Enhancing the 'gateways' to cities

By Paulie Mora
February 14, 2010 - Metro Manila


In an age of virtually no barriers to global connectivity, local government website is serving a vital platform to link its community with the rest of the world. The website renders many benefits to local government units. It is a cost-efficient way to inform the public on different local government’s basic services. It provides access to full information and lessens transaction cost. It can also foster dialogue and citizen’s feedback. An online presence is a 24/7 marketing strategy.

Most Philippine cities recognize the value of website as a ‘gateway’ into their community. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) reports 89\\\% of 138 cities have websites. The National Computer Center (NCC) –the agency that monitors web presence of government agencies – said that 94 or 75\\\% of 126 cities had websites in 2011.

But we know this is not a simple case of having a website. Each public website completes the five stages of e-government as prescribed by the United Nations American Society for Public Administration (UN-ASPA).

Table 1: UN-ASPA Five Stages of E-Government1

Stage UN-ASPA stage description Features to look for
Stage One Emerging Web Presence
  • Sites served as public information resource;
  • Static information on the government is provided;
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) may be found;
  • Contact information is provided.
  • Template Numbers
  • Postal Address
  • Email Address
  • Service Offered
  • Mandate, Organizational Structure, FAQs
Stage Two Enhanced web presence
  • Access to specific information that is regularly updated;
  • A central government homepage may act as a portal to other department sites;
  • Useful documents maybe downloaded or ordered online;
  • Search for features, e-mal and areas for comments are accessible
  • Updates in the past 1.5 months;
  • Forms are available (html, word, sometimes zip, pdf)
  • Search function/ search map
  • Message board/feedback form
  • Newsletters/ publications/ Purchase information
Stage Three Interactive Web Presence
  • A national government website frequently acts as a portal;
  • Users can search specialized databases;
  • Forms can be downloaded and/or submitted online;
  • Secure sites and passwords begin to emerge
  • Downloadable forms (pdf, zip)
  • Specialized databases
  • On-line forms submission
  • Interactive elements e.g. Chatroom/ Forum/ Discussion Board
  • User Log-in and Password (internal use or public)

Stage Four

Transactional Web Presence
  • Users will be able to conduct complete and secure transactions online
  • The government website will allow users to customize a portal in order to directly access services based on specific needs and priorities
  • Sites will be ultimately secure.
  • Public use log-in and password (not exclusive for internal use)
  • Secure
  • On-line payment
  • Confirmation of request (email confirmation/ acknowledgment receipt)
  • Display of security and privacy policy
Stage Five Fully integrated web presence
  • Country provides all services and links through a single portal
  • No defined demarcation between various agencies and departments
  • All transactional services offered by government will be available online
  • All department information and services may be accessed through the Department portal;
  • Cohesive interface covering all attached agencies, concerned agencies and all services;
  • Frontline services are fully transactional online;
  • User may customize his department portal page;
  • Search engine encompasses attached website

Out of 94 city websites, 25 are on Stage 1, 41 are on Stage 2, and 25 are on Stage 3 and only three cities belong to Stage 4, NCC reported in 2011.

The e-government concept brings about government agencies maximizing information and communication technologies (ICT) to offer their services. Website forms part of the whole ICT landscape. Through ICT, most government procedures can be streamlined thereby improving competitiveness. E-government also adds more transparency and greater accountability among its leaders through access to full information.

In 2000, the Philippines enacted E-Commerce Act. Local governments, among others, are directed to use ‘ICTs into the bloodstream of LGUs and enable better and faster delivery of government services to citizens at a lesser cost’.

More than the services, e-government has also the potential to transform its relations with citizens (government to citizens), business (government and business), and between governments (government to government). More than the static information and downloading of public files, e-government can improve good governance if opportunities for deliberate dialogue for decision- making are well integrated. Besides, the country’s E-Government Master Plan 2’s is envisioning a ‘government that is not only digitally empowered but also digitally empowering...’

Participation in decision-making through the website in a transparent and accountable manner has yet to be realized. In the case of city websites, ‘there is a minimal adoption of e-governance by the majority of the city governments and the underutilization of websites as e-governance tools’, Siar3 discovered.

Focusing on their content, Siar found out that most local websites have high content on static information on city’s basic profiles, minimal on linkages with business sector, and no content on information that encourages policy making.

Siar reported that the lack of mechanisms for citizen’s voice in the website can exacerbate the citizen’s frustrations over the lack of adequate responses from the local government. The poor content and quality of these websites can also reflect a weak local ICT organization.

Aside from managing the content, there are many constraints on why there seems to be a low level of ICT among our cities. Issues on connectivity, lack of access, low computer ratio and Internet literacy still persist. Not all Philippine cities are highly urbanized in the first place. Against the backdrop of digital divide, competing priorities and low level of awareness of some local leaders on websites4 slow down the pace of e-governance.

Closing the digital gap still remains as the goal. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is expanding its community e-centers (CeCs) to empower every barangay (village). CeCs provide Internet access facilities to schools in remote towns. More LGUs innovate and improve governance outcomes through the use of ICT 5. DILG requires uploading of most public documents as requirements for their Seal of Good Governance. More citizens’ initiatives - using social media - are also being integrated into the governance process6 with the prospects of Facebook and Twitter to enhance e-governance processes.

Continuing capacity development remains a regular program. In an LCP Secretariat survey on website management, city respondents said they need to improve their content management system, to train their content managers and develop local social media policies. When asked what top three pages that must be frequented by the visitors, they reported pages on tourism, news and events, and procurement opportunities.

Though the result is not in any way conclusive, it is indicative to the Local Website Development Program LCP Secretariat is formulating which will focus on improving local websites in the long term. The program responds on the need to enhance e-governance through the capacity building on content generation and website management system.

Website and social media offer local governments the tools yet largely they have yet to be fully tapped. Local websites must transcend beyond aesthetic value and service-oriented information. They must keep up with the current aspirations and values of their communities as well. One can visit an impressive city website and leave a good lasting impression on its leaders and their people.

1. http://www.ncc.gov.ph/files/un-aspa5stagesegovt.pdf
2. http://i.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/eGovMasterPlan_Final-Version.pdf
3. Siar, Shiela. E-Governance at the Local Government Level in the Philippines: An Assessment of City Government Websites. Philippine Journal of Development. Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
4. Alampay, Erwin. Incorporating participation in the Philippines’ e-LGU project.
5. Brillantes (2000) in Alampay
6. http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2011/10/12/social-media-in-the-philippines-is-widespread-but-what-is-its-impact/



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