PH gov’t activates new P55-M email system

The national government unveiled this week a new email and collaboration system worth P55 million using a platform from virtualization giant VMware.

The new email system, called GovMail, will have unique agency names with gov.ph suffix and will use a central server and public key infrastructure for added security, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

GovMail was introduced to representatives of various government agencies during an executive briefing on the launch of several online services held Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) in Diliman, Quezon City on Monday, June 10.

The launching was part of a four-day celebration of the ICT Month.

The new email system aims to minimize the use of free Web-based email services such as GMail, Hotmail, and Yahoo for official government communications as well as give government personnel a credible online identity, especially when communicating with the public.

Currently, government email systems are independent of each other and are maintained by the agency’s respective system administrators, while those with limited resources still use free Web-based email.

The new GovMail system is part of the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil), a joint project of the ICTO and Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), attached agencies of the DOST.

Other than email, users of the system will also be able to collaborate online by sharing tasks, schedule meetings using a central calendar, and work on shared files.

Security is a primary concern in the design of GovMail, according to ICTO chief and DOST undersecretary Louis Casambre.

“Data sovereignty is of utmost priority for our government, especially for mid- to high-level communications. A universal GovMail system will ensure that all communications stay within Philippine borders. Likewise, an additional level of security will be added through the use of Public Key Infrastructure for encryption,” he said.

The email communication system will be using VMware’s cloud-based Zimbra Collaboration Suite that allows selected government workers the flexibility of mobile messaging.

Bong Paloma, SVP and general manager of Accent Micro Technologies Inc. (AMTI), the system integrator for the Zimbra platform, said in an interview that the license procured by the government consists of different levels and that not all government employees will have mobile access.

AMTI deployed the 10,000 email licenses with its partner firm UR Solutions.

Paloma said AMTI won the right to implement the system with its winning bid of P20 million for the license and software component. An IBM partner, he said, won the hardware side with a bid of P35 million for a total project cost of P55 million. The hardware component, however, will also be used to host other services and not just the email system alone.

Emmanuel Portugal, country manager of VMware Philippines, said the new email system will give government workers the security and the credibility to communicate via the Internet.

VMware PH chief Manny Portugal

In evaluating the VMware Zimbra, Portugal said DOST particularly valued its open source platform. This ensures that the system is compatible with all new and existing applications of the agency, which means it will work with its current systems without disruptions that can affect people’s work.

Moreover, it also synchronizes across multiple devices and smartphones (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry), allowing users to respond to correspondences wherever they may be.

Other features such as advanced calendaring features and integration of mail and calendar with mobile systems will enhance efficiency and productivity across DOST. A built-in spam and virus control will ensure the security of the system.

The VMware Zimbra also allows the option to use a browser-based email in a private or public cloud and comes with built-in support to prevent work disruptions using VMware vSphere.

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