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It has always been the mandate of local governments to serve their respective constituencies and look out for the latter’s interests. But it’s no secret that this noble endeavor has become harder to realize in light of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. When determining budgets, finalizing logistical concerns, and mobilizing staff proves more difficult than before, how can local government units (LGUs) fulfill their sacred duties to their people? What are the concrete steps that they can take to ensure their citizens’ health, safety, livelihood, and wellbeing?
Part of the answer may lie in digital innovation and the adoption of tech-based solutions to improve citizen welfare. For LGUs that haven’t explored a more digital approach to the implementation of their public services, now is a good time to make that shift. Here are some examples of digital initiatives that LGUs can take, some of which are already in practice in other parts of the Philippines.
The first initiative that LGUs can take in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is to digitize more of their healthcare services. City, municipal, and provincial offices can invest in telemedicine services that help their constituents receive timely healthcare even from a distance. Beyond e-consults with family doctors, pediatricians, and other specialty practitioners, LGUs can also offer teleradiology services. This will allow patients from the LGU to receive remote analysis of x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. For medical services that don’t need to be administered onsite, telemedicine options will prove extremely helpful to citizens.
The most vulnerable sectors of the community are in grave need of financial assistance, and they need it in a safe and timely manner. Knowing that, local governments can seek quicker, more efficient means to distribute financial aid, such as cashless transfer to registered e-wallets. LGUs like Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, the Province of Bataan, Tarlac City, have already begun doing this for senior citizens, PWDs, and solo parents among others. Local chief executives can tap disbursement solutions like PayMaya Payout to quickly send aid to constituents in need.
LGUs can also make it easier for their constituents to settle fees like business permits and taxes on time. With cashless technologies like PayMaya Checkout, LGUs can direct citizens to pay fees via e wallet or card from the LGU’s official website. LGUs like Marikina City, Parañaque City, Taguig City, Batangas City, Ormoc City, and Davao City have already partnered with PayMaya for cashless settlement of fees. Citizens will be extremely thankful for this option, as it saves them money and time from queuing at their city, municipal, or provincial hall.
Nowadays, it’s also easier for LGUs and their partner businesses to oversee cashless payments for fresh market produce, essential goods, and other items. LGUs can take the example of Valenzuela City and the City of Manila in engineering cashless solutions for public markets and farm-to-market rolling stores. In these cases, citizens can use either their PayMaya-powered ID cards or their cellphones to pay for goods via PayMaya QR code. In addition, vendors or business establishments working with the LGU can use either a PayMaya ONE or PayMaya ONE Lite device to generate dynamic QR codes at the point of sale. This will also be good for partner staff, because transactions will be faster, safer, and more efficient than cash exchanges.
The current circumstances may make it harder for bright young minds to get a good education. But an LGU can still look after its scholars’ needs by finding faster ways to disburse allowances and by making more digital learning materials available. Several LGUs, like Caloocan City and Pasig City, have sent stipends directly to their students’ PayMaya accounts. More are exploring methods to supplement online learning, like releasing e-textbooks and partnering with civil sector organizations for digital classrooms and digital after-school tutorial programs.
Contracting COVID-19 may be the first among people’s worries right now. But that doesn’t make LGUs any less vulnerable to other emergency situations, such as typhoons, earthquakes, and fires. Local governments can upscale their emergency preparedness at the community level by running aggressive information campaigns and creating digital contingency plans for citizens to follow. The LGU can take advantage of channels like their official websites and social media in order to do this.
Adopting Best Digital Practices for Innovative Local Governance
Philippine LGUs should always aspire to get better in their delivery of vital public services. Thanks to the digital revolution, there are ample opportunities for them to do so. Now is the time for local governments to step up, and better yet, to pay it forward by setting good examples for other LGUs. May digital technologies for payment, financial aid distribution, information dissemination, and healthcare do what they are meant to do: improve the quality of life for ordinary Filipinos.