SENATORS on Tuesday vowed to fast-track measures pushing e-governance in the country, seeing it as a way to hasten progress and inclusion in society, while assuring the public they will track efforts to ensure cyber security and data privacy at all times.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said he is banking on “e-governance as a game-changer” in the Philippines, but stressed this will require both public and private sectors working hard together to fully implement it.
Presiding at a joint hearing led by his Committee on Science and Technology, Cayetano said, “we must see e-governance as a blessing to our country because it makes government services more efficient, less prone to corruption, and more inclusive.”
Monday’s hearing, he explained, was convened to pursue the issue of “how to modernize the country’s digital infrastructure to ensure that all Filipinos have access to affordable, quality, secure, and up-to-date information and communication technologies.”
The senator saidd it will include both the government and the private sector working together to “make sure there is reliable and affordable broadband internet service for everyone.”
Apart from ensuring internet-enabled devices are made available at affordable prices, Cayetano pointed out that “accessible and affordable internet will go a long way in leveling the playing field, especially for Filipinos living in remote areas since information will be made available to them.”
Cutting red tape
Moreover, Cayetano pointed to the need to create computer and mobile applications and online content that are “designed to enable and encourage participation, interaction, and development.”
Citing the often long and frustrating process of accessing government services and even financial assistance, Cayetano said people want a simpler and more convenient way to connect with the government.
Cayetano believes e-governance can be a “game-changer” because it not only speeds up services but removes avenues of corruption. “E-governance will not be a slow evolution but a quantum leap— from slow and corruption-riddled to fast and clean processes. It will eliminate possibilities of corruption in the government’s provision of services,” he said.
The main author of the E-Governance Act of 2022, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, said his bill seeks to mandate the government to establish an integrated and interconnected information and resource-sharing and communications network between the national and local government, set up an internal records management information system and the digitization of paper-based workflows for a more efficient and transparent public service.
“In the end, E-governance will result to better governance, and a government that is more responsive to the needs of our people,” Go said
Sen. Raffy Tulfo focused on bolster online defense measures of critical information infrastructure (CII) institutions from cyberattacks and malicious actors that steal sensitive information and e-money.
In his opening statement at the Science committee hearing, Tulfo recalled the recent online hacks and scams against GCash and LandBank of the Philippines, as well as the massive data breach that exposed over 1.2 million records belonging to the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
“It is high time that our critical information infrastructure is protected. Our country’s economic stability, national security and the privacy of our citizens rely on this. We must acknowledge the ever-growing threats posed by cybercriminals, who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their malicious activities,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The senator also reiterated his appeal to the committee to support the passage of Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1701, otherwise known as the “Critical Information Infrastructure Act, which he authored. SBN 1701, according to the current version of the bill, hopes to address these online challenges by mandating that CIIs adopt and implement global information security standards and best practices to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of vital information.”