CONNECTING THE DOTS:
Moving Towards a Convergent Government
By Kevin dela Cruz | October 3, 2016
The Arrival of Convergence
In our connected environment, governance has been of utmost importance given the increased citizen demand for leadership accountability especially in prioritizing the citizen voice in the policy agenda and for the immediate cases, elevating their concerns directly to the government offices given their varying social needs. After all, the government is not just meant to organize the system of leadership in country, but also to commit itself to serve only the citizens who shaped the government to begin with. In my work as an advocate for good governance, whenever I am given the chance to share my personal experience as a government collaborator and worker, I always emphasize the power of an active citizenry and multi stakeholder engagement in improving the agencies’ public service delivery.
In the context of East Asia, the combined challenges of the different cooperating countries have been increasing in complexity. From the recent territorial and migration issues, such discussion points placed in the pedestal by the different governance bodies required an even more push for convergence by not just the public stakeholders, but also the private stakeholders. When the public sector comes up with a policy statement, the rest of the stakeholders would now need to have a set of contributed interventions and mechanisms to make the work of governance spread out down to the level of an ordinary citizen. The government now does not have the monopoly of all the development public affairs. The call for collaborative solutions matter now more than ever.
The Challenge of Convergence
Despite the rise of digital technology to facilitate convergence, there are prevalent issues that impede us from developing such collaborative solutions. We have been facing several challenges giving reference to the three pillars of good governance namely transparency, accountability and participation.
First, with the rising concern of financial integrity in the public and private sectors, transparency has been a constant call of the general public to share the information needed for multi-sectoral validation. This can also be applied to the monitoring of document trails in the enactment of certain guidelines or policies within a certain structure in the two such sectors.
Second, when organizations start to determine gaps regarding work efficiency, there is a greater demand for leadership accountability in establishing individual initiatives in addressing such gaps. There are incidences wherein when cases are filed in the local courts, the accused leaders tend to use their political power as leverage to evade the regular judicial process.
Third, given the fundamental human right of self expression, citizens might have been given the opportunity to voice out both their concerns and recommendations to government authorities through community dialogues and bottom-up initiatives. But, such initiatives have not been considered fully in the drafting of the actual policy, instead the political motivation comes first in the final document. There might be significant obstacles along the way, but there exists notable bright sparks that continue to light up the path in connecting institutions to work for national development.
The Hope of Convergence
With the rise of government service integration to different digital channels, the general public, along with the partner sectors, have been given more opportunities to engage and to work with the government through direct services such as registration processes and social protection programs, and through public policy information gateways such as the open budget and advocacy initiatives.
Speaking of human resource processes, the Bagumbayani Initiative is a government recruitment advocacy program that seeks to enable young people to work for government. Founded by seven young public professionals, they tapped a job recruitment web portal (Kalibrr) to consolidate all the latest work openings in the different public agencies. They have organized social media campaigns and school caravans to encourage the new graduates to share their skills and talents in public service work. Through this, over a thousand job matches were delivered to the agencies given this innovative effort. Indeed, this is a remarkable example of how youth and private sector collaboration can improve governance.
Another example is the CheckMySchool program of the Affiliated Networks for Social Accountability – East Asia Pacific. Given the need for adequate response for the delivery of school facilities by all citizens in Asia, this program has been recognized by the local governments of selected East Asia countries as a mechanism for social accountability and citizen participation in the local communities through service delivery monitoring. To give a brief run through of the process, local organized groups will be trained to become citizen monitors of particular school units in the community.
Then, in collaboration with the local education department, the monitors will be conducting a routine checking of all the school materials and facilities such as tables, chairs and text books through a data collection sheet. Once all the checking has been done, data will be consolidated and analyzed to be presented to the local government executive in a roundtable discussion. The goal of the conversation is to come up with policy or program resolution to the identified problems by the citizen groups. The private sector groups in the community then makes their collaborative contribution with the identified resolutions depending on their current corporate social responsibility priorities. This is truly multi-sectoral governance in action.
The Technology of Convergence
If the central aim of technology is to continuously improve one’s ways and approaches of doing services, there is a significant amount of material that the government and the other state actors can use to improve regional and local governance. There are three ways to harness this namely information organization, public ownership, and integrated evaluation.
Information organization refers to the deliberate communication of policies, guidelines and protocols catering to targeted stakeholders. It is not enough to just use open source to make the original documents accessible, instead such documents would be more useful if the technicalities indicated would be more palatable to its readers. We would like to use technology as a means to make the macro understanding a micro concern that can be acted upon by the informed and educated partner for change.
Public ownership points out to the crucial role of public inquiry and involvement in coming up with more directed and relevant governance decisions. Solutions can’t just be found in an expert’s desk review and in a leader’s round table discussions. Through technology, public interaction is a must in defining a community’s local development plan given the various perspectives available in our connected world. This is a power that any leader can use to craft a more inclusive environment for all.
Integrated evaluation is a means to systematize accountability systems with all the convergent projects and innovations conducted both in the real and digital streams. The fast-paced feedback that the governments along with the other sectors receive each day should be reciprocated by a united stakeholder response. All the data received should all be accounted for and received through a common digital receptacle through technology. This is perhaps where we can all base not just all government innovations, but the innovation that all of us can be involved in.