Ike Señeres | Columnist
It is really ironic that the Philippines is supposedly the texting capital of the world, and yet we are not using our text messaging infrastructure to deliver public services to the broader masses of our people. No, I am neither talking about Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) nor mobile web messaging via the internet. I am talking about pure and simple Short Messaging Services (SMS) that everyone has in his or her mobile phone, no matter how old his or her unit is. I am talking about the pure and simple syntax based messaging service that by the way reminds me of the old alphanumeric syntax of the old mainframe computers. This is the same SMS that runs on the pure and simple Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications and does not even need the more advanced General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) or third generation (3G) connectivity.
It is also ironic that the Philippines is also practically the call center capital of the world, and yet we are also not using our call center infrastructure to deliver public services. If only we could use this infrastructure to provide access to public services, anyone would be able to make a call to request for assistance, using even the very old Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) units that we now refer to as the landlines. Since the newer mobile phones already have newer Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) features that could call up POTS units, we had to come up with the term “wireless landlines”, a term that is actually an oxymoron. Never mind POTS or VOIP, because anyone with a mobile phone could now make a call anytime to any call center, using either GSM, GPRS, 3G or the relatively newer Long Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity.
As I talk about “online delivery”, I have to make it clear that this term is practically synonymous to “online access”, and the difference between the two is simply just a matter of perspective. “Delivery” in this case is actually just a figure of speech, because it does not always happen that physical objects are actually delivered. The more applicable term is really “fulfilment”, meaning that the servicing needs of the customer are fulfilled, as in completed or satisfied. In the private sector, this delivery framework is governed by Customer Relations Management (CRM) software, a set of applications that are usually installed as seamless components of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, a bigger set of applications so speak.
Generally speaking, the term “online” would usually refer to having access to the internet, and nothing else. For purposes of this discussion, I will take some poetic license so that it could also refer to having access from the lower end of the connectivity options, such as SMS and POTS. Given the fact that almost everyone how has a mobile phone; we could now say that under this broader definition, anyone could now access public services. There is a saying that in New Zealand, there are more sheep than people. Here in the Philippines, we could say that there are more phones than people. Counting also the public payphones, we could really say in theory that anyone could potentially access any public service anytime from anywhere.
Public services such as Justice, Education, Wellness, Employment, Livelihood and Safety could easily be delivered or accessed using SMS, POTS and via other mobile and internet means such as mobile apps and web browsers. I am proposing JEWELS as an acronym for this set of services. One way or the other, physical or practical outcomes of these services could be fulfilled, to the satisfaction of customers. Although these services should be directed towards our own citizens as a matter of priority, it is in our best interest to open these whenever possible to non-citizens who are here in our country as temporary or permanent residents, and even to visitors or tourists if and when necessary.
Can you imagine what would happen if anyone could access any of the JEWELS services at any time using any available means that is available to him or her? I think that this is a workable idea, but we have to make sure that we could support it with the manpower that will be at the backend of this system. For example, the Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO) may not have enough lawyers who could respond to calls, texts, emails or posts from the public. In other words, there may be a need to call for volunteer lawyers perhaps with the help of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). Tapping volunteer doctors perhaps from the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the Department of Health (DOH) would be able to respond to the public also for wellness (health) related concerns.