Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bold Moves

This article appeared last March 20, 2006 in Manila Times.

One of the challenges that we are facing in the country is that there’s little seriousness in complying with existing laws. As soon as a law is passed, you’ll find people immediately pushing for amendments. However, what I learned from the late Sen. Raul Roco, one can’t push for an amendment to an existing law unless there’s sufficient court ruling indicating its futility or uselessness in performing its purpose.

Take the case of the e-Commerce Law. As soon it was passed, different parties were lobbying to amend or create new laws on cybercrime, electronic signature and even targeting government agency assigned to monitor it. Instead of working together to ensure that the law will work, it became sort of a trend to push for revision or new legislation to be passed.

This mentality, I believe, lead to where we are today.

Republic Act 8792 required that government agencies should be compliant to its e-government provisions (section 27) in 2002. To date, only a handful is complying with the law.

In order to make the e-Commerce Law work, it requires stakeholders to make bold moves to set the direction. Revenue-generating government agencies should take the initiative in assessing their compliance to the law. They should not wait for Congress or the Commission on Audit or the Department of Trade and Industry to knock on their doors asking about the status of their compliance. It is not a matter of funds but rather leadership decisiveness to get it done.

Section 39 of the law’s implementing rules and regulations require government to update their respective information system plan and be aligned with the intent of RA 8792. There’s much to be done in computerizing the government. However, instead of aiming for everything, our leaders should focus on areas where it matters most- first in the priority should be those who are submitting the most revenues to the National Treasury. Investing on them will make it more productive and can lead to better revenues.

Take the case of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs. Their adoption of e-Commerce and ICT allowed them to sustain or grow their current revenues. Without it, increase in their revenue would not be maintained with the same number of resources. If the revenue generating agencies are prioritized, they in turn will able to build the needed resources to fund other ICT needs of less performing or non-revenue collecting agencies.

The e-Commerce Law will be 6 years old this June 14. This law paved the way for the surge of ICT related investments in the country.

I recall before the term outsourcing or e-services became popular, call centers were referred to as business-to-business e-Commerce. As much as the law became a catalyst for so many things, there’s a lot that needs to be done in order to be fiercely competitive in the market.

Getting our act together, resolve confusing executive orders, budgetary accountability, and a vigilant private sector are all critical in making e-Commerce a reality in our country. Be bold!

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