"The 'who' and the 'how' must be revealed."
There’s a rather funny quip being passed around social media saying that we should be somewhat thankful that the COVID-19 pandemic happened in the year 2020. If these world-changing events happened in 2003, then we would be stuck at home for months with only our Nokia 3310 mobile phones.
Personal entertainment is just one aspect wherein technology plays a crucial part in keeping people sane during extended quarantine periods and movement restrictions. Countless people would have surely struggled mightily if they were confined at home without access to the internet. What would they do without their laptops, Netflix, other streaming media providers, and their smartphones to stay in touch with others.
Far beyond entertainment, technology will surely be at the forefront of coping with the new normal. More than technology for technology’s sake, however, it is the ingenious and mindful integration of existing technologies that will usher in the blueprint for tomorrow.
The best technology presents a unified whole that is more than the sum of its components, is how Architect Richelle Singson-Michael described it during one of her talks, of which I managed to catch a few snippets.
Richelle, who graduated scholar from the University of the Philippines with an Architecture degree, is a renaissance woman of sorts - someone who is equal parts Lara Croft and Elon Musk. My gulay, apart from landing R.S. Michael Architecture, she is also the CEO of a private jet chartering company, Platinum Skies Aviation, Inc. and oversees several projects involving hangarage, aircraft leasing and flight instruction.
Yes, the lady also knows how to fly a plane.
Nowadays, however, what consumes Richelle’s mind the most are her technology companies, many of which have become successful in fields such as transportation, financial services, and real estate. She has applied this passion to currently become the country’s foremost advocate and evangelist of Digital Identity Technologies, or what she refers to as DigIDtech.
While digital transformation has been a buzzword for quite some time now, I completely agree with Richelle in her assessment that it begins and ends with a high quality verifiable identity system. The only way that the technology can be widely applied to improve everyday lives if the technology has a fool-proof, secure, and quickly accessible way to determine that the user is who he or she says they are.
Unfortunately, no such system exists in the Philippines, which is why our processes are saddled by tons of actual paperwork independent (read: uncoordinated) databases. I am sure countless readers know what it is like to apply for an NBI clearance, and having someone who shares their name makes the procedure more difficult.
Santa Banana, we have a passport, a driver’s license, a voter’s ID, PhilHealth card, etc. But any of these agencies actually centralizing and synchronizing our information? Having a “National ID System” has been discussed extensively in the past, but it requires purchasing hundreds of millions worth of specialized data readers and writers—apart from being yet another plastic card in your wallet.
Architect Richelle and her team on the other hand have another idea. Our engineers and developers have successfully mapped out a unique combination of biometric and credentialing technologies that enable cost-effective digital ID issuance and management. These require no special hardware, and are ready to deploy using everyday, existing devices.
Needless to say, the applications of such a system would be a game-changer for banking and finance, government clearances and documents, law enforcement - basically any and all instances when a secure, reliable, and tamper-proof database and verification requirement is needed. During her talk, I was especially interested when Richelle framed the application with the current pandemic.
While I must confess that I am one of those ignoramuses about modern technology, just listening to Richelle opened up my vista on her technology.
“Have any of you filled up a contact-tracing form in a mall or an establishment? Did anyone check if the information you wrote was correct? Even if they did, how would they verify it?” She asked. Perhaps a better question is, where do the little slips of paper go? Are they even being read and tabulated?
Santa Banana, as she was explaining this, I found myself hoping that their DigIDtech could be implemented as soon as possible. The technology would be crucial, she mentioned, when the COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out. The government must know who has received them, and must have a way to instantly verify identities to make distribution a lot faster.
As a new year (2021) begins, I hope that Architect Richelle Singson-Michael can be given more opportunities and venues to spread the word about DigIDtech and its importance in the coming months.
Santa Banana, around 50 countries have started vaccinating their people against COVID-19, barely a year after the first alert by China signaled the start of the pandemic.
China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged, was also the first to start vaccinations over the summer without waiting for a vaccine to be formally authorized. It gave the doses to the most vulnerable segments of its population.
But, here in the Philippines, the Duterte government is still waiting for March this year for the doses that Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, and the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca are supposed to supply the country with the much-needed vaccine doses, my gulay!
Santa Banana, something must have gone wrong, when neighboring countries like Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea are already doing mass inoculation!
First, reports have it that “somebody dropped the ball” with the supply of Pfizer this month. Whoever “dropped the ball” has not been known amid conflicting reports.
Now, there’s this scandal of smuggled Sinopharm Vaccine that was used by the Presidential Security Group to vaccinate themselves, a clear violation of existing laws—using smuggled vaccines is illegal, and the Food and Drug Administration, amounting to graft and corruption. Some sectors of the military were also said to have used the Chinese vaccine. And my gulay, there is this report that some members of the Cabinet were also vaccinated.
There are questions I hesitate to ask, but I will ask them anyway. Was President Duterte aware of this since it involved the PSG? Being a lawyer himself, didn’t he know that the use of smuggled vaccines without the approval by the FDA was contrary to existing laws?
I consider all these a national tragedy, Santa Banana! At a time when we Filipinos should be getting mass inoculation, why are these things happening?
The “who” and the “how” must be answered. Who smuggled the vaccine? And how was the PSG able to get hold of it? Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante, commander of the PSG has a lot to explain. Is this another one of those things happening in this country that ends up with nothing?
And how does Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez figure in this mystery, since he is the one supposed to be on top of the situation?