Technology for society

(Fourth of a series)

FOR ALL intents and purposes, good governance is a two-way process that should involve the government on one side and the citizens, meaning the governed on the other side.

In a similar manner, law enforcement is also a two-way process that should involve implementation on one side and compliance on the other side. In both cases, nothing would work perfectly without the other.

In the case of good governance, there is not much that the government could do if the citizens would not do anything, including not paying taxes and not obeying the laws.

That’s the same for law enforcement, because the laws might as well be considered as decorations if the general public would not comply with them. In other words there is no use for law enforcement if the citizens themselves would not obey the laws.

Despite the saying that ignorance of the law excuses no one, it would still be fair to say that to some extent, many citizens are not complying with the law simply because they are either not aware of it, or they hardly understand it even if they are aware of it.

At the risk of sounding too naive, I would even say that many motorists are not following traffic laws simply because they are either unaware of these laws, or they do not really understand the full meaning of these laws.

It might sound off topic, but we are often disappointed if security guards could not give us the information that we need, forgetting that we are talking to security officers who are not information officers. Well, we should really not expect everyone to know and understand the laws; otherwise there would no longer be a need for lawyers.

If the problem is that citizens are ignorant of the law, then the obvious solution is education, if not social preparation. By education, I do not just mean the formal part of it, but the continuing part of it, the part that should even mean adult learning.

It seems that our approach towards implementing laws is similar to planting trees. As it is now, we implement tree planting programs on the assumption that if we stick the seedlings on the ground, these would grow on their own even without fertilization and irrigation.

It seems that that is also the way we grow our coconut trees. We just plant the seedlings and then we leave everything to rain and sunshine. The fact is, trees are living things and therefore we should shift our approach to growing trees, and not just planting them. Similarly, we should invest more into social preparation as a necessary approach to implementing the laws.

From a technical standpoint, education nowadays borders on information and communications because the same infrastructure could actually be used for the same purpose.

As a matter of fact, social networking and mobile messaging could both be used for educational purposes, particularly for continuing education. From a broader perspective, continuing education could actually include anything that teaches anything, and as an example, that could also include seminars and trainings about waste segregation and energy conservation.

Come to think of it, this could actually be done via online and mobile means, by way of newer teaching formats such as webinars and podcasts. In a much more practical way, System for Rice Intensification (SRI) advocate Obet Verzola does it through daily lessons sent to farmers via Short Message Service (SMS) messages with up to 160 characters.

Pursuing the logic that laws are not being implemented simply because the people are not educated, it may be a good idea to teach all citizens about the Local Government Code (LGC), a law that practically empowers all Local Government Units (LGUs) to function as if our country is under a federal system.

In other words, we may be clamoring for a system that is already right under our noses. For example, the LGC actually provides for Local Development Councils (LDCs) at the barangay, municipal, provincial and regional levels, participated in my both the LGUs and the citizenry.

Generally speaking, however, these LGCs are generally inactive and even if they are somehow active, there is not much participation from the citizenry. To solve this problem, I propose the mobilization of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) so that they would actively participate in the LDCs.

As far as I am concerned, I think virtual participation in LDC meetings should already be allowed, using both online and mobile means. Nowadays, there are too many Information and Communications Technology (ICT) options to choose from, and it’s actually now just a happy problem to choose what is best among the available options.

For example, participants could now watch LDC meetings via live streaming, and they could participate via mobile messaging, using the latter as their backflow even for voting. Some might argue that everyone does not have smartphones, but even old legacy phones can be used to send SMS messages. In this connection, I would categorically say that because of the Electronic Commerce Act (ECA), online and mobile voting should already be admissible. (


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