Members of the 19th Congress are out to make a serious push toward the shift to digital or Internet platforms as far as government agencies' processes are concerned.
This, after Reps. Martin Romualdez of Leyte; Ferdinand Alexander Marcos of Ilocos Norte; and Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre, both of Tingog Party-list, authored and filed the proposed "E-Governance Act of 2022", or House Bill (HB) No. 3.
“The shift to digital platforms has been long time coming. The Covid-19 pandemic only expedited the need for its execution. The policies in the ‘new normal’ must be responsive to the needs of the populace and allow them to truly feel a sense of normalcy, rather than burden them with inevitable but avoidable restrictions,” said the authors in the bill’s explanatory note.
“It is high time to enact a law that would require all government agencies to transition to digital platforms,” they said, adding that digitalization of services “is evidently the most efficient solution to the gap in the delivery of government services".
The proposed E-Governance Act seeks to establish an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable information, resource sharing and communications network that shall include internal records, management information system, information database, and digital portals spanning the entirety of the national and local government for the delivery of public services.
According to the explanatory note, the proposal "will promote the use of the Internet, intranet, and emerging technologies within and across government agencies and be able to provide citizen-centric government information and services"
"It likewise pushes for the digitization of paper-based and other traditional modes of workflows for a more efficient and transparent public service,” it added.
The measure, officially titled, "An Act institutionalizing the transition of the government to e-governance in the digital age, appropriating funds therefore, and for other purposes", seeks to encourage government cooperation with the private sector in providing resources, assets, and services, and transforms agency operations by utilizing best practices from public and private sector organizations, both local and international.
It aims to provide easier access to government information and services in a manner consistent with laws regarding protection of personal privacy, national security, records retention, access for persons with disability, and other relevant laws. It will cover all government offices and agencies, including local government units (LGUs) and government corporations.
The bill defines e-governance as the “use of information and communications technology (ICT) by the government and the public to enhance the access to and delivery of government services to bring about efficient, responsive, ethical, accountable, and transparent government service".
The proposed law holds each head of agency, LGU or state corporation responsible for its implementation.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be the principal implementer of the proposed E-Governance Act through a project management office (PMO) that would be organized within one year from the effectivity of the proposed law.
The bill mandates the DICT to harmonize and coordinate all ICT plans and initiatives “to ensure knowledge, information and resource-sharing, database-building, and agency networking linkages among government agencies, consistent with e-government objectives in particular and national objectives in general".
It tasks the DICT with setting up “an integrated, interconnected and interoperable internal government network known as the ‘Integrated Government Network’ (IGN), which shall act as the primary means for the sharing and communication of resources, information, and data through and on digital and electronic platforms across all of the government".
An internal email network, to be known as “GovMail,” would be established to facilitate communication among agencies. Paper-based communications would be shifted to digital.
The bill directs the government to establish and maintain a database of information on all Filipinos, whether residing here or abroad, and foreigners entering the country through legal channels. The database would include names, addresses, national identification numbers, dates and places of birth, citizenship, civil status, biometrics, and similar information.
State agencies would have access to such data “for legitimate and valid purposes, subject to the Data Privacy Act (Republic Act No. 10173)".
The proposed law also calls for the maintenance of a listing, to be known as the Philippine Public Service Directory, of all government officials throughout the country, including their names, tiles, phone numbers, facsimile numbers, names and locations of offices, and email addresses. The directory would be made accessible to the public.
There would also be a service portal to allow the public to transact business with agencies and for state offices to render service online. The bill sets timelines for responsible personnel to act or decide on requests or applications.
Another portal would be set up for online payments.
The bill likewise calls for the establishment of a Citizens’ Concerns Center, where citizens may report their complaints, grievances or concerns. It mandates the government to provide free internet access to the public, including internet-capable devices in all barangay centers.