Last February 14, the House of Representatives Committee on ICT discussed a bill filed by Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur.
The proposed law is House Bill 262, titled “An Act Establishing the eGovernment, Defining its Powers and Functions, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes”.
Various stakeholders, particularly government agencies who have long been working on eGovernment (eGov), brought up the point that the Philippines must craft its Government Enterprise Architecture policy.
One thing was made clear: Government Enterprise Architecture is the foundation for all of successful eGov initiatives elsewhere, and the Philippines should take a deep dive into its concepts. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, and there is every reason to study success stories.
What is “Government Enterprise Architecture”?
In 1996, the United States passed the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996 (ITMRA), renamed the Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA), a United States federal law designed to improve the way the federal government acquires, uses and disposes information technology (IT).
In 1999, the US federal government established a framework called the Federal Enterprise Architecture. In the same decade, Singapore adopted an approach similar to the US Federal Enterprise Architecture model.
Singapore adopted a technology standard blueprint called the Service-Wide Technical Architecture (SWTA), which served as the foundation for the Singapore Enterprise Architecture (SGEA).
In 2006, the Chief Information Officers’ Committee (CIOC) and the Australian Government Services Architecture Working Group (AGSAWG) endorsed the adoption by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) of the US Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework. Many countries did likewise.
Also considered to be one of the international best practice examples is gov.uk, which is currently implementing a “Government as a Platform” methodology building digital services for government services.
Many other countries who have not adopted the US Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework have instead opted to learn from the British experience, and have gained similar results.
And why not? At the end of the day, all of these enterprise architecture frameworks are centered on common principles. Here’s what the Australian model looks like (photos credit to www.finance.gov.au):
The British government has an even simpler way of describing their “Whole of Government” approach implemented on their gov.uk initiative:
“We’re creating a set of shared components, service designs, platforms, data and hosting, that every government service can use.
“This frees up teams to spend their time designing user-centric services rather than starting from scratch, so services become easier to create and cheaper to run.”
In the congressional hearing, the PhilHealth representative mentioned three principles: commonality in designs and components, government-wide cross-functional implementation, and (most importantly) citizen-centric services — the needs of the public, and not the ambitions of officials, must be of paramount importance. PhilHealth did show that they were on the ball regarding government enterprise architecture.
So what now?
Circling back to House Bill No. 262, first we should recognize that the Philippines has already begun its own eGovernment initiative. The E-Government Master Plan (EGMP) describes itself thus:
“The E-Government Master Plan (EGMP) is a blueprint for the integration of ICTs for the whole of government. It builds on past plans while incorporating current aspirations to create a vision for the future. The plan recognizes that the issue of interoperability and harmonization is not solely a technical problem, but also includes many organizational concerns that need to be overcome. As such, the plan also describes the systems of governance (e.g. institutions, agencies, processes, resources and policies) that need to be strengthened to make its implementation possible and sustainable.”
What Congress can do is to not reinvent the wheel, but instead take off from the EGMP and ensure that it has sufficient support, both in terms of mandate and funding.
Congress should also exercise oversight over the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)’s leadership over the EGMP, and provide support in ensuring implementation across all government agencies, in a citizen-centric service-oriented manner.
The DICT, in turn, should take note of international best practices, as we have earlier described. As a new Cabinet-level agency, it now has the power and the clout to discuss with fellow Cabinet agencies the best way of implementing a whole of government approach for eGovernment. As a new Cabinet-level agency, it now has direct access to the President, who can make it a priority initiative.
Since the President himself has expressed frustration over long queues by citizens for the most basic of government frontline services, it’s about time that a useful eGovernment framework reaches his desk. Let’s see how it will play out.
The author is the co-founder and co-convenor of Democracy.Net.PH