EXCLUSIVE – Enabling Digital Transformation within the Philippine Government: Report on the Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum 2018 | OpenGovAsia

The OpenGov Leadership Forum seeks to provide an opportunity for government officials, industry experts and distinguished international speakers to come together to exchange ideas and learn about the latest developments in the public sector technology landscape.

On 19 April, over 250 government officials and senior technology executives from across the Philippine Government came together to discuss the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation.

Mr Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov kicked off the Forum talking about the imperative of digital transformation in the public sector. He highlighted that digital transformation is more than just the technology – it is about understanding citizens’ needs and driving desirable outcomes.

Keynote presentation

Mr Carlos Mayorico E. Caliwara, Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) of the Philippines then gave his keynote presentation on DICT’s efforts and journey to transform the nation through Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

The Philippines is a country with growing digital capabilities and adoption. According to Mr Caliwara, the country’s objective is to be “an innovative, safe and happy nation that thrives through and is enabled by ICT”.

In its drive towards an open, digital government in the Philippines, DICT is enhancing cybersecurity, improving connectivity, strengthening human capital, while stimulating the market and ensuring ease of doing business.

In his presentation, Mr Caliwara discussed some of the DICT initiatives, including: (1) the National Broadband Plan ( NBP) which aims to accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies to improve Internet speed, (2) the National Government Portal (NGP) to provide easier access to government services, and (3) the Pipol Konek project which provides free Wi-Fi access in public places to promote digital literacy.

NBP aims to have Open, Pervasive, Inclusive, Affordable and Trusted Internet Access across Philippines. In line with this vision, the Government is setting policy, regulatory, and infostructural interventions to spur competition in the telecommunications and ICT industry.

In November 2017, DICT and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) launched the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure project to build an ultra-high speed information highway that will greatly improve the speed, affordability and accessibility of broadband Internet throughout the country.

International case studies New Zealand

Mr Darryl Carpenter, Head of Integrated Services, Department of Internal Affairs of New Zealand led a case study on New Zealand’s digital transformation. He shared with his peers the country’s strategies, implementation, successes, challenges and lessons learned.

He spoke about how governments can enhance the digital capabilities to manage user service requests. He emphasised that customer-oriented design thinking must remain at the heart of all digital transformation activities and initiatives.

Some of the key principles Mr Carpenter shared with his peers include: (1) make the complex simple, (2) put customers at the centre, (3) align the moving parts including the authorising environment, culture of collaboration and implementation, (4) innovate and adapt by leverage cultural norms, and (5) deliver on the plan.

He also talked about SmartStart as an example of delivery by this method. SmartStart is New Zealand’s first integrated government digital service. It’s a cross-agency initiative that gives parents easy online access to information, services and support during pregnancy and baby’s first years.


In her address to the Forum Ms Elizabeth Tydd, Information Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) of New South Wales, Australia pointed out that the world is experiencing a fundamental shift in community trust.

According to Commissioner Tydd, we are in transition from the old model where “elites manage institutions for the people” to the new model where institutions are “working with the people” and institutional silos are dissolved. In face of the polarisation of trust, she iterated the importance of collaboration and social engagement.

She highlighted that building public trust and ensuring the provision of good quality public services are contemporary challenges facing governments. In this, she spoke about the role played by open data in improving government service delivery and building trust in institutions. A key role of open data is to help build trust in government, and institutions generally. Through open data, citizens can better engage with government and hold government accountable, helping build trust and enabling a well-functioning democracy.

The Netherlands

At the Forum, Mr Roeland van Zeijst, Global Cyber Security Strategist of the Netherlands, shared with participants the Netherlands’ strategy in cybersecurity.

Echoing other speakers and experts, he highlighted the need for a paradigm shift in cybersecurity in today’s fast-changing technology landscape. This include building cyber resilience as an enterprise risk management strategy, the need to develop practical techniques in offensive and defensive cyber operations, as well as adopting a multi-stakeholder approach to deal with cybersecurity threats.

According to him, the Netherlands adopts 5 key strategies in its cybersecurity efforts, they are: (1) be prepared, (2) check defences, (3) let the white hats play, (4) band together, and (5) customise.

Polling results and insights

Throughout the Forum sessions, participants were open to sharing their experience and concerns as part of the interactive peer learning experience. During the event, polling sessions were conducted to better gauge agencies’ interests and areas of interest.

According to the polling results, over 70% of the agencies have an annual IT budget between US$1 to 15 million. Around 30% said they dedicate more than 10% of the IT budget for cybersecurity. IT infrastructure management is the largest outsourced areas of their IT services (34%).

Currently, over 41% of government agencies named cloud adoption and data management as their most important area of focus, followed by citizen-centric services (22%), cybersecurity (20%), data sharing and privacy (15%), and predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (2%).

Over 43% of the participants indicated that their organisations are in the implementation stage in updating their information security infrastructure. However, nearly half of the agencies are behind schedule when it comes to implementing their IT and Information Management Strategy.

The top 3 main challenge organisations face are: insufficient in-house skills (21%), struggle to find the right IT partners (17%), and lack of funding (16%). Participants also named legacy infrastructure (24%) and the lack of innovation culture (24%) as the two biggest challenges their organisation face this year.

In terms of cybersecurity, the top 3 risks named are employee negligence or malfeasance (38%), outdated systems and software (22%), and oversight of basic security practices (14%).

In adoption of cloud solutions, half of the agencies are using hybrid cloud. However, over 40% of them considered security the biggest challenge in using cloud, followed by budget and procurement (23%), and compliance issues (16%).

In achieving policy objectives, most agencies opted to change organisational culture by creating a conducive environment to promote innovation, as well as upskill internal resources and capabilities.


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