The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) on June 28, 2017 held a forum on the State of Open eGovernance in the Philippines. Dr. Randy Tuano from the Ateneo Economics Department, who is also the President of the Board of Trustees of FMA and part of the core research group that did the research on “Evolving an Open eGovernance Index (OeGI) in Network Societies,” presented the results of the study, highlighting how the Philippines scored based on the indicators developed for the study.

About the Project:

The OeGI is an action-research project that aims to develop a quantitative tool to gauge the state of e-governance around the world. It builds on an earlier effort by the Foundation for Media Alternatives to develop and popularize an “Open eGovernance Index” which hopes to be a normative tool for assessing how countries are utilizing openness in network societies to enhance public service, citizen participation/engagement, and addressing communication rights.

The objectives of the Open e-Governance Index project are to: (a) further understand democratic e-governance, particularly through developing the discourse of “Open E- Governance”; (b) help develop policy on ICT and governance; and engage policy stakeholders directly, around the notions of “Open Governance”; and (c) develop a concrete resource for citizens/individuals, groups/non-government organizations to engage the policymakers on “Open E-Governance”. The index will measure five dimensions, which include meshed eGovernment, eParticipation channels, universal access/digital inclusion, civil society use of ICTs, and fostering an enabling environment for open eGovernance.

OeGI in this current phase is being piloted in five countries— Colombia, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Uganda—all with differing levels of socio-economic development and state of infrastructure and policy of ICTs. These countries were chosen because of the apparent diversity of appreciation of ‘eGoverance’ and ‘openness’ not only among their governments but also across their civil society sector. A framework, based on earlier work in the first phase of implementation in 2011- 2012, was revised and a methodology (mainly using secondary data to fill-up a score sheet; this was also validated among key experts across society) was adopted for use in this round of implementation.

FMA undertook the research and drafting of this OeGI report for the Philippines from November 2016 to April 201. The research was undertaken utilizing secondary data research and several focus group discussions. The study also was enhanced by several studies that FMA had undertaken in the areas of internet governance, privacy rights and gender aspects of ICTs. This is the second iteration of the OeGI implementation in the country; the first report was undertaken by the School of Government, Ateneo de Manila University, in November, 2011 (and finalized in March, 2012).

Summary of Findings: 

  • An illustrative summary of the Open eGovernance scores for the Philippines are shown in the figure below. The scores for the four dimensions are being shown in different quadrants in a diamond, while the score for the open and legal policy ecosystem is shown below as a circle. According to the illustration, the Philippines scores high in terms of Meshed eGovernment and civil society use/ ICT empowered civil society dimensions but low in eParticipation and digital inclusion dimensions.

  • The Philippines has ranked highly in terms of civil society use of ICTs because the country has one of the most vibrant civil society sectors in Asia (and perhaps around the world), and coupled with the fact that Filipinos utilize social media significantly, shows the ability of non-government organizations and other groups to be able to use ICTs for internal communication and advocacy.
  • In terms of Meshed eGovernment, the score is significantly observed compared to the country OeGI score implemented in the 2011- 2012period. There has been a general improvement in the policies and programs being implemented by the country in that dimension. Several policies such as an eGovernment framework and a government interoperability framework has already been adopted.
  • The scores for the county in terms of eParticipation and Digital Inclusion leave a significant amount of effort to be desired. There are still several policies that need to be undertaken despite many initiatives that have been started in the past.
  • Access policies, especially for disadvantaged sectors still need to be established, while standards and programs for ICT literacy need to be undertaken.
  • There is also a continued lack of e-channels for participation in the bureaucracy, although efforts such as the freedom of information act had already been undertaken.
  • The Open and Legal Policy Environment, which is shown as a circle, provides the possibilities for growth and development in the various dimensions. This means that relative to the general environment, the country is still underachieving in terms of the supply of ICT services to the public and the ability to meet the demand for participation by the citizens in the country as evidenced by the relatively lower scores for digital inclusion and eParticipation dimensions.
  • As stated in the analysis above, part of the problem lies in the weak capacity of ICT agencies to be able to respond to the demands of open eGovernance. This implies a gap in political leadership, which in many ways illustrates the low capacity of the State, particularly key members of the ICT bureaucracy, especially in the past, in competently addressing the challenges of Internet governance.
  • The lack of understanding and appreciation by the most senior public officials have hindered the development of reforms that can improve the utilization of ICTs in governance.
  • Many programs and policies have been developed or removed with any clear rationale and there is a tendency among different agencies to implement ICT projects without consideration of impact on other ICT projects or policies.
  • The State capacity was sorely lacking, resulting in many gaps in ICT governance that continues up to the present. It is after all government’s responsibility to lead in this, and political leadership was lacking time and time again—sometimes due to circumstances it could not control, but also due to circumstances it certainly could.
  • The structures for participation of civil society groups in governance, especially by ICT tools, has been sorely missing. Even if there has been a lot of demand for participation, the lack of government capacity to address this need constricts the ability of the public sector to address this issue.
  • Even with the relatively high rankings of civil society groups, the demand for eGovernment and eGovernance services is relatively low, given the fact that the civil society groups utilize mobile telephony rather than the internet for communication. However, government has moved towards utilized internet and social media as means for relaying information and receiving feedback.
  • The low demand for services by civil society is due to the fact that capacities also of the sector is relatively weak given the poor environment to push capacity building, including literacy programs, for the marginalized groups.
  • Clearly, access policy and literacy programs for the these groups and also for the general public needs to be prioritized. Civil society groups can also strengthen their own capacities by developing training programs on the use of ICTs, in which very little attention as yet has been provided.
  • The country should continue to enhance policies and programs that enhance access and use of ICTs, and at the same time, increase the mechanisms and processes that allow for greater transparency in governance and participation in decision-making.
  • Policies for enhancing universal access, especially by women and basic sectors, need to be undertaken; at the same time, policies for implementation for ICT literacy programs need to be established beyond those being provided in secondary education. While mobile phones have become more widespread, its use for dissemination of public information and for sending citizen feedback still needs to be strengthened.
  • Public participation can also be enhanced by developing policies that allow for greater use of government agency websites by marginalized groups. ###