Learning From Peers Speeds the Digitization Process-3

Learning From Peers Speeds the Digitization Process

by Communications Team, September 30, 2013

Budget Under-Secretary Richard Bon Moya knew he was being ambitious. The goal was to shift all the financial transactions of the Filipino Government to a digital format—and to do it in five years. Most countries attempting such a feat had taken seven to 10 years. But there was one that had managed a quick, relatively seamless transition: Kenya.

Learning From Peers Speeds the Digitization Process
Moya and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad were familiar with Kenya’s successes with e-payments and mobile money. Like most budget and finance officials dedicated to bringing efficiency, accountability and transparency to government, Moya and Abad had read the research papers, case studies and blogs dissecting the Kenyan example. But there’s only so much to be learned from a report. Sometimes, you have to hear it from the source.

So Abad and Moya contacted USAID/Philippines and the Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA) and asked for their assistance in bringing a delegation of Filipino officials to Kenya for a field visit. Both Kenya and the Philippines are members of BTCA, which works with its partners to provide the expertise and resources needed to facilitate the transition to e-payments, and both are unwavering in their commitment to digitization.

“We want to assist our members achieve their goals in a way that is suited to their needs,” explained Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of BTCA, who thought the idea for a peer learning exchange was a brilliant one. “There are lots of payment experts in the world—mobile experts, banking experts. But there are very few who can put all the pieces together from a government perspective. You can get all sorts of advice, but only from talking to the people who’ve actually put it all together can you really understand how that happens.”

Working closely with Kenyan and Filipino officials, BTCA and USAID chose the delegates from a variety of ministries and departments, including budget, treasury, tax, audit, information technology and communications. And they built an agenda that emphasized hands-on learning and the honest exchange of ideas.

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“The conversations were extraordinary,” noted Goodwin-Groen, who marveled at how participants interacted so freely and were able to get into the nitty-gritty of how to implement an e-payment system, from negotiating with the banks to rolling the programme out to citizens.

Goodwin-Groen said the Filipino contingent took away an incredible amount of advice and lessons from the trip to Kenya. They learned that coordination between departments is essential, particularly the treasury, central bank and communications ministry. Setting up an e-payment training center for staff—both on the disbursement and receiving ends—is also critical to success. And the only way to ensure the support of the public is for payments to be made on time, with no delays and no mistakes.

The focus of the visit was to assist the Philippines in its digitization initiative, which includes implementing a national payroll system; creating an e-payment portal for government financial transactions; and utilizing mobile money for the collection of income taxes, social security premiums, health care premiums, home mortgage fund contributions and more. However, it became clear that Kenya would also benefit from the learning exchange.

“It was very generous of the Kenyans to give of their time, but they also know that it isn’t a one-way street. They had things that they wanted to learn from the Philippines,” explained Goodwin-Groen.

Members of the field team visit Safari.com Dan Miller, USAID (Philippines); Dennis F. Villorente, Dept of Science and Technology (Philippines); UnderSecretary Richard Moya, Philippines Dept Budget & Management; Bob Collymore, Safari.com (Kenya); Lilia C. Guillermo , Bureau of Internal Review (Philippines); Lorna D. Cabochan, Commission on Audit-Information Technology Office (Philippines); Tess Espenilla, USAID Philippines.

Learning From Peers Speeds the Digitization Process-3

Dan Miller, USAID (Philippines); Dennis F. Villorente, Dept of Science and Technology (Philippines); UnderSecretary Richard Moya, Philippines Dept Budget & Management; Bob Collymore, Safari.com (Kenya); Lilia C. Guillermo , Bureau of Internal Review (Philippines); Lorna D. Cabochan, Commission on Audit-Information Technology Office (Philippines); Tess Espenilla, USAID Philippines.

For example, when the members of the audit commissions met up, Kenya learned that the Philippines is world-renown for its auditing expertise. In fact, it has served as the auditor for the United Nations for many years. Kenyan officials had been struggling with creating a revamped auditing process for their electronic payments, since the old one depended on a paper trail. With the help of the Philippines, they hope to come up with a viable solution.

While the field visit was an great success, Goodwin-Groen pointed out that there were definitely challenges to making it happen, particularly when it came to nailing down a date for the event. “When you’re dealing with senior government officials, things change all the time. These are not people who can plan ahead. They have to be there if something important is happening at home. But that’s a reality that everyone understands and accepts.”

The overall feedback so far is that this experiment in technical assistance worked well beyond what was expected. “This is cutting edge what we’re doing,” noted Goodwin-Groen. “Countries haven’t had the opportunity to get all these people together. Because of its success, this is obviously a huge opportunity for the Alliance.”

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Communications Team

Better Than Cash Alliance, New York, USA

Communications Team at Better Than Cash Alliance, based in New York, NY.

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