THE new decade has begun quite anticlimactically. 2020 already gave us a full preview of what is to come in 2021 – a world that will rigorously require everyone to discard all their preconceptions of it. Among the first of the most absurd beliefs that have been totally disrupted is that there is no need to be part of or at least to understand what digital transformation is.
The importance of digitization of data and digitalization of processes has never been highlighted in 2020 unlike ever before. The year that prompted every individual, communities, organizations, corporations and governments to reflect upon the level of digital skills and capacities they have in the face of the pandemic, where economies and lives were almost totally disrupted, and sadly, none in a good way for the most part.
But for constant innovation advocates like myself, the pandemic became an ideal backdrop to push the long overdue and trivialized digital transformation agenda, from e-health services or telemedicine to digital commerce, remote work and employment, to online learning and virtual citizens’ engagement and empowerment, to e-governance and many more, 2020 proved to be truly an eye-opener year.
An advocacy that I have been pushing along with other digital advocates for more than a decade is to bring digital transformation down to the regional level – to cities, municipalities and provinces, by institutionalizing an information and communications technology (ICT) office and officer in every local government unit (LGU) especially the major cities. This entity is equivalent to a chief technical officer (CTO) in the corporate world. The CTO has long been forecasted as a non-negotiable C-Level position that every major corporation must fill up.
Last year, I was honored to collaborate with Senator Sonny Angara on Senate Bill No. 1943 or a proposed bill to strengthening the digital transformation capacity of all local government units, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.
In the explanatory note for the bill, we stress that digital transformation has now become a public sector imperative especially in the face of a global health crisis – a factor that determines the quality of interaction between government and its constituency. Through digital technologies, people can easily access government service through various government portals, transact via e-services and interact with chatbots, among others. Digital transformation, however, is not just about innovative technologies but requires an overhaul of organizational structures, governance, work processes, culture and mindset.
In order for LGUs to better address the fundamental challenges associated with the new normal, ICT development and digitalization, the bill proposes the mandatory appointment of an ICT Officer (ICTO) who will act as the over-all officer in charge of ICT concerns of the municipality, city or province, including the development, adoption, deployment, improvement and maintenance of ICT technologies, platforms, systems and solutions utilized by the said LGU for the effective, efficient, responsive, timely and transparent delivery of basic services and performance of public duties.
The ICTO shall also be responsible for formulating measures that would ensure the digitization of public documents and digitalization of government processes. In addition, the ICTO shall guide the LGU concerned in its digital transformation efforts, expedite changes and minimize complications.
As the service delivery units of the national government, our LGUs need to be supported by sustainable mechanisms to ensure continuous and sustainable use of ICTs at their level. This can only be achieved with a specific officer mandated to focus on empowering and assisting all local departments within the LGU in utilizing and harnessing ICTs. Without sustainability and comprehensive planning and support, the national goal of ensuring digital transformation across the country will be difficult to achieve.
The ICTO must be a resident of the LGU where he or she is applying, must be of good moral character and a college degree holder in related courses such as ICT, computer engineering, computer science, data science, electronics and communications engineer or any directly relevant courses. He or she must be a first-grade civil servant and must have at least five (5) years of experience in ICT relevant work.