Scholars: Philippine government slow to use IT

More work needs to be done before Filipinos can enjoy the benefits of electronic governance.

          More work needs to be done before Filipinos can enjoy the benefits of electronic governance.

          This was among the findings put forward in a paper called "Information Technology for Good Governance" by Francisco Magno and Ramonette B Serafica, associate professors at De La Salle University and research fellows at the Yuchengco Center for East Asia.

          Presenting their paper at a workshop on the same topic last week, Magno and Serafica note that with some exceptions, government agencies today are not big users of IT, and that computerisation efforts have been fragmented and piecemeal.

          The workshop gathered IT leaders from government, educational institutions, think tanks, and the business community.

          Within the government, Magno notes, only 12 departments have a wide-area network, while the Department of National Defense and the Department of Justice don't even have a local-area network.

          Nor are things much better in the legislative branch, where neither the House nor the Senate has an official web page that is updated regularly. The House of Representatives has a bills and information system that monitors the status of bills and resolutions, but the system is a mere index that does not store the text of the bills and resolutions filed. Moreover, the information is not available online, and anyone who needs it must file a request with the IT division of the House, Magno says.

          Among local governments, Magno says, the latest National Computer Center (NCC) survey found that 42 provinces and 32 cities have at least one PC. "This is not much of an accomplishment," Magno said.

          According to a recent survey conducted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and NCC, there were at least 18,186 personal computers serving 661,676 employees in 19 government departments and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), yielding a low ratio of one computer for every 36 employees.

          The best ratios belonged to the Department of Energy (DOE), the DBM and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), NEDA, and the Department of Tourism.

          Those with the poorest ratios were the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (777 employees to one computer); the Department of National Defense (352:1); and the Department of Health (50:1).

          By way of comparison, Computerworld Philippines' list of 100 top corporate IT users this year showed a ratio of 3:1.

          According to Magno and Serafica, IT can promote good governance in three ways:

          • Increasing transparency, information, and accountability;
          • Facilitating accurate decision-making and public participation; and
          • Enhancing efficient delivery of government services.

          In their survey of ongoing IT projects, Magno and Serafica found that some government agencies are already delivering these benefits. For example, they say, the DTI and the Supreme Court use their websites to provide the public with relevant information. The DOE and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) use an IT-driven decision-support system, and a number of agencies use IT to improve the delivery of services to the public.

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