Just ask officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO).
On Wednesday, they flew to Davao City to launch Smarter Philippines, an initiative that intends to bring together all “smart” information and communications projects of the government.
Once up and running, Smarter Philippines will lead to synergies—shared services, for one—that will not only improve capacities to serve the public but bring down costs as well.
Smarter Philippines is “an invitation to utilize” all these technological enhancements and services “that have existed and are all available,” Louis Napoleon C. Casambre, ICTO executive director in a briefing during the launch. “We’re putting all these [projects] in one place and use it to become smarter. There’s a lot more value if we find connectiveness and apply leverage in these smarter technologies.”
“What we’re asking for is a change in [our] mindset,” Casambre added.
Meanwhile, integrating all these smart technologies—from flood forecasting to food processing, from traffic management apps to typhoon warning systems—as envisioned under Smarter Philippines costs nothing. That’s right, Smarter Philippines costs nothing.
No budget has been allotted to the initiative, Alejandro Melchor III, ICTO deputy executive director, admitted during the same briefing.
But that isn’t likely to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.
After all, once these technologies are integrated, they are likely to help create “smarter” cities that will, in turn, make residents safer and more productive. With increased productivity and more income opportunities, poverty will be reduced and economic growth sustained.
And this is exactly what Melchor emphasized in his presentation during the Smarter Philippines launch.
“Building smarter cities are the engines of sustainable growth,” he said in his presentation delivered during the Smarter Philippines launch. “The best strategy for high, sustained growth is to develop smaller cities and their nearby rural communities.”
This also explains why Smarter Philippines was launched in Davao, the DOST said in an email message to InterAksyon.com.
“The DOST wants to promote inclusive growth and starting with cities outside Metro Manila and the countryside, and what better place to start than Davao,” DOST’s email said.
In 2012, Davao was selected as the Philippines’ top Next Wave City. Next Wave Cities is a program of ICTO and the Business Process Outsourcing Association of the Philippines aims to improve IT-BPO capabilities of cities outside Metro Manila and Cebu.
Davao is also the first Philippine city to establish its emergency response system through Davao Central 911, the email said.
“The system can be replicated in many cities in the Philippines enabling them to be Smarter Cities,” the email said.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
Which is why Melchor said that ICT officials will sit down with all its partners—agencies from the United States and Europe and local government units—and adopt the best practices in the smarter cities framework.
“We will take into account all these factors and [check] where we can have programs that yield the fastest benefits,” Melchor said during the briefing. “Just give us the chance to figure things out.”