World Bank exec lauds PhilSys role in PH digital transformation

MANILA – The implementation of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) has resulted in milestones for the country’s social protection and digital transformation, according to a World Bank official.

Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand, said PhilSys will catalyze improvements in the public and private sectors and “can be fundamental to the Philippines’ pivot to reviving the economy and getting poverty eradication back on track”.

Diop noted in an October 14 article on Philstar Global that the PhilSys project is crucial in trying times such as the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises.

“Social protection helps the poor and vulnerable in a country, especially in times of crises and shocks that may threaten the well-being of families. When Covid-19 hit and quarantines began, the Philippines needed a massive expansion of social protection coverage to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic,” he stated.

He said success in utilizing PhilSys for social protection has a “significant demonstration effect” in accelerating digital transformation among government agencies and even the private sector.

Diop noted that “countries that already had good and inclusive digital infrastructure including internet connectivity, digital identification, digital payments, and integrated data ecosystems were better equipped to quickly adapt their social protection programs to meet urgent needs”.

In the Philippines, he said the delivery of social assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic presents a challenge.

“Fortunately, the country is moving to address digital infrastructure gaps, including through the development of the Philippine Identification System. PhilSys is one of the most complex but also game-changing projects undertaken in the country,” he added.

Diop cited that acquiring a Philippine Identification (PhilID) card or the national ID will provide Filipinos with seamless access to financial transactions.

Noting that the Philippines is one of only 23 countries without a national ID system, Diop said Filipinos have to present multiple IDs when dealing with the government and private sector.

“Information across government databases is often inconsistent. These undermine the Philippines’ transition to a digital economy, society, and government,” he added.

Recently, the Philippine Statistics Authority and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) announced an agreement pushing for the adoption of Philsys to verify beneficiaries’ identities for social welfare programs.

Diop cited the DSWD’s efforts to use the PhilSys in its various social services such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program.

“DSWD will be the first agency to utilize the secure biometric and SMS (short messaging service)-based identity authentication offered by the PhilSys to uniquely identify and verify its beneficiaries,” he said.

Diop said PhilSys can be crucial in DSWD’s efforts to identify and remove ghosts, duplicates, and deceased beneficiaries to address leakages, fraud, and corruption in the provision of social services.

It also boosts transparency and public trust in the government’s services, he added.

He said the unified beneficiary database that DSWD is developing with the help of PhilSys will contain up-to-date and consistent beneficiary information across all programs.

The adoption of the new system also promotes less paperwork, queues, hassle, costs, and time, he added.

“But digital transformation is not easy. It is not about simply digitizing things. It is about re-imagining how things can be done for the better, with technology as an enabler,” he said. “The World Bank is firmly committed to scaling up our support to the Philippines’ digital transformation agenda.”

Signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in August 2018, Republic Act 11055, or the Philippine Identification System Act, aims to establish a single national ID for all Filipinos and resident aliens.

The national ID shall be a valid proof of identity that shall be a means of simplifying public and private transactions, enrolment in schools, and the opening of bank accounts. It will also boost efficiency, especially in dealing with government services where people will only need to present the PhilID during transactions.