27 March 2007

How not to implement an IT program

BURIED in the pages of last week's Bicol Mail is a story on how automation can really screw up what used to be acceptable public service. A good teaser that immediately crossed my mind is this entry's title. Feel free to suggest better ones.

The agency involved is the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), a state monopoly whose adventures with the so-called eCard system, and its most recent iteration, the eCard Plus has only made life miserable among its members.

Being a state monopoly, it faces no competition in delivering insurance and allied services to the more than 1 million state workers in the Philippines. And thus it continues to get away with sloppy service that would otherwise be unacceptable elsewhere.

The following account from Sorsogon City is heartbreaking, but I think is typical of what is happening all over the country:

Non-remittance of pensions, unpaid dividends, delayed posting of premium and loan payments, tedious process, lost bank deposits, empty ATM accounts.

These were just some of the complaints from members that were flooding the GSIS office here, and the complainants were growing everyday.

Many of the complaining members were teachers who said that the introduction of the Electronic card just made it harder for them to transact business despite assurances from the GSIS that it would solve their woes.

The teachers, who refused to be identified for fear of being black listed, said that despite the use of the supposedly new technology by the GSIS still their records were not up to date including premium and loan payments.

Some employees of the Philippine Information Agency, who also requested anonimity for the same reason, (said) that before the introduction of the E-card they regularly received dividends through check but it had stopped for the last two years and nothing was credited to their e-cards.

Another teacher also (said) her loan was approved since February and that she was told that it had already been credited to her e-card but in fact none was deposited when she checked it through an ATM this month.

Guardians of old age pensioners were also complaining about the tedious process required again now that the GSIS was renewing the e-card to upgrade its services.
And yet its tagline claims: "Kahit Saan, Kahit Kailan Maaasahan"! What gall!

I hope the 7 fighting for the last 4 Senate slots are listening. Want a killer issue that can vault you safely into the Magic 12? Here's one: Promise the 1.5 million government workers all over the country that you will commit at least half of your time as senator breathing down the GSIS's neck to ensure that its automation program works "kahit saan, kahit kailan."

That's no less than 3 million votes in the bag, Garci or no Garci.