MANILA, Philippines — In his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) President Benigno Aquino III heaped praises on his administration’s efforts to mitigate the effects of natural disasters with the help of technology, but made little to no mention of his government’s overall ICT initiative.
This despite the fact that DOST’s Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) unveiled at the end of June its flagship IT project called iGovPhil, which seeks to centralize the ICT systems of government.
iGovPhil is meant to be a stepping stone for what will eventually become a type of Government Cloud, where agencies can integrate and share data and enable online services for public-facing government agencies.
Aquino was likewise mum about three centerpiece IT legislation under his regime — namely the Cybercrime Prevention Act, the Data Privacy Act, and the Department of ICT (DICT) Bill — even as the former two have already been passed by both houses of Congress and is only waiting for his signature to become law.
The DICT bill, meanwhile, is still awaiting bicameral conference, after the scheduled meeting of the two chambers of Congress was shelved in March.
The President, however, mentioned in passing how the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry had made inroads in attracting revenue and providing jobs for Filipinos, citing industry targets of $25 billion and 1.3 million jobs by the time he steps down from office in 2016.
Other than that, Aquino was particularly silent about the role of technology in his government, even as pundits and analysts have harped on technology’s role in promoting transparency in government, one of the cornerstones of Aquino’s administration.
Instead, Aquino merely mentioned Project NOAH, also known as the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), a system developed to help mitigate the effects of natural disasters in at-risk areas.
Aquino cited the case of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, when the government’s poor planning and coordination efforts led to massive floodings in the nation’s capital, particularly in Marikina City.
“Sa ilalim ng bagong-lunsad na Project NOAH, isinakay natin sa iisang bangka ang mga inisyatiba kontra-sakuna, at hindi na rin po idinadaan sa tsamba ang paglilikas sa mga pamilya,” Aquino said.
Project NOAH is an initiative led by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in cooperation with other relevant government agencies, which provides up-to-date information on a number of weather-related metrics.
These metrics include probability of rain, rainfall contour, temperature, and humidity, among others. It also features 5- to 100-year flood maps, as well as the specific locations of the government’s doppler radars.
These data can be accessed through http://noah.dost.gov.ph.
Data presented through the website are gathered through 86 automated rain gauges and 28 water-level monitoring sensors scattered through various flood-prone areas and river basins all across the country.
Data from these gauges and sensors are transmitted through a central location wirelessly, with the help of the country’s top three telecom networks. The DOST, however, has hinted of using idle TV white space spectrums for the transmission of data in the future.
“Bago matapos ang 2013, ang target natin: animnaraang (600) automated rain gauges at apatnaraan at dalawampu’t dalawang (422) water level sensors. Ipapakabit po natin ang mga ito sa labingwalong pangunahing river basins sa buong bansa,” Aquino promised.
In his past SONA, Aquino vowed to improve the country’s weather forecasting systems and disaster risk-reduction efforts as intense storms continue to batter the country year in and year out.
The President’s frustration over the country’s weather bureau took its toll in his early days in office as, according to him, PAGASA incorrectly predicted the effects of Typhoon Basyang, which left several dead in its wake.
This had led to the sacking of then PAGASA chief Prisco Nilo, who reportedly got a dressing down from the President due to the inaccurate forecast.