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Integrate data and info systems, strengthen coordination in gov’t to deal with COVID-19 and other crises—PIDS

September 8, 2020

THE lack of accurate information on beneficiaries and poor coordination across different levels of government are among the major issues that surfaced during the pandemic.   This is according to Aubrey Tabuga, Sonny Domingo, Charlotte Justine Sicat, and Valerie Gilbert Ulep, researchers at state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), in their discussion paper titled “Innovating Governance: Building Resilience Against COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Risks”.   The authors identified the “lack of citizen information” as one of the major challenges in the implementation of the Emergency Subsidy Program or the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) provided under the government’s Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020.   They noted that the “unavailable, unvalidated, or poor-quality data on citizens” is one of the top causes of delay in the timely distribution of government assistance to target beneficiaries.   This is compounded by the varying processes of local government units (LGUs) in identifying target recipients and the “lack of reliable lists and databases for SAP validation and accountability” in communities.   Another issue is the lack of coordination and misalignment of plans and actions between the different levels of government. According to the study, the weak coordination between the national and local governments led to the violation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) guidelines on social distancing and mass gathering.   To address these gaps, the study urged the government to examine and learn from the best practices of its Southeast Asian peers.   For instance, South Korea has a policy on complete openness and transparency in data sharing to identify affected individuals. Singapore has a package of restrictions and new rules combined with harsh sanctions to control the new wave of cases called ‘circuit breaker’.   Meanwhile, Taiwan has integrated the travel records of its citizens into its national health insurance database to monitor patients’ travel history. Viet Nam has imposed strict entry and work permit bans on both local and foreign nationals.   Also, the authors pointed out that these countries used their experiences to build their information systems, allow for complementary laws and guidelines to work around data privacy and trust issues, and integrate databases such as immigration and health insurance records for ease of determination of travel history of patients.   Moreover, their governments were proactive in dealing with the pandemic by immediately recognizing the threat early on and closing borders. They also demonstrated innovativeness in creating the necessary systems and applications to facilitate contact tracing and stop the transmission of disease.   Some LGUs in the Philippines have also introduced innovations and reforms that their counterparts can adopt.   For example, the mayor of Marikina City initiated the opening of a testing center in his locality to treat infected residents at the earliest stage of the disease and isolate them.   The mayor of Pasig City has also rolled out various initiatives such as contact tracing, deployment of disinfectant drones, and conversion of hotels into quarantine facilities.  He also launched the “mobile palengke” program to minimize the number of people crowding at public marketplaces and assist those who have no access to transportation.   The authors underscored some lessons that the country can draw from both local and international experiences to be able to enhance its governance systems and structures.   First, it has to establish an integrated information system and data interoperability in all levels of government. This will improve data collection and information sharing, which are crucial to speed up the distribution of government’s assistance to its intended beneficiaries. The Philippine Identification System Act (Republic Act [RA] 11055) and the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act (RA 10929) are among the government’s initiatives to achieve this objective.   Second, it needs to strengthen the coordination and linkages among different government levels and across local governments. It is essential to align and harmonize plans and policies from top to bottom to ensure the effective implementation of measures against the pandemic and other risks.   The 6th Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) features institutional reforms and innovations in a webinar scheduled on September 17, 2020. Other webinars are slated for September 15, 22, and 24 on other topics related to governance innovation.   The APPC is the main and culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) celebration led by PIDS every September. The DPRM aims to promote awareness and understanding of the importance of policy research in formulating evidence-based policies, plans, and programs.

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Pru Life UK establishes AI, Data Analytics Center to accelerate digital transformation

September 8, 2020

LEADING life insurer Pru Life UK has established the AI and Data Analytics Center to accelerate its digital transformation with the use of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics. The virtual center is designed to drive the integration of advanced technology solutions within Pru Life UK’s business to enhance its delivery of value-added products and services to customers and the public. It also helps facilitate collaboration among its internal functions and external stakeholders, such as the regulators and business partners. Pru Life UK President and CEO Antonio “Jumbing” De Rosas believes harnessing technologies such as AI and data analytics not only prepares the company and its growing workforce to be future-ready, but also helps advance digital health in the Philippines. “In addition to enhancing efficiency of our operations and building a smart business, the AI and Data Analytics Center will help deepen public understanding of how new technologies can deliver timely solutions to address the country’s pressing health issues. With the center, we will analyze available data and draw insights on public health as we develop and review our customer-focused strategies,” says De Rosas. Pru Life UK has been advocating for the development of mobile health services in the Philippines, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November last year, Pru Life UK commissioned Quisumbing Torres, one of the country’s leading advisory firms, to release a whitepaper titled “Mobile Digital Health in the Philippines”. The paper examined the readiness of mobile health solutions under the country’s regulatory environment.  In July this year, Pru Life UK launched the health dialogue series called “Healthscape PH”, which facilitated discussions among experts from various sectors on how to enhance access to affordable and quality healthcare services. This year, Pru Life UK launched a holistic health management app called Pulse, empowering users to proactively manage their health and lifestyle through AI-powered tools, real-time health information, and other value-added resources. Pru Life UK has recently become the newest member of Analytics Association of the Philippines (AAP), an industry association that aims to lead and drive the application and evolution of data analytics, among other technologies in the Philippines. “We are pleased to welcome Pru Life UK to our growing team. We are confident our partnership will pave the way for more meaningful collaboration within the industry as we seek to grow our country’s capabilities around big data and analytics,” says AAP President Colin Christie. AAP is a key partner of Pru Life UK in raising public awareness of analytics and strengthening its engagement with its customers, regulators, and other stakeholders. The launch of the AI and Data Analytics Center is in line with Pru Life UK’s ambition to be a thought leader in providing value-added services to customers by leveraging new technologies and adopting innovative mindsets. (PR)

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DPWH turns over isolation facilities to Iligan mayor

September 8, 2020

ILIGAN City--The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has turned over recently a 40-bed capacity quarantine facility to Mayor Celso G. Regencia on August 26 to help curb the spread of coronavirus in the city. The 40-bed capacity quarantine facility is located in Barangay Poblacion. The DPWH said that two similar multi-purpose buildings located in  Barangay Acmac and Barangay Tomas Cabili Iligan were also converted by DPWH into quarantine facilities with 40-bed cubicles each. These facilities will provide not only the much-needed treatment of COVID-19 patients but also the proper care of locally stranded individuals and returning overseas Filipinos undergoing a mandatory 14-day period of self-isolation for the protection of their families, the DPWH said in a press statement. The DPWH continues to lead the government's efforts in putting up healthcare facilities across the country. During the Laging Handa Virtual Network Briefing on Monday (September 7), DPWH Undersecretary Emil Sadain said they plan to establish offsite modular hospitals in response to the lack of ICU bed capacities in hospitals. He said the first offsite modular hospital they were going to build will be in the Quezon Institute (QI) compound where it will have a 110-ICU bed capacity. According to him, QI offsite modular hospital will be managed by the Department of Health and will cater to patients with moderate and severe cases. "We are preparing to start within this month in QI, we will also build an offsite hospital in the Lung Center of the Philippines, Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital, and we are studying putting up one at Amang Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Marikina," he said. Sadain, who heads the DPWH Task Force to Facilitate Augmentation of Local and National Health Facilities, also reported that DPWH has already completed 340 quarantine and isolation facilities across the country while 262 more are set to be finished by the end of September until early October. He said these 602 quarantine and isolation facilities which will cater to mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients have a 23,000-bed capacity. (PR)

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Health body backs proposal to require face shield in public places

September 8, 2020

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The City Council committee on health and health insurance chaired by Councilor Maria Lourdes S. Gaane is supporting the proposal to require all persons entering the city to wear or use  face shield in  public places. This, after the committee thoroughly discussed the proposed ordinance filed by Councilor Reuben R. Daba amending Ordinance No. 13855-2020 known as the community quarantine guidelines, rules and regulations of 2020 in Cagayan de Oro City. During the meeting, Councilor Daba, vice-chair of the committee, said the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that wearing of face shield would give 97-percent prevention from the spread of the virus. He said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued a memorandum circular on health protocols but did not include the wearing of face shield. “But we have the option, pwede nato mahimo og ordinance,” he said. Rowena Yu of the City Health Office also supported the proposal. She cited that wearing of face shield would add extra protection. Director Aminoden Guro of the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said the office interposes no objection to the proposal. However, he reminded the committee that  disciplining the public utility operators, riders and conductors, as far as the operation is concerned, is primarily within the jurisdiction of LTFRB. Guro added that LTFRB issued a series of memorandum circulars including the mandatory wearing of face mask and face shield inside PUVs. Drivers are required to refuse passengers not wearing such protection, he stressed. “Sa una, ma-charge ang driver og refusal to convey kung dili nila pasakyon ang pasahero, karon dili na sila ma-charge kung ang pasahero walay face shield, no violation,” he explained. However, he said if a passenger is wearing face mask and face shield and the driver refuse to convey the said passenger, the driver will face a penalty of P5,000 for the first offense. For her part, Dr. Magda Juan of the J.R.Borja General Hospital (JRBGH) said wearing of face shield in public areas is beneficial. She  explained that the DOH has mandated the use of face mask but did not specify the kind of mask. “What we emphasize every time is we should wear face mask is properly kay daghan kaayo gahimoon nila og “chin mask”. That’s the reason why we should wear face shield in public areas. Additional protection because we are not wearing the medical mask face mask, so the face shield will add on. “It is also beneficial if we cannot attain the minimum physical distancing standard,” she added. Councilor Gaane referred the proposal of Councilor Daba to the City Legal Office for its legal opinion. (SP/JBDacer)

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City councilor, fireman latest COVID-19 positive in Oro

September 7, 2020

CAGAYAN de Oro City--A city councilor and a fireman are the latest to have contracted the coronavirus here as health officials listed 20 urban villages (barangays) as high-risk areas prohibiting its workers to visit the places. City Councilor Jade Roa on Monday confessed that he was tested positive for the COVID-19 virus after he voluntarily submitted to a swab test for showing symptoms of the coronavirus. “I am now undergoing treatment and was thankful that I was diagnosed earlier, otherwise the possibility of passing the infection to others is high because I always visit village officials,” Roa said. He said that he confined himself on a house quarantine before he submitted himself for a swab test when he manifested fever and loose bowel movements, which are noticeable symptoms. A fireman assigned to the Cagayan De Oro City’s Central Fire District here was also the latest to have contracted the COVID-19 virus, prompting the fire department to adopt containment measures in the department. City Health Officer Lorraine Nery, said that the city has recorded a total of 16 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases as of Monday. The Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), the COVID-19 referral hospital in Region 10, issued a list of 20 high risk urban villages in Cagayan De Oro City prohibiting its health workers to travel to these areas.

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Sound e-government system, crucial to efficient delivery of services in the ‘new normal’

September 7, 2020

AS the government intensifies its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, well-designed e-government platforms are crucial to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of public services.   In a forthcoming discussion paper of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) titled “Innovating Governance: Building Resilience Against COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Risks”, PIDS researchers Aubrey Tabuga, Sonny Domingo, Charlotte Justine Sicat, and Valerie Gilbert Ulep emphasized the importance of e-government in the seamless delivery of government services during the pandemic and other similar crises.   E-government was introduced in the country in 2000 through the inception of the Government Information System Plan (GISP), which was aimed at computerizing government operations and activities. Following the GISP are e-government reforms such as the e-Commerce Act and the e-Procurement Act.   However, despite these developments, “the application of e-government solutions has remained incremental” in the Philippines, the authors said.     The long-standing challenges in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) have been magnified amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The manual distribution of the Social Amelioration Program and the lack of real-time submission of surveillance data from local government units are indications that ICT infrastructures in the country are still untapped.     The study cited some barriers that could hamper the progress of realizing the potentials of e-government in developing countries like the Philippines.   One is digital divide, which refers to the gap between those who have access to computers and the internet and those with no access.      Another issue pertains to the country’s ICT legal framework. “Outdated laws and policies, overlapping functions of authorities can hinder the implementation of e-government initiatives,” the authors said. The “complex laws and regulations” can also increase the cost of collaboration for various agencies.     The inadequacy of ICT infrastructure is also a significant challenge in the implementation of e-government in the Philippines.  Among the gaps identified in this area include the lack of technological skills among leaders, employees, citizens, and vulnerable population; lack of qualified IT developers or managers; lack of interoperability or lack of shared standards and compatible infrastructure across government agencies; and lack of hardware.   There are countries, however, with well-established e-government systems.   Canada has been implementing the Service Canada program since 2005. The program provides a single point of access to a full range of federal government services and benefits through the use of the internet, telephone, and e-mail. Over time, the program yielded more services and cost-saving strategies for its citizens.      The success of Estonia can also be attributed to digital transformation. The government invested heavily in innovative IT solutions for Estonians to routinely use ICT in accessing government services. The country relies on smart infrastructure that made it possible to build a large and interconnected ecosystem, which was built by local Estonian companies.   The Philippines can draw lessons from these e-government models to be able to improve its ICT system. One such lesson is to adopt a policy with a uniform set of guiding principles and standards. Another is to address the causes of digital divide. In sum, the study recommended a “holistic approach to ICT infrastructure development”, the adoption of a “clear and implementable policy for integration”, and the “improvement of basic and computer literacy of people, especially the marginalized sectors”.   An in-depth discussion on e-government will be held in a webinar titled “Smart systems for Agile Governance under the New Normal” on September 24, 2020, in celebration of the 6th Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC). The APPC is the culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) spearheaded by state think tank PIDS every September. (PR)

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