Swamped under the tons of IT news and frenzied holiday rush was the recent formal launch of the 136 million pesos (about US$3 million) e-payment gateway for the Philippine government portal.
It took four long years before the payment facility was inaugurated despite the fact that it was a flagship project of the Philippine government under the auspices of the Commission of Information and Communications Technology (CICT).
Now that it's out, the CICT is expecting the e-payment portal to spur the growth of e-commerce, which hasn't taken off in the country despite the passage of the E-commerce Law in 2000.
I'd like to think that this development is really significant for us Filipinos since we would no longer have to waste an entire day lining up just to pay government fees. Also, fixers and unscrupulous government personnel would now have less people to victimize.
Just a few weeks ago, I lost my wallet containing a few bills but with lots of IDs. I wasn't really concerned about the money--although it still hurts to lose 6,000 pesos (about US$1300)--since I was more worried for my drivers' license, social security and tax identification cards. Every Filipino alive knows that it will cost you an entire day, not to mention the huge effort, just to get these documents.
Now, if this payment facilitaty could slice even just a fraction of that time, then I'd be more than willing to pay the 15 pesos (about US$0.30) transaction fee anytime. I'm sure most Filipinos would agree with me on this.
CICT commissioner and NCC director-general Tim Diaz de Rivera said the 15 pesos transaction fee is still cheaper compared to the money a person would spend if he or she would physically go to a government office to make a payment.
I sincerely hope that it wouldn't take another four years before this thing goes blast. The project was started in 2003 but was only in 2005 when actual development work commence when local contractor TIM, with technology partner Fujitsu, finally won the bidding war.
Diaz de Rivera said they have just finished testing the system at the CICT's National Computer Institute and at PCIERD, an agency under the Department of Science of Technology.
NCI trainees tested the e-payment portal to pay for their training fees while PCIERD used the system to accept payments for mature technologies that it has made available to interested companies.
Government-owned Land Bank of the Philippines will take care of the "settlement" function of the e-payment facility and will serve as a clearing house who will determine which fund will go to which agency. Thus, any government agency which wants to make use of it should have an account with Landbank.
A project overview said the portal will serve as a "single door" Web-based gateway that will facilitate payments of citizens to government agencies. The facility, it said, is designed to accept debit and credit card transactions in a real-time and secured environment.
The portal also allows payment to be done via text messaging. However, only Globe Telecom is currently on board with negotiations still ongoing with Smart Communications.
Looks interesting. The question now is: Will the people use it?