The project, announced by the government on Thursday, is the latest in a bid to strengthen the online presence of citizen-facing government agencies through the launch of a common platform that will encourage the delivery of online services to the masses.
Dubbed the iGovPhil (Integrated Government Philippines) project, the platform will put up shared services, a common payment gateway system, and a national records management system for a number of government agencies.
Earlier, ICTO Executive Director Louis Casambre said the project has received about P500 million in funding.
During the launch of the project at the National ICT Summit conducted at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, executives from the ICTO said building the platform is essential for promoting e-Government in the country.
Denis Villorente, officer in charge of the National Computer Center and one of the proponents of the project, cited results from the recent UN survey on e-Government which showed how the Philippines fell to rank 88 in 2012 from rank 31 in 2005 in terms of providing online services to its citizens.
“Even Vietnam has overtaken us in terms of the world e-Government rankings,” Villorente said. “It’s a challenge for us to look at how we are implementing e-Government in the Philippines so we can really move up in terms of performance.”
The project, according to Villorente, will address common ICT-related problems in government, such as the lack of infrastructure and manpower, the high cost of technology, the lack of integration among government agencies and the lack of connectivity in rural communities.
Building the government cloud
The iGovPhils project will initially have three core components: one, the establishing of a shared services platform from where agencies can deploy their online services; the creation of a common payment gateway for government; and the building of a national records management system.
The first component will see the establishment of two government data centers, one in Manila and another in Cebu, from where agencies can co-locate their servers to support their online services.
Villorente said having such a common infrastructure is important to promote trust among citizens in transacting with the government online.
“It will allow a trusted environment for citizens to access your services online. GSIS and SSS are deploying kiosks for their services, why can’t we do this over the Internet?” he asked.
“Such transactions would require a secure environment, because people would hesitate [transacting] without an infrastructure like this one,” he added.
The second component will provide a common secure online payment gateway for the use of all government agencies. This will be integrated into the e-Serbisyo project of the government, which will see the overhaul of the main government portal (http://www.gov.ph) into a central information portal for all government services.
“This will make the gov.ph website truly a government portal where citizens can access services online from a single location,” Villorente said.
Lastly, the ICTO will also be putting up a National Records Management System, which will facilitate the sharing of citizen data among various government agencies.
“We want to create a Philippine Interoperability Framework, so that it will be easier for us to talk to each other through data, applications, and services,” the NCC executive said.
These online services, however, will be useless if majority of Filipinos remain disconnected to the Internet, a reality which ICTO hopes to address through the recent launch of the TV White Space (TVWS) initiative.
TVWS are unutilized television frequencies in the VHF and UHF bands, the standards for which has been issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) under IEEE802.22, or similar to the standards used for Wi-Fi networks.
“The range [of TVWS] is 30 kilometers over water and through concrete. This technology can really put the remotest barangay within real-time reach of the government,” said ICTO’s Casambre, at the same time noting how a large proportion of the citizenry — around 70 percent — remains unreachable through broadband connectivity, even as the Philippines has been touted as the “social networking capital of the world” with a 95-percent penetration on Facebook.
Available TVWS equipment reportedly have as much as 6Mbps of data throughput delivered at a maximum range of 10 kilometers, meaning less base stations are required to deploy wireless broadband connectivity.
“We are very excited with this new technology,” said Executive Director Casambre. “For the first time ever, I think we finally have a solution to address the issue that a significant percentage of our population cannot reap the benefits of Internet connectivity because of the unavailability of infrastructure.”