By Dr. Selva Ramachandran, UNDP Philippines Resident Representative
The Path to #DigitalBangsamoro
June 15, 2023
As we move on and recover from the years impacted by the pandemic, we recognize the need for governments to deliver digitalized services, enable access to information and social protection, and function in transparent, accountable and effective ways.
The world is faced with the era of hyper-digitalization and it is imperative that we find ways to ensure that those at the fringes of society, those most vulnerable, those in far-flung and hard-to-reach areas, are able to keep up with the times. Now more than ever, we need to use the digital tools that we have at our fingertips to better the lives of the people we serve. And we need to make these digital tools inclusive and accessible to all. Digital for Development. Digital that leaves no one behind.
In the southern part of the Philippines, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Government, through its Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG), has taken major steps in realizing its vision for a #DigitalBangsamoro—an aspiration that Interior and Local Government Minister Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo considers as a major step for the region to “bridge the current gap in development.”
The MILG forged a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the Localizing e-Governance for Accelerated Provision of Services (LeAPS) Program—a flagship program of the MILG, which will support the Office of the Chief Minister, all BARMM ministries, and local government units in using ICT solutions to simplify business processes, improving the quality and speed of local public services, and making these more accessible to the Bangsamoro people.
LeAPS is informed by experiential learning and insights from the Government of Bangladesh’s Access to Information (a2i) program, but adapted to the specific socio-cultural and economic context of BARMM. Bangladesh' a2i had similar starting challenges like BARMM's poor connectivity and local governance in remote, rural locations. A2i has already achieved a recognized status as a leading global program that has dramatically improved citizens access to services and information, and expanded opportunities for community participation at the local level. It is with the inspirational example of Bangladesh that we designed the initiative here in BARMM.
Recently, MILG and UNDP jointly launched the very first strategically-located #DigitalBangsamoro Center in Piagapo – a municipality which boasts of its strong record in good local governance and citizen-centric public services. This pilot digital center features an interactive call center and a web portal, which will serve as the lighthouse for the service-seekers and for the BARMM citizens to have access to e-services efficiently, reliably, and securely.
The Digital Center, which will be launched gradually across the region, is a one-stop shops where people can easily access public information or transact through provision of various frontline services - such as passport application, birth certificate registration, labor registration, mobile banking, utility service, bus/airline ticketing, school admission application, job application, among others. This will not only bring the government closer to the communities but it will hopefully identify the gaps in the delivery of public services and build an equitable society.
While the #DigitalBangsamoro Center in Piagapo is the first in the region, it certainly will not be the last. Most recently, a second one was opened in Butig - another small municipality in Lanao del Sur. The long-term plan is to improve local service delivery for all the 116 municipal LGUs and 2 city local government units in BARMM.
The mission of LeAPS is an ambitious one. And at the core of the initiative, the goal is clear: to improve citizens' access to services and information and to expand opportunities for community participation at the local level in the whole of the Bangsamoro so that no one is left behind.
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