communications technology to better serve its purpose and bring the government closer to the people,” Senator Go asserted.

On the part of the DICT, the Department is currently focusing on interconnecting government agencies, and integrating their services towards a long-term target of seamless interoperation. The Department is focusing on various digitalization solutions under its ICT-enabled government agenda, which includes both a strengthening of existing platforms as well as looking into inter-sectoral initiatives to improve public service delivery for a recalibrated Digital Government.

The Department is improving government interconnectivity with the Philippine Government Network (GovNet), which provides government offices with high speed broadband connection linked to a secure data center, allowing the processing and transfer of sizeable data for more efficient public services.

GovNet interconnects government agencies to promote better information exchange and improve accessibility of resources. Just this 11 June 2020, GovNet connected 88 more government agencies in Zamboanga City, comprising of 56 national government agencies (NGAs), 12 local government unit (LGU) offices, 6 government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), 3 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 2 public schools, 4 COVID-19 facilities, among others. Presently, 792 agencies in 13 GovNet sites have been connected, with a target total of 463 agencies in six (6) GovNet sites to be connected by the end of this year. Additionally, the Zamboanga-Basilan Wireless Broadband Network was also launched virtually on June 30, 2020, alongside the establishment of 20 Free Wi-Fi for All sites to help the province cope with the need for faster information exchange.

Also, the DICT continuously provides efficient and quality services through the National Government Portal (NGP), a centralized platform where citizens can currently access 231 e-Government services online through for easier navigation. Another key program to integrate government services is the National Government Data Center (NGDC) Project, which addresses the ICT system needs of government agencies by providing centralized locations where computing and networking equipment shall be housed.

Additionally, the Department also supports efforts to promote ease of doing business through the NationalBusinessOne-Stop-Shop(NBOSS), which was launched in partnership with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), to allow for simpler business registration process that can be completed within 7 and a half days. Similarly, the Central Business Portal (CBP) complements the NBOSS as the online platform that receives business applications and links registrants to the concerned government unit/agency to complete the transactions.

The Department is also gearing for e-Government interoperability for 2021 through a portfolio of inter-sectoral initiatives it is currently developing, in line with the recommendations of the “We Recover as One” Report of the IATF-MEID’s Technical Working Group (TWG) for Anticipatory and Forward Planning (AFP).

With these enhanced initiatives in place, the DICT affirms its commitment to lead efforts towards government digital transformation in support of the President’s directives and parallel to the legislative push for digitalization of services. “We are extending all efforts to transform how we deliver public services, how we transact with the people, and how we move forward in the new normal by maximizing the benefits of information and communications technology,” Secretary Honasan said.