Digital transformation in the public sector

THE chief of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA), Hans Leo Cacdac, would read messages aloud from his computer screen posted by OFWs from different parts of the world. He replies to questions regarding scholarships and business loans, while also taking the time to greet overseas workers who are happy to see the OWWA administrator waving to them online. By leading his institution in its digital journey, Cacdac has transformed OWWA into a modern, responsive agency, much to the delight of many of its members.

Unfortunately, we don’t see similar initiatives in other agencies, including departments that have so many services that few people know or understand. Hopefully, this will soon change based on the presentation given by Assistant Secretary Alan Silor of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) during a recent conference on “Digital Transformation for the OFW Sector” organized by the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.

Silor said that the DICT is mandated to promote open governance through digital transformation of processes. To achieve this mandate, the DICT will embark on the development and implementation of an e-Government Masterplan 2017-2022 for “One Digitized Government.” This means that all a citizen needs to do is visit to gain access to all departments. The DICT, he said, aims to promote a citizen-centric digital roadmap for the public sector.

As we await the full implementation of this master plan and the government’s comprehensive national broadband program, we note and commend the forays into social media by the following public servants and government agencies:

1. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Office of the President – He may yet be the “Best Selfie President” considering how ordinary Filipinos are able to get their “selfies” taken with the President during non-formal events. I have seen this up close when President Duterte visited Qatar where more than 200,000 Filipinos live and work. Despite the strict security protocols imposed by the Qatar government, the President himself would stop for a minute or two while walking or getting down from the stage to accommodate “selfie” requests. Taking its cue from the social media-friendly President, the Presidential Communications Office led by Secretary Martin Andanar has a very aggressive social media engagement, using podcasts and Facebook live-streaming capabilities to build a global audience.

2. Secretary Mark Villar, Department of Public Works and Highways – The DPWH secretary has an active personal Facebook account (@SecMarkVillar) that posts “before” and “after” photos of completed infrastructure projects. With more than 200,000 Facebook followers, the secretary is assured of thousands of shares and “likes” per post. A recent video about the Cavite-Laguna Expressway garnered 640 comments and 341,000 views. The downside is that the DPWH Facebook account has no new entries since October 2016.

3. Philippine Ambassador to Moscow King Sorreta – He maintains an active Facebook page, which has endeared him to many Filipino workers in Russia. One of his recent posts on illegal recruitment was extensively shared by OFWs. It is rare to find a top diplomat interacting with Filipino workers through Facebook. Hopefully, more of our diplomats will learn to embrace the use of social media to reach out to their OFW constituents in real time.

4. DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo – She (@sec_judy) is gaining popularity across social media platforms, and was even invited to deliver the keynote speech at a Social Media Day event held at SM Aura. Though her followers on Twitter have yet to breach the 10,000-mark, her frequent tweets would surely ramp up this number within the year. Rare is a Cabinet secretary who would post a Happy Pride Month greeting, while asking people to support LGBTQ rights. I follow her account to get updates on the DSWD’s relief efforts for the people of Marawi City.

5. National Privacy Commission ( has nearly 50,000 Facebook followers, which is not bad considering that it is a fairly new institution. What is admirable about this commission is how it makes an effort to reach out to younger constituents through creative advertising and social media posts. The DICT, to which the NPC is attached, appears to be lagging behind, content-wise, and this is something that needs to be rectified considering that they are leading our national digital transformation.

According to my nephew and social media expert Carlo Ople, there are three reasons why government agencies should learn to embrace the use of social media:

• Majority of Filipinos, about 63 million of them, have active Facebook accounts.

• Social media can make it easier, more efficient, and less costly for government to promote its services.

• Government agencies that are on social media are usually perceived to be among the most improved, simply because they become more accessible to the public.

Here’s hoping we will see more Cabinet secretaries embracing digital transformation for the sake of their constituents. My personal dream is to see our diplomatic posts and offices of labor attaches engaging the OFW communities in social media. I am amazed at how well OWWA is doing, social media-wise, in building a more vibrant OFW community. Hope does spring eternal, even in cyberspace.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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