Data for Public Service: BARMM Learns from DevLIVE+ roll out in Vigan City

By Charlene Balaan, Communications Associate

Posted March 24, 2022

In photo: Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government with Dr. Selva Ramachandran of UNDP Philippines at the Ceremonial Signing of the LeAPS Project.

The Vision for #DigitalBangsamoro

COVID-19 has disrupted and transformed life as we know it. At the height of the pandemic, governments across the globe had to rethink their strategies to cope with the ever-changing needs of people. Among the major shifts taken globally is the transition to digitalization.

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 MILG 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 LGUs (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 set to pave the way for the 5-Year Digital Transformation Roadmap of BARMM after 2023. The program will cover all the 124 municipalities and all the barangays in the region.

Data for Public Good

The LeAPS program intends to harness the transformative power of data, digitalization, and people-centered governance. Among its key objectives is to deliver better public services more quickly and cost effectively, by unlocking the value in data and recognizing data as a strategic asset for the pursuit of public good.

While the private sector leverages on data to improve productivity and uncover new business opportunities, the public sector can utilize it to innovate, design and deliver better-quality services to citizens. In our volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, governments are compelled to make well-informed decisions supported by real-time information.

Initial roll-out of DevLIVE+ in Vigan in 2021.

The Development through Local Indicators and Vulnerability Exposure Database (DevLIVE+) is a system and a tool used to collect, organize, visualize, and manage baseline data and information to monitor access to and delivery of basic services, assess vulnerabilities and exposures to hazards and risks, and guide development planning. With the data collected via DevLIVE+, LGUs can make projects that are fit-for-purpose and responsive towards the real needs of the citizens.

For BARMM, DevLIVE+ is a vital component of LeAPS which will empower the LGUs with up-to-date information for local development planning, programming, and SDG monitoring. An Induction and Training of Trainers (TOT) Workshop from September 27 to October 1, 2021, for MILG staff on the different implementation processes and on data navigation and processing.

‘To See is to Believe’ - Learning from Vigan City

To solidify the MILG Core Team’s confidence in the potential use of DevLIVE+, UNDP organized a knowledge and learning exchange mission with the City Government of Vigan from March 15 to 20, 2022 for MILG to have a firsthand account on how DevLIVE+ is being implemented and where data is being applied for local planning and programming. Vigan City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an exemplary example of effective digital governance in the country.

Members of the delegation from BARMM MILG with Vigan Mayor Medina and the UNDP Philippines LeAPS Team during the Learning Exchange

Led by Director Fausiah K. Romancap-Abdula of MILG’s Operations Management Services, Chief Johaina J. Abdullah of MILG’s Local Government Supervision Division, and Chief Abdullah U. Lingga of MILG’s Information Systems and Technology Management Division, the MILG LeAPS Technical Working Group met with Vigan City Mayor Juan Carlo Medina, the enthusiastic local official who spearheaded the DevLIVE+ implementation. During the visit, Mayor Medina narrated how the city’s digital transformation was backed by the data generated through DevLIVE+.

“Data from DevLive+ can also gauge how effective our programs are in achieving our goals for the community and even the compel judicious use of funds in uplifting the lives of the people.”

JUAN CARLO MEDINA, Vigan City Mayor

Mayor Medina shares how he began the adaption of DevLIVE+ in Vigan City at the height of the pandemic as he saw how data could help the LGU design better programs for the citizens.

In 2019, Vigan City officials started discussions with UNDP for the use of DevLIVE+ in the city. Mayor Medina saw the potential use of the platform in improving Vigan’s public services and pushed for the commencement of the partnership. “I was inspired when I first learned about DevLIVE+. My head was swimming with possibilities of how we can use this platform to create better services in Vigan!” recalled Mayor Medina.

By August 2020, with UNDP support, Vigan City commenced the full roll out of DevLIVE+ by hiring and training new staff for data collection and processing and conducting surveys.

According to Mayor Medina, the data derived from the DevLIVE+ surveys did not only help Vigan City accurately plan its social amelioration and immunization programs; it was also crucial in the planning and management of its Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program. Supplemental feeding, reading aptitude, and data on Out of School Youth (OSY) were also accurately monitored to determine what kind of local programs can effectively address pressing concerns. Mayor Medina fondly gave an example of how with DevLIVE+ data, the city was able to put together an afterschool reading program for children. With this, they saw how the initial 30% frustrated readers in the city went down to just 10% by the end of the program.

Among the off-shoot programs from DevLIVE+ data, the mayor is most proud of the Vigan Access Card, which citizens may utilize to access several local public services being offered by the city. With the yellow card, the city can monitor real-time data on the services being availed by the people.

Mayor Medina showing the Vigan Access Card.

But while the city is finally reaping the fruits of digital governance from the seeds of DevLIVE+, Mayor Medina was also quick to recognize the birth pains that they went through to institutionalize the program. “We had to unify the forms being used and clean them up so that we can optimize the data we are collecting. Vigan citizens also had survey fatigue, so we had to streamline the data we are acquiring through DevLIVE+ and import that data to the government mandated CBMS platform for compliance,” he said.

In the end, the mayor shared with the MILG representatives what is perhaps the most vital ingredient to the successful use of DevLIVE+ in Vigan: “the mayors need to have full buy-in of the platform. They need to see the importance of data and how it can shape local governance for the better. Without that vision, the data will be useless.”

Mayor Medina encouraged the MILG representatives to adapt DevLive+ and repeatedly emphasized how “the DevLive+ data contributes to accurate local planning.”

From left to right: LeAPS Project Manager Mitzi Mendoza, Director Fausiah K. Romancap-Abdula, DevLIVE+ Project Analyst Mark Marcos, Vigan City Mayor Juan Carlos Medina, and Vigan City DevLIVE+ Project Focal Raissa Villanueva

Bringing Lessons Back to BARMM

The MILG team left Vigan City with inspired determination and brimming insights on how they can localize DevLIVE+ in BARMM.

During the unpacking session, the members of the delegation highlighted their new appreciation of the importance of data in innovating public programs. “We can use data to determine what is needed by the communities and conduct evidence-based planning,” said one representative.

“With DevLIVE+, we can create appropriate programs tailor-fitted to the needs of the community. We will also be able to conduct proper prioritization of programs and avoid unnecessary duplication,” noted Director Fausiah K. Romancap- Abdula.

Director Fausiah K. Romancap-Abdula of MILG-BARMM.

The representatives also appreciated the pilot testing method done by Vigan City and noted how this can help the program grow to a certain level of maturity, so that local chief executives can appreciate and be more adept with DevLIVE+.

All 12 participants from MILG left Vigan City with a sense of excitement for the future of BARMM. The path towards #DigitalBangsamoro is a long one and they are still in the beginning, paving the foundation for digital governance. The possibilities are endless. And after meeting Mayor Medina and the DevLIVE+ team in Vigan, they know that anything is possible.

Looking Ahead and Beyond

Coming back from the fruitful trip to Vigan City, the team will be busy for the rest of 2022 as they begin the roll out and the implementation of DevLIVE+ under LeAPS in the first 14 LGUs in BARMM. They are targeting to organize another learning exchange visit to Vigan soon—this time with key local chief executives from 12 LGUs, so that these representatives may develop a deeper appreciation for DevLIVE+ as well.

By mid-year, the team is also planning a trip to learn from the government of Bangladesh’s Access to Information (a2i) program from which LeAPS was inspired and adapted. LeAPS is powered by experiential learning and insights from the a2i program but is adapted to the specific sociocultural and economic context of the Bangsamoro region. Bangladesh’s a2i had similar starting challenges with BARMM, like poor connectivity and local governance in remote and rural locations.

Looking further ahead and in the pursuit for the achievement of #DigitalBangsamoro, the LeAPS core team is determined to emulate the success of A2i, which became a leading global program. This year, aside from the DevLIVE+ roll out in BARMM, the team is set to hold a Digital Service Design Lab (DSDL) to transform how LGUs deliver services and information to the public with the help of digital channels. Digital Centers in key municipalities will also be installed to help facilitate more efficient service delivery.

To tie all the digital efforts together, LeAPS will establish the #DigitalBangsamoro Portal, a one-stop-shop which will provide digitized citizen-centric public services of the various local government units (LGUs) and ministries in the BARMM. The portal 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 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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