Lanao del Sur

Small rural town in Lanao del Sur is first to go digital in all of BARMM

Merlyn Manos

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Small rural town in Lanao del Sur is first to go digital in all of BARMM

TEST. Piagapo, Lanao del Sur officials and a representative of the United Nations Development Programme check the municipal government's new digital transactions system.

Merlyn Manos / Rappler

Piagapo town government still faces two major challenges: unstable power and computer illiteracy

ILIGAN, Philippines – Piagapo, a poor and small town in Lanao del Sur, has become the first municipality in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to adopt a program on digital transactions.

With the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Piagapo launched the Localizing e-Governance for Accelerated Provision of Services (LeAPS) program on Wednesday, May 31. This milestone makes it the first municipal government in the predominantly Muslim region to adopt digitalization.

UNDP’s resident representative in the Philippines, Selva Ramachandran, stressed the importance of digitalization in government services, emphasizing its role in expediting document processing. 

He stressed that amid the continuing global fight against COVID-19, the use of digital communication tools has become crucial. 

Ramachandran also emphasized the need to make digital tools inclusive and accessible to all, even in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

Fausiah Romancap Abdula, director for operation management services in BARMM’s Ministry of Interior and Local Governance (MILG), said the project was patterned after a successful initiative from Bangladesh introduced by the UNDP. 

Currently, the town government’s system in Piagapo includes two installed programs for business permits and birth certificates. 

Officials said plans are underway to expand the system to incorporate other transactions and integrate Gcash payments to minimize delays and corruption.

Despite the development, the Piagapo town government still faces two major challenges that may impede its operations. 

One is the ongoing power supply problem hounding the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (LASURECO). Although the digital center is equipped with a power generator, it cannot be utilized continuously throughout the day. 

Also, around 60% of the Piagapo population lacks computer literacy. 

To overcome this obstacle, Piagapo’s communities will receive information, education, and communication (IEC) initiatives and tutorial classes. 

The UNDP said it would also provide laptops and printers to selected areas, enabling residents to process their documents nearby. 

Officials said signal reception is not an issue, as the digital center utilizes satellite-based technology. 

The town government has also set up a call center for easy communication between the BARMM center and Piagapo.

Piagapo Mayor Ali Sumandar said the development showed the town has started to transform, going from lagging behind other municipalities nationwide in various aspects to now benefiting from a digital platform that expedites document processing in as little as half a day or less. 

Sumandar said the program would streamline the transactions at the town government, and make them efficient.

Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mohammad Khalid Adiong said the province is somewhat behind in terms of technology, and the Piagapo program should be replicated by other town governments in the province and BARMM. –

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