Local government units (LGUs) can explore the public-private partnership (PPP) mode more as they conduct smart city projects, according to a recent study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
PIDS supervising research specialist Tatum Ramos said that while smart city initiatives are being supported by some national government efforts, there are still numerous challenges including those related to funding, interoperability of data systems, public uptake, and sustainability.
The PIDS study, authored by Ramos, PIDS vice president Dr. Marife Ballesteros, senior research specialist Pauline Joy Lorenzo, and research specialist Jenica Ancheta, found that if such issues are unaddressed, there will be a risk of not fully realizing the potential of smart city initiatives being implemented in the Philippines.
Ramos said the PPP Center has been conducting feasibility studies in line with smart city development.
“But then in international cities, we noted that they recognize the PPP mode as a major source or a major mode of implementation of smart city initiatives. While for the Philippines, LGUs have been sourcing their funds more from the internal budget, as well as from loans so we would recommend LGUs to explore the PPP mode more,” Ramos said during her presentation of study findings in a public webinar.
She said the study pushed for consistent branding on technology and innovation-powered Philippine cities.
Ramos said the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) can become the lead agency due to the relevance of its mandate into the smart city agenda and its experience in engaging smart city stakeholders.
“We also recommend that they explore assessing LGUs to be engaged in terms of potential indicators of readiness so these indicators can include the presence of smart city champions, the presence of ICT (information and communication technology) personnel, number of completed projects supported by formalized agreements, the number of constituents with internet access, as well as the availability of digitized data,” she added.
Ramos said LGUs can also consider monitoring readiness based on these suggested indicators, while the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) can support in the promotion of references at the local level.
“We take note that there are already local references like the PNS ISO 37122:2020 as well as the DOST framework for smart sustainable communities and cities. But with our interviews, we noted that the stakeholders, not many of the stakeholders, are actually using these as references,” she said.
Ramos said the PIDS study also recommended the development of policies and standards to improve data flow, as well as transparency and accountability measures in implementation of initiatives.
“We would like to emphasize that a smart city or an aspiring smart city does not necessarily need to have a single platform or application for all of their initiatives. But this is because of course technology changes overtime and there are improvements overtime,” she added.
Ramos also underscored the need to have at least a common data repository and good application programming interfaces that would enable good communication among the applications.
“So we think that the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) and the NPC (National Privacy Commission) can issue policies and standards that are related to these and also the LGUs can designate ICT personnel that will focus on interoperability and security of data systems,” she said.
To promote transparency and accountability in the implementation of initiatives, Ramos said the PIDS study recommended that DOST-PCIEERD can enhance the DOST framework for smart sustainable communities and cities by emphasizing the accountability principle.
“This is of course because a smart city actually, we expect constituents or the public of aspiring smart cities to eventually demand more involvement in the monitoring of the progress of projects. And these smart cities are capable of doing this and so we would like the LGUs to further explore data sharing to the public,” she said.
Ramos said the DILG can monitor the adoption of the DOST framework and assess development based on indicators from the PNS and implement an accreditation system accordingly, while LGUs monitor relevant efforts using the framework and PNS.