It is that time of the year once again when our family had no choice but to access this government service that is considerably a beast on its own: passport application and renewal. One would think that mastering the art of going through all the necessary information available on the government website would be enough to give you the confidence to come out of the process alive — lo and behold, surprises come along the way just when you least expect it. Of course.
Case in point: after downloading and filling up what seemed to be the official passport application form provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs on its website, we were surprised to see the officer from one of the satellite offices giving out a physical copy of the same application form. “I have already filled out that form online and have printed two copies and signed them accordingly,” I said. “Oh, we use this form,” the man said, and noting that there were no remarkable differences, I clarified, “But you have the same information you are asking in that form, and I have filled up the same from the website. Can I not use this?” to which the man helplessly said, “I’m sorry, but we do not have a memo allowing us to use the same form online.” I gasped in disbelief.
The precious time I saved by preparing the documents painstakingly beforehand, I obviously lost by filling out the said application forms again. In addition, it was not conspicuously displayed that the said satellite office could only accept 50 walk-in applicants, so those poor moms carrying their minor children ages 7 years and under would have to come back another time.
One would be left wondering how difficult it is to centralize the dissemination of information and communications to provide good public service to our citizenry. Our government agencies have several (official) channels to ensure that the information can be shared in a timely manner with the relevant audience to avoid any inconvenience and waste of resources.
Effective communication lies at the core of governance, transparency, and public engagement. The need for a centralized communication strategy within the Philippine government and various organizations is paramount to ensure equitable access to information, foster transparency, and streamline operations.
Accessibility for all
A centralized communication strategy ensures information reaches all corners of the country, regardless of geographical location or economic status. Through various communication channels such as official websites, social media, mobile apps, and traditional media, information becomes readily accessible to urban and rural communities alike. This inclusivity empowers citizens by keeping them informed about their rights, government services, and crucial developments. Sure, walk-in applicants are now accommodated in applying for or renewing a passport. However, it must be noted that this is a qualified accommodation ― applicants must meet the criteria required and, in some cases, observe the 50-walk-in applicant-per-day limit. This last qualification seems to be missing in the press releases and information disseminated. You will unfortunately only know by the time you are at the office itself when you have arranged your schedule accordingly, and only to be told to come back next time.
Fostering Transparency and Accountability
It is important to see the transparency and the corresponding accountability of organizations in communicating with their stakeholders. A unified platform for disseminating information ensures citizens receive consistent and accurate updates on government policies, initiatives, and services. This approach reduces the likelihood of misinformation and promotes trust between the government and its people.
Efficiency and cost-effectiveness
Overall, centralization eliminates redundancies in communication tools and processes. By consolidating various communication channels into a single platform or strategy, the Philippine government and organizations can optimize resources, reduce operational costs, and improve overall efficiency. This approach also allows for better coordination among departments or sectors, enhancing collaboration and decision-making.
Leveraging modern communication technologies further accentuates the benefits of centralization. The utilization of digital platforms, mobile applications, and data-driven analytics enhances the reach and effectiveness of communication strategies. Real-time updates, interactive interfaces, and personalized content can significantly improve engagement and information uptake among the populace.
However, the absence of a centralized communication approach poses significant drawbacks. Without a centralized communication strategy, information dissemination becomes fragmented and inconsistent. Disparate communication channels may lead to conflicting or incomplete information and cause confusion. This can undermine trust and create gaps in understanding government policies or services. In addition, the lack of centralization could exacerbate existing inequalities in access to information. Rural or marginalized communities might have limited access to communication channels, leading to an information divide. This disparity hampers their ability to stay informed about government initiatives, services or crucial developments, widening the socioeconomic gap.
Departments or agencies operating independently in their communication efforts may result in inefficiencies and redundant resource allocation. Duplication can lead to increased operational costs without optimizing outcomes. Lack of coordination can hinder the sharing of resources and knowledge among different entities.
A lack of centralized communication might limit opportunities for meaningful public engagement and participation in governance. Without a unified platform or strategy, it becomes challenging to gather feedback, opinions, or suggestions from citizens on various policies or initiatives. This lack of engagement can diminish public trust and hinder the government’s ability to address community needs effectively.
To end, centralizing communications within the government is not just a matter of convenience but a necessity to ensure transparency, efficiency, and inclusivity. The advantages of streamlined communication outweigh the pitfalls of fragmentation. By embracing a unified communication strategy, the Philippines can bridge information gaps, foster trust, and empower its citizens through access to accurate, timely, and relevant information, thereby giving good public service in the process.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include food innovation, nation-building, and sustainability. The author may be reached at email@example.com