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President Marcos Jr.’s commitment earlier this year to certify the E-Governance Act as urgent

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From January 30 to February 2, members of the House of Representatives interfaced with Singaporean government agencies, private companies, and universities to study Singapore’s digital government, digital economy, and digital society.

DEVELOPING A SMART NATION. House of Representatives delegation together with PSAC and Aboitiz representatives at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore. The URA gallery showcases the genesis and evolution of Singapore, from a fishing village to a premier smart nation to live, work, and play.

As the Philippine government steers the country toward becoming a digital nation, key government officials participated in a detailed benchmarking visit to Singapore arranged with the help of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Digital Infrastructure Sector. From January 30 to February 2, members of the House of Representatives interfaced with Singaporean government agencies, private companies, and universities to study Singapore’s digital government, digital economy, and digital society.

The benchmarking visit was organized following President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s commitment earlier this year to certify the E-Governance Act as urgent. The urgent certification of the Bill was one of the recommendations made by PSAC, led by its Digital Infrastructure Sector, whose representatives have actively participated in the Technical Working Group (TWG) meetings, offering expert recommendations to help shape relevant legislation that will allow the government to best serve the Filipino people in a modern, technology-driven society.

The House of Representatives has already covered substantial ground in deliberation. Their delegation to Singapore included the House Committee on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Vice Chairperson and Davao Oriental Representative Cheeno Miguel Almario, who is also the E-Governance Act TWG Chairman.

“I’m very excited to share my findings from my recent benchmarking and study tour in Singapore as a Congressman and Chairman of the Philippine Delegation. The experience was truly eye-opening and has deepened my understanding of technology’s potential for governance transformation,” said Rep. Almario.

“As everything begins with a single step, the benchmarking gave us a recipe for improving the Government-to-Government systems that we first need to put in place as the foundation for the E-Governance system we seek to build. We dream of a digitized experience that is seamless between the government, businesses, and citizens. To this end, I intend to collaborate with my fellow congressmen to further strengthen the draft substitute E-Governance bill and promote the adoption of e-governance best practices,” he continued.

With Rep. Almario were his fellow ICT House Committee members, Negros Occidental Representative Dr. Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez, AGIMAT Party-List Representative Bryan Revilla, and PBA Party-List Representative Margarita Nograles. They were joined by their Committee Secretary Ranier Alvarado and Committee Affairs Department Director Lina Mortega.

“The future is digital. The pandemic accelerated this trend and highlighted the urgent need to adapt our bureaucracy to enable low-touch transactions and delivery of services. The Marcos Jr. administration and the 19th Congress are not remiss of this challenge and are working closely and quickly to fast-track our transition to E-Government,” Rep. Benitez remarked.

Beyond his role as a member of the House Committee on ICT, Rep. Benitez is also the Chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“We are thankful for the generosity and strong sense of social responsibility of the Aboitiz Group in sharing with the House Committee on ICT their expertise in E-Government innovations, bringing to the fore global best practices that the Philippines can benchmark,” Rep. Benitez added.

Along with PSAC, the benchmarking visit was made possible through the Singapore-based Aboitiz Data Innovation (ADI), the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DSAI) arm of the Aboitiz Group. Through tried and tested DSAI frameworks, ADI empowers businesses and governments to accelerate their own data-driven journeys and transformation. The government delegation was guided by ADI Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. David R. Hardoon and Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Smart Cities Alvin Ng.

“The potential for growth in the Philippines’ digital landscape is enormous. Leveraging and operationalizing disruptive technologies like Data Science and AI play a pivotal role in delivering solutions for sustainable growth,” ADI CEO Dr. Hardoon noted.

“It is imperative that we create avenues to facilitate knowledge exchange and initiate critical conversations that accelerate transformative actions,” he added.

INVESTMENTS IN THE FUTURE. The delegation meets with representatives of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), which acts as a one-stop shop for businesses investing in Singapore. EDB maintains an easy-to-use website for investors, which mentions the required permits and possible incentives investors can enjoy.

The benchmarking visit was diverse and well-packed with productive and insightful meetings.

The delegation discussed digital government and policy overview in its meeting with the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), which reports directly to the Singaporean Prime Minister, taking note of best practices that can be adapted in the Philippine context. Additionally, meetings were arranged with other Singaporean government agencies, including the Urban Redevelopment Authority, to discuss its smart cities project; the Monetary Authority of Singapore, to discuss fintech in monetary systems and financial markets; and the Economic Development Board, to discuss its role in the nation’s digital economy, assisting current and potential investors to seamlessly set up their businesses in Singapore.

In order to understand the private sector’s role, the delegation met with KPMG Asia Pacific, where digital harmonization, innovation, and citizenry were discussed. They also met with the National Computer System (NCS). Founded in 1981 as a government agency, NCS was privatized in 1996 and subsequently became part of Singtel.

LIFE-LONG LEARNERS. The delegation at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)ーthe only university partner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The SUTD representatives discussed the university’s efforts in digitalization.

To ensure that the digital transformation is future-ready and sustainable, it is important to understand strategies for training a pipeline of digital expertise. The delegation visited two prestigious universities: the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Lee Kuan Yew Center of Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

The use of ICT in government will enable the Philippines to achieve digital transformation in delivering essential services from permits and licensing to education and poverty alleviation. A robust and citizen-centric e-governance framework allows transactions to be seamless and efficient among government agencies, the private sector, and most importantly, the citizens.

The benchmarking visit and study of one of the world’s premier digital nations and innovation hubs provide insights that the delegates will bring back with them as they resolve to legislate the Philippines’ digital transformation roadmap. During the recently held World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, House Speaker and Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez announced that the House of Representatives will prioritize the E-Governance Act upon resumption of session. The substitute bill is scheduled to be finalized by the end of February.

“The PSAC is proud to support the government’s digital transformation efforts, using our expertise, both local and international, to assist in this critical initiative for the benefit of the Filipino people,” said PSAC Deputy Lead Secretariat and Aboitiz First Vice President for Corporate External Relations Christopher Camba.

PSAC is convened by Aboitiz Group President and CEO Sabin Aboitiz. The PSAC Digital Infrastructure group was formed to provide President Marcos with practical recommendations that promote wider internet access and advance digitalization initiatives. The group is led by UnionBank Chief Technology and Operations Officer Henry Aguda, who is joined by members PLDT President and CEO Al Panlilio, Globe President and CEO Ernest Cu, Converge CEO and Co-Founder Dennis Anthony Uy, and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) COO Ramon Jocson. #


Thet R. Mesias

Media Relations
Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.

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