Computerizing and automating the barangays

>> Thursday, March 23, 2017


By Ike Señeres

In theory, it is possible to connect all the 42,028 barangays in the Philippines to the internet, for as long as there is a signal. As it is now however, the theory is fast becoming the reality, because it is now possible to put up a signal in every barangay where there is none. Although it sounds like a tall order, it is actually a realistic goal, because where there is no signal that could have been put up by the usual commercial providers, it is now possible to put up that signal using alternative non-commercial means, using whatever means it takes. As we know it now, the usual commercial means are via Digital Service Line (DSL), General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), Long Term Evolution (LTE), Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), microwave and fiber optic cables, among others. Internet via satellite is also a commercial service, but it is not generally considered as a usual means.
                True to the saying that if there is a will there is a way, there is now always a way to get a signal in every unconnected barangay for as long as there is a will, using other means that are not usually used. For example, it is possible to use Television White Space (TVWS), and even radio frequency (RF) signals. Even if signals could be generated locally however, there is still a need for a signal carrier for the backhaul, using either satellite or microwave means. If and when these two alternative backhauls are used, there would always be a question of costs, and that is where the economics of connectivity would come into place. As I see it, the economics would appear to be positive if the value added created is greater than the connectivity cost. At the outset, we could say that the access to knowledge is enough value added, but of course there are many other economic returns.
                To better understand the workings of barangay computerization, let us just say that they would need both internal and external systems. For their internal needs, barangay offices would need the usual administrative software such as those for human resources and accounting software but aside from that they would also need systems for resident’s directories, justice delivery, ordinance records and identification cards, among others. For their external needs, they would need systems for electronic commerce, online learning, telemedicine and disaster warnings, among others. In some cases, the municipal governments would also allow them to have systems for business permits and real property taxes.
                One way to manage computerized systems is to divide the functions into connectivity, the content and servers. Nowadays however, the option to shift to the internet cloud has practically eliminated the need for servers. In that case, the content would be the only remaining challenge once the connectivity issue is resolved. The content is often interpreted to mainly mean software, but in reality, the bigger challenge is to populate the databases with data and it would be best to do that on the fly, meaning to gather data on real time as the transactions are being conducted. In the case of software, the choice is either to buy it off the shelf or to develop it internally, but in the case of the barangay level, it would be practical to just buy it.
                In theory, the barangay unit is actually a corporation that could function as such, meaning to say that a barangay could be managed under the rules of corporate governance. Nowadays however, it would be difficult to implement good governance without implementing computerization and automation. Based on my own observations however, some barangay officials are not too keen about computerization and automation because it would make everything transparent, and there would no longer be any room for discretion. From the perspective of some corrupt barangay officials, without discretion, there would be lesser ways to make money. That is so because without discretion, there would be no more corruption, at least in theory.
                In much the same way that a barangay government could be run like a corporation, a barangay citizen could actually be regarded as a customer, in which case the provision of citizen services could actually be managed under the good practices of Customer Relations Management (CRM). Moreover, since a barangay government is offering products and services, its day to day functions and operations could actually make use of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). That is actually a valid assumption, because a barangay government is actually an enterprise also. As it is generally known, CRM could actually be part of CRM, as well as the other systems such as Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and Computerized Accounting Systems (CAS). Even the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) could become part of ERP.
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