By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.

“Technology is best put to work in the service of building a better world” – Simon Mainwaring

Financial and other types of aid for individuals in various sectors of our society is a staple in many government programs. The standard method of distribution of aid is through face-to-face systems backed up by several paper documents that is both cumbersome and error prone. Recently, electronic payment gateway companies such as Universal Storefront Services Corporation (USSC) developed a digital mode of aid distribution that is compliant with Commission on Audit regulations. The system can enable government agencies to download financial aid through physical cash cards with e-wallets.

There are many government agencies that could benefit from the digitalization of aid programs. The Department of Agriculture, for one, has several aid programs for farmers. At present, the vetting, processing and actual distribution of this aid is done physically. Converting the said program into a digital mode would improve the system in several ways.

First of all, a digital system improves transparency. A digital provider, like USSC, can conduct a thorough KYC (know your customer) process to vet the recipients and create an efficient database of such. When USSC implemented their system on a local government aid program, they uncovered several non-existent or double registered recipients. If these registered beneficiaries were not detected, they would have remained an unnecessary drain on precious government resources. The system would also have an electronic record that would show when the cash aid was withdrawn.

Second, the system would be more efficient insofar as ensuring that the funds would go where they are supposed to go. Downloading the funds directly to e-wallets would eliminate several layers of human intervention and the errors that come with such system. The agency would save on cash handling and logistics.

Third, the system would be more convenient for beneficiaries. It would eliminate constant filling out of forms, physically lining up at distribution offices or centers, and physically travelling to the said centers. For beneficiaries who are senior citizens, the ease of process would bring much appreciated comfort.

Lastly, the database that would be created by the system would be a great tool for monitoring several aspects of the aid program. The database can also be utilized for an agency’s other programs as baseline data. The agency can use the database to tag beneficiaries for the other programs to avoid duplication and create post operation analysis.

For an agricultural aid program, digitalization promotes financial inclusion. By giving them a physical card with an EMV chip, they can withdraw from an automated teller machine anywhere in the country. The digital voucher system would allow for market forces to help bring down prices. For example, instead of the farmer being forced to go to one fertilizer merchant, the farmer can go to any accredited fertilizer merchant which encourages competition and help bring prices down.

Technology can greatly improve government services. Perhaps, it is time for national government agencies to fully utilize tools like digitalization to fulfill its mandate better.

This is just my oblique observation.