MANILA, February 3, 2006
 (STAR) By Eden Estopace - The United Nations 2005 Global e-Government Readiness Report cites the Philippine government’s online presence at http://www.gov.ph "for being on par with the best in the world."

Although the country only placed 41st in its e-Government readiness index, the UN has good words for the Philippine portal: "Among the many notable features, the dedicated e-Services section illustrates that one can simply but effectively integrate information across departments and provide a single space for the users to find them."

It also commended the site’s wireless access provision using Short Messaging Service (SMS), Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and Pocket PC.

"Perhaps especially noteworthy, however, is the ‘Issuance for Comments’ section on the national site homepage, which invites the user to partake of the policy-making process by providing feedback," it added.

The Philippines’ ranking in the new global index is also an improvement from last year’s performance. In 2004, the country ranked 47th in the survey.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), which conducts the annual survey, ranks the 191 member-states of the UN according to a composite index based on its assessment of government websites, telecommunications infrastructure and human resources. It assesses more than 50,000 features of the e-government websites of these countries.

"We hope that this survey will urge member-states to come up with new and innovative approaches for bridging the prevalent access-divide for the marginalized communities and in ensuring that new technologies become an effective tool in building an inclusive society for all," said Guido Bertucci, director of UNDESA’s division for public administration and development management.

In 2005, 179 out of the 191 UN member-states were online and UNDESA noted the individual country’s efforts in strengthening its online presence and "venturing into more mature areas of e-service delivery."

For the Philippines, the UN assessment noted that its government portal has covered most of the basic functions and is also developing transactional facilities.

It specifically mentioned the Department of Finance website which offers everything from e-services and e-bidding to basic participatory features.

"The country needs to fortify sites at the ministerial level, which are good but far from matching the quality of its national site," it added.

It may also be noteworthy to mention that vis-a-vis its neighbors in Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranked ahead of Malaysia (43rd), Thailand (46th), Brunei Darussalam (73rd), Indonesia (96th), Vietnam (105th), Cambodia (128th) and Myanmar (129th), although it is way behind Singapore (7th).

"It is very fortunate that the UN recognizes the country’s efforts in terms of e-government. Through this, we were able to gain good stature in terms of providing government content online," said Angelo Timoteo Diaz de Rivera, commissioner for e-government development of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and concurrently director of the National Computer Center (NCC), in a statement.

De Rivera stressed, though, that the government has to work harder to ensure that its e-government efforts translate into better public service.

He said one area that the Philippines has to improve on is its infrastructure, which, according to the NCC, is causing "constraints in the proliferation of e-government in the country."

While the Philippines has a score of 0.5721 in the e-Government readiness index, its infrastructure score is only 0.0840.

According the UN report, the Philippines only has 4.4 Internet users and 2.8 PC owners per 100 people, or an Internet user and PC index of 0.065 and 0.034, respectively.

Meanwhile, the country has 4.12 telephone lines and 26.9 cellular phones per 100 people, or a notably higher telephone index of 0.0396 and cellular index of 0.2257.

Television ownership and online population are also higher with 11 TV sets and 7.7 online population per 100 people — or a TV index of 0.114 and online population index of 0.111.

In contrast, Singapore, the leading Southeast Asian country in the global survey, has an e-government readiness index of 0.8503 and an infrastructure index of 0.6448. It has 50.9 Internet users and 62.2 PC owners per 100 people, or an Internet index of 0.754 and PC index of 0.760.

As in the past, the United States and Western European countries garnered the top slots in the global rankings.

The US and Denmark maintained their status as the top two countries on the list, with an average e-government readiness index of 0.9062 and 0.9058, respectively.

The Republic of Korea, one of only two Asian countries in the top 15 last year, also maintained its 5th position, while Singapore improved its ranking to 7th from 8th in 2004. Japan surged to No. 14 in this year’s rankings from 18th the previous year, making it the third Asian country in the global top 15.

The other countries in the top 15 are Sweden, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Iceland.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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