By Jel Santos
The importance of technology in improving governance and bringing officials closer to their constituents were underscored by Makati City Mayor Abigail “Abby” during a forum, Thursday.
“I believe that leaders should adapt to the digital age and conceptualize innovative ways to make public services more accessible to our people,” she said in her speech at “Cities Re-imagined” forum, as part of the Sustainable Cities Summit.
It was organized by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), League of Cities of the Philippines, and the Liveable Cities Challenge.
Binay said harnessing technology in various aspects of governance would improve the delivery of services and promote transparency, saying it will also remove the traditional boundaries between government and the people.
“We want to empower every citizen of Makati so they can experience a better quality of life,” the mayor said.
Moreover, she reiterated the importance of establishing mutual trust with the private sector to fast-track economic growth and social development, citing initiatives undertaken by the city through public-private partnerships (PPP).
“Through PPP-led digital initiatives implemented at no cost to the city, we have been able to bring government closer to the people,” she said. Such include the Makatizen Card, Makatizen App, Makati Public Wi-Fi System, and the Makati Subway.
She said that the all-purpose Makatizen Card consolidates all health and social benefits for residents and allows them to experience the convenience of a cashless ecosystem.
The local government said it can be used by residents in transacting with the city government since it is an official government ID, and the cardholder’s identity can be verified with a single tap. City employees now use their Makatizen Card to draw their salaries and bonuses, do their shopping, or send money to relatives. “To date, there are nearly 100,000 cardholders, while some 134,000 applications are being processed, she said.”
The Makatizen App, according to Binay, is the first-of-its-kind digital citizen app in the country, which allows users to report crimes, emergencies, and various concerns, which they can also do through our highly interactive and responsive official Facebook page, My Makati.
Based on the data of the local governmebt, there are now more than 15,000 registered users of the mobile app.
Meanwhile, the mayor gave an update on the Makati Public Wi-Fi System, which operates on a fiber optic loop that runs across the city and provides free internet connection to residents and visitors in 27 barangays on certain periods daily.
“Since January, the system has recorded over 500,000 log-ins, and maintained an average internet speed of 175 Tbps,” she said.
The mayor also reported that the city has adopted technology in public health promotion, particularly in maintaining a rabies-free Makati.
In October 2017, Makati became the first local government unit in Southeast Asia to implement a citywide free pet microchipping program, where pet dogs and cats are implanted with iChips using RFID technology, which contain their identification, the owner’s name and vaccination records. To date, over 5,600 pets in the city have been microchipped, aside from its regular rabies vaccination program for pets, the mayor said.
The mayor also said the city has given top priority to building resilience through substantial investments in protective gear and state of the art equipment for disaster response as well as risk reduction, and promoting a culture of disaster preparedness among all citizens, including the youth.
Per Binay, the city has purchased modern disaster response vehicles and equipment for various types of disasters, including four mobile command center vehicles that have access to CCTV cameras installed by the city. “Being equipped with their own Wi-Fi hubs, these can facilitate communication among responders even when internet connection is lost after a strong earthquake or other disasters.”
Calling it her “legacy project”, the mayor highlighted the benefits of the Makati Subway project under a PPP agreement of the city with a consortium of local and foreign investors. She noted that with a daytime population of about five million, mobility was a major concern for the city.
“The Makati Subway will help move people and solve the perennial traffic congestion in the city. We need people-movers. Mass transportation is the key,” Mayor Abby said.