Public service goes digital in Makati | Inquirer Business

Public service goes digital in Makati

Mayor Abby Binay ties up with Cisco to roll out more digitalization programs
By: - Business Features Editor / @philbizwatcher
/ 05:15 AM August 29, 2021

ESSENTIAL WORKER Mayor Abigail Binay at a briefing on the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

From the time she was elected mayor of Makati in 2016, Abigail Binay has envisioned to transform the city—home to about 600,000 residents and a premier central business district with a daytime population of a few million people—into a “smart” city.

By this time, Binay thinks she is halfway through the digital roadmap. The fiber optic infrastructure for connectivity has been put in place since 2017, allowing the city to provide free internet to students.


“Instead of giving internet allowance—which you cannot monitor, because you can’t monitor if they are doing Facebook or games—we allot a time for free and block the sites that they can’t access so you are still able to control and make sure that students are really using the internet for school,” she said.


After putting the broadband backbone in place, Makati also upgraded its mobile command center, purchased body cameras and upgraded other basic facilities.

Another big task, however, was to build up the database needed to make various tech solutions work. As such, the Makatizen ID card was launched, allowing the city to generate pertinent data without having to rely on the Philippine Statistics Office.

But the best thing is that the digitalization journey has been achieved at little or no cost to the city. The big ticket projects have been executed through public-private partnerships (PPPs), while some solutions had come for free in exchange for Makati becoming the local prototype of technologies that other local government units (LGUs) or organizations can eventually procure.

“We really don’t mind if we are test cases and we are used by companies as benchmarks for other local government units to emulate or to share that knowledge that we do acquire from partnerships with the private sector, whether it be a PPP, whether it be a straight-out procurement or whether it be a donation. We always want to experiment and be a test case for other LGUs to see if this solution works for them or not,” Binay said in a recent roundtable discussion.

Because of digital technology, Binay said Makati had been able to provide efficient service to constituents without compromising their health, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in 2020.

“Everything is within their fingertips and it’s within the comfort of their homes,” Binay said. “The payments of taxes, we had to rush it to be able to accommodate our taxpayers this year,” Binay said, adding that the city would not be able to encourage its constituents to pay taxes if they would have to fall in line to do it during this pandemic.


Makati City’s command center

Partnership with Cisco

Even prior to the pandemic, the Makati LGU has been working with tech giant Cisco on more digitalization initiatives.

Using Cisco’s Webex Suite—a unified, purpose-built suite for hybrid work that combines tools across meetings, calling, messaging, events and polling—many of the LGU’s crucial meetings had found a suitable platform.

“During the lockdown, we also used Webex to be able to provide our marriage counseling, which is a requirement for you to get your marriage license. So, we essentially use Webex to do the webinars and to do all the compliance (requirements) as these were still necessary, even during the lockdown,” she said.

Recently, Makati also tapped Cisco’s Meraki COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Solution, a suite of smart technology including temperature and humidity sensors, door open/close sensors, sensor cameras, wireless access points and other networking devices.

“That will help us monitor, control and regulate our vaccines, because of the sheer number, as well as [track] the deployment and ensure that temperature control is maintained,” she said.

Binay sees this solution making inventory management easier, eliminating risks of vaccine theft, as human intervention will be minimized in tracking vaccine distribution.

The solution is seen to address three critical challenges. One is the physical security of vaccine storage, where logs are created to know who had access to the vaccines, as well as ensuring the physical integrity of the vaccines through temperature and humidity monitoring. Another is to boost capability to set up mobile and remote vaccine distribution sites through mobile-enabled ready-to-go solution for curbside, drive-through, or in-field vaccine deliveries. Lastly, the solution is seen to improve management of traffic flow and safety to enable real-time face-mask detection, provide 24/7 indoor/outdoor video surveillance, assist with risk mitigation and deliver immediate alerting.

Another Cisco solution harnessed by Makati is Konektado, a communication solution created specifically for disaster readiness and mitigation. Konektado includes routers, switches, IP phones and a generator that can turn any location into a disaster response command center. It can connect laptops, mobile phones and other Wi-Fi-ready devices to the internet. In the absence of a disaster, Konektado can easily be used to extend connectivity for digital learning or any other service the city aims to provide.

“This will help us with our digital learning, since I don’t think we will be having any face-to-face classes anytime soon,” Binay said.

But even when face-to-face classes resume, Binay said Makati could still use Konektado to reach out to out-of-school youth or kids who have difficulty going to school.

Ugnayan 2030

The partnership with Makati is part of Cisco’s digital acceleration program UGNAYAN 2030, a collaboration framework with government leaders, industry and academia aimed at building greater digital resilience by unlocking the value of digitization in the Philippines.

Cisco aims to bridge three factors that impede implementation: uneven access to ICT resources, weak cross-organizational structure and ICT adoption, and limited expertise and manpower.

Through UGNAYAN 2030, Cisco intends to invest its technologies, infrastructure, tools, knowledge and expertise to empower crucial stakeholders to enact their digital transformation plans.

There are three key pillars and flagship projects that Cisco intends to focus on as part of UGNAYAN 2030: connectivity in building a high-speed and reliable information highway; collaboration in building an integrated and inclusive ecosystem; and cybersecurity.

“There has never been more urgency for institutions to deliver digital-first services. As we know, there are still many pieces that are still missing, before we can really consider ourselves, our country, our cities, to be digitally transformed,” said Karrie Ilagan, managing director of Cisco Philippines.

“We also know that this pandemic has become a big challenge and will not be the last one that will [turn] our world upside down. And we see every day what happens when we are not ready. So it’s very very important that digital resilience is in place,” she added.

While institutions from the public and private sectors have written up several plans and created roadmaps for the country’s digital journey, Ilagan said there’s an urgent need to flesh out these plans now amid a prolonged pandemic.

“Organizations know what to do, but the real challenge is being able to do it. At Cisco, we are committed to work with all stakeholders to play a role in building digital resilience across the country,” she said.

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In the case of Makati, Binay said a lot would still have to be done and fixed at the LGU. More and more services in city hall will be digitized, she said. Since technology keeps on changing, she added that the city would always have to keep its systems up to speed and responsive to the needs of the constituents.

TAGS: Cisco, mayor abby binay

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