Thursday, October 4, 2012

Two steps forward for public service in the Philippines?

This week, I got two pieces of good news in my inbox which made me happy to see steps in the right direction for better public service in the Philippines. (It also made me wonder if we're at the beginning of a wave of public service improvements and innovation. However, two is not enough to make us say that a wave if forthcoming. But it is enough to make optimists like me hope.)

Contact Center ng Bayan

The first piece of good news I got was about the Contact Center ng Bayan (CCB). CCB is "conceived to be the Philippine Government’s main helpdesk where citizens, civil society organizations and other entities can voice their complaints and concerns with government agencies and gain access to information."

This site is powered by Teleserv and was developed in partnership with the Civil Service Commission, National Computer Center, Bureau of Internal Revenue, PhilHealth, and the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines. 

The email they sent out included an at-a-glance run down of a citizen's rights as protected by RA 9485: The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007. Very helpful in making you know what you have the right to complain about to the CCB.

What gets me excited about this development is the fact that I've too often heard the criticism that the Philippines has a lot of good laws in place but no government willpower to implement them. So the presence of such a website, in my opinion, is an act of the government that says to the public "I'm listening to you and I am ready to be held accountable."

A quick read of the "10 Things You Should Know about the Anti-Red Tape Act" article on their website informs you that RA 9485 requires each government offices to draw up a "citizen's charter" that identifies the correct services, procedures, fees, and etc. that you should expect. The site then has a tab for each partner government agency. Browsing through the tabs, the only Citizen's Charter that's easy to find is the BIR Citizen's Charter.  Also, it's not very easy to find the right part of the site to go to if you do have a complaint to report.

So while the presence of the site itself puts me in high hopes today, whether or not it actually works and if they are able to respond to the complaints sent their way remains to be proven. I would love to hear the stories of those of you back home if you ever do try it out.

To learn more about this, check out the following links: 


CCB website
Find the on Facebook
Find them on Twitter
RA 9485: Ten Things You Should Know about the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA)

Meralco MOVE

The second piece of good news I got in my inbox was the announcement of Meralco's new smartphone and tablet app, MeralcO Virtual Engine (MOVE). It's now available for download at the Apple AppStore, Google Play, and Blackberry App World.

It supposedly packs 6 useful services into one app, as the email outlines:

Apps that offer location help
   a. Meralco Office Directory: You can find the nearest Meralco office in your area
   b. Bayad Center: Find out where you can conveniently pay your Meralco bill

Apps for consumption control
   a. Meralco Appliance Calculator: Easily compute the amount of electricity an appliance                         consumes
   b. Bright Ideas: Learn better ways to use and save on electricity

Apps that help in planning ahead
   a. Power Maintenance Schedule: Stay up to date on the power maintenance schedule in
                your area
   b. E-Meralco bill: View your latest bill even when you’re on the go

I have been following Meralco on Twitter for a few years now and am quite happy with the fact that they knew how to use this social media tool to give up-to-the-minute news about which areas will have power outages, changes in power rotation schedules whenever Manila's hit with big storms. It would be interesting to see how they would fare in the app world as well.

I like the fact that they have two services in the app that deals with consumption control. The Meralco Appliance Calculator is nothing new. This helpful tool has been around for a while, displayed at a computer terminal in Meralco payment centers, and hiding somewhere in their website. I'm not so sure how many people are aware of it, and how many actually use it. I think that placing this in people's mobile devices is a great way to get more people to start using it and hopefully integrating it into their lifestyles. (Using this tool helps you see the difference it makes when you switch to energy efficient appliances!)

The Bright Ideas tool is a great complement to the appliance calculator. Once you gain a better picture of your consumption (and identify the culprits), you then become more open to suggestions about how to lessen consumption and consequently, your electric bill.

Again, if any of you end up downloading it, let me know how it works for you!

To learn more about this, check out the following links:  


MeralcO Virtual Engine page
MOVE in the App Store
MOVE in Google Play
MOVE in Blackberry App World

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