Philippine Community eCenter Program :: National Computer Center – Field Operations Office

  • Project Category : Telecentre Initiative of the Year

    Details of Applicant :

    Name : Cheryl Ortega
    Address : National Computer Center Building , CP Garcia Ave., U.P. Diliman
    City : Quezon
    State : National Capital Region
    Country : Philippines
    Zip Code : 1101

    Details of Project/Implementing Agency :

    Name of Organisation : National Computer Center – Field Operations Office
    Address : 3F SRT Loong Building, Veterans Avenue Extension, Tumaga
    City : Zamboanga
    State : Zamboanga del Sur
    Country : Philippine s
    Zip Code : 7000

    Name of the head of Organisation : Cheryl C. Ortega

    Website :

    Brief description of the programme/project/Initiative :

    The Philippine Community eCenter Program is a national digital inclusion program establishing Community eCenters that provide critical ICT,e-government and social services in rural municipalities with minimal or no access to information and government services. Initiated in 2007, the program, in its 1st generation (2008-2010), envisioned a Community eCenter in each of the country\’s more than 1,500 municipalities. With more than 1,400 up by 2011, a new roadmap (2011-2016) set its sights on deeper rural penetration- the barangay level-to create more self-reliant communities empowered by access to ICT-driven services. The program works to provide local content relevant to user needs, build up CeC-specific skills and competencies, and harmonize all sectors under the program. This allows CEC growth and management in a supportive environment, helping their continued relevance and sustainability.

    Why was the project started :

    The Philippine CeC Program was a response to the widening gap between urban cities and underserved rural communities in terms of access to ICT goods, vital government services, information, knowledge and opportunities for national participation and development. Furthermore, the program answered the need to unify the diverse and detached CeC-efforts of various CeC initiatives that characterized the CeC landscape in the Philippines in 2007. Its existence emanates from national policies which recognize the need to promote development and enhance productivity of communities through ICT-enabled services and facilities such as the CeC. These include the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010, the Philippine Strategic Roadmap for ICT Sector 2006-2010, and most recently, the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 and the Philippine Digital Strategy. **A municipality (Filipino: bayan; munisipalidad; Kapampangan:balen; balayan) is a local government unit in the Philippines. Municipalities are also called towns (which is actually a better translation of \”bayan\”). They are distinct from cities, which are a different category of local government unit (LGU). **A barangay (Filipino: baranggay, [baɾaŋˈɡaj]) is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward. Municipalities and cities are composed of barangays, and they may be further subdivided into smaller areas called purók (English: zone), and sitio, which is a territorial enclave inside a barangay, especially in rural areas

    Objective :

    The program’s objectives have evolved from the 1st generation vision to a fresher set of aspirations. They have, however, kept the original essence of the program’s intent and carried over the fundamental priorities to answer the continuing challenge of opening up and improving access for the people of the rural countryside. The paramount objective of the program continues to be to establish a Community eCenter in every municipality. To achieve this objective, it will establish 200 new Community eCenters for each program year. Not just CeCs in the generic sense but CeCs that are sustainable, purposive and sensitive to global ICT trends and responsive to local needs by developing CeC-specific skill competencies for CeC knowledge workers and developing local content to encourage community ownership and development. Specifically, the program will: 1. Establish and strengthen Community eCenters across the country 2. Provide and develop services & content for socio-economic development of communities 3. Ensure availability of competent CeC knowledge workers 4. Provide communities with knowledge to achieve alternative solutions to power, connectivity and technology concerns 5. Promote the value of the Philippine CeC Program to the growth of self-reliant communities towards earning the support of decision makers, leaders and stakeholders

    Target group:  Local government units in municipalities and barangays

    Please specify reach within India :  not applicable

    Please specify reach outside India : not applicable

    Date from which the project became operational: 06/01/2007

    Is the Project still operational: YES

    10 points that make the programme/project innovative?

    1.    Real convergence, both national and international in scope Successfully unifying and converging government, private sector, and international support organizations for a national program was key.  The integrative approach is not novel but succeeding with such a range and on such a scale is a rarity. Starting with unifying disparate CeC initiatives and eliminating turf issues, moving on to local and national government agencies and redrawing bureaucracy lines, then bringing in the private sector and resolving trust and partnership concerns as well as massaging the social responsibility potentials was almost epic in itself. Bringing in supportive international organizations as partners was not as hard for when they had seen the scope and the quality of synergy achieved, the challenge of winning them over was half done. Some of them didn’t have to be asked.  They wanted to be part of a good thing. It would not be wrong to say that no other national undertaking ever achieved the convergence the Philippine CeC program did. This rare convergence was one of the considerations that swayed the choice of the next 5-year host in favor of the Philippines.
    2.    Multi-stakeholder contributions pragmatic not abstract. The Philippine telecenter movement’s greatest strength lies in real multi-stakeholder participation, with players from both government and private sectors working together and major companies like Intel and Microsoft pouring in support. The partnership and participation is not limited to resource support on an overview level but is more intimate than that.  It goes down to the level of program components. This participation has been keen, showcased in the preparation of the program roadmap, the formation of the national CeC network – PhilCeCNet, and the establishment of a consortium of leading capability building institutions in the country , i.e. the Community eCenter Academy, among others.
    3.    One vision, one national identity, one definition of the CeC, national roadmaps for purpose and direction. Before the Philippine CeC Program, the CeC was an abstract concept. The program defined the concept of Community eCenters in the Philippine context. Through extensive and comprehensive consultations and workshops involving all players including beneficiaries, it shaped a national vision embodying expectations and realities, and gave the CeC the role of a catalyst for national development.   Ultimately, the program gave the CeC movement an identity which the varied CeC initiatives took as their own, while not sacrificing their individual uniqueness and specific mandates. They, and the movement they created, also gained purpose and direction laid out in two national roadmaps that ensured that no effort was dissipated in isolation or duplicated.
    4.    Taking a challenge in small doses, tackling small chunks of a large whole. More than 1,500 CeCs in as many towns is monumental; setting it all up in one fell swoop is a surefire way of falling flat on one’s face. A challenge sliced up into digestible chunks is more visible and attainable than embracing the whole overwhelming horizon all at once. In recognition of the challenge, the program was broken down into three implementation phases, and further still, into manageable components. Each component had its own set of annual targets, supporting the overall direction of the program. This approach enabled greater control over resources and more flexibility when adjustments became necessary. It was an exercise in still another form of synergy – the parts working together for the whole.
    5.    Knowledge exchange working for national consensus and stimulating unity of purpose.  The spark for the Philippine CeC Program and the ensuing Philippine Community eCenter Network was lit by a series of Knowledge Exchange Conferences (KECs) that brought together key people and leaders of various CeC initiatives in sharing CeC experiences and responses.  From the KECs sprang the common desire for commonality in purpose and a national sense of belonging to a common cause that promised strength in numbers and sharing.
    6.    Building from the bottom. The Philippine CeC Program is proud to claim its grassroots base.  Knowledge sharing is a tradition rooted in the Philippine CeC Program. The program takes its cues from grassroots feedback, learning from the ground up. Learning is collaborative, made possible through face-to-face and online channels (program portal and online community). Knowledge sharing serves to harmonize the efforts of the program, aligning management strategies with the efforts of grassroots CeC knowledge workers for a seamless approach to challenges and difficulties.
    7.    Global perspective, Filipino in spirit. While the telecentre was a global concept, the Philippine CeC Program was Filipino to the core. The program was crafted with the Filipino communities in mind. It fostered adoption of new technologies while encouraging respect for local customs and cultures. As a result, the CeCs gained acceptance within the communities they sought to serve.
    8.    Local content and services for local communities. What is close to home is close to the heart.  So it was with Philippine CeCs.  Community acceptance of the CeCs was gratifying when the program dovetailed CeC content with actual needs of communities. By pursuing the development of relevant local content, CeCs became invaluable to the communities, encouraging people to maximize their CeCs and jumpstarting local development through the showcase of local cultures, products and services.
    9.    Special program focus groups. While the program casts its net wide to bring in as many communities and people within the envelop of digital inclusion, it also prioritizes content for vulnerable groups, especially children, women and senior citizens. This endears the program to communities and cause-oriented groups with the potential for greater participation and resource-sharing. In 2011, the program, along with its partners, launched the Philippine Digital Literacy for Women Campaign which endeavored to train and make 10,000 grassroots women digitally literate. Close to 15% of the target population has been trained.
    10.    Total inclusion of all CeC models, past, present and future. The program unified a host of different initiatives, all the while retaining the inherent individuality of these initiatives. Program strategies, policies, projects and benefits are open to all existing and upcoming CeC-models. The program advocates total inclusion for all CeC-models – it did not box itself in by limiting accommodations to one particular model. In doing so, the program’s reach and influence became far-reaching and sustainable.

    List 5 achievements of the programme /project/ initiative

    1. It transformed the topography of the Philippine ICT landscape, opened digital opportunities to millions of rural residents, a capability previously available only to urban countrymen.
    2. It redefined the dynamics of the Philippine rural economy as farmers, craftsmen, traders, entrepreneurs, businessmen, and service workers went online and engaged in business, market, technology, employment, and learning exchanges, reducing travel, time, communication, and other costs.
    3. It altered traditional rural education as millions of students and teachers encumbered by little or no access to knowledge resources (minimal library and learning media resources) now accessed the wealth of learning available on the web on demand. Some CeCs are tailored to serve as eSkwela (School) Centers and prioritize education.
    4. It changed rural Filipino awareness and perception of the world and technology as rural families freely communicated with overseas working kin and strengthened the social fibers of many Filipino family relationships strained by absence and separation anxieties.
    5. It brought together under one umbrella network all individual and distinct telecenter initiatives for the first time.  It gave rise to PhilCECNet – the 500-member Philippine Community eCenter Network – which is now government’s partner in carrying out key telecenter development thrusts.  From an incongruent telecenter landscape drooping from isolation to a focused one-vision interacting telecenter network, guided by a national roadmap, bound by an industry-awarded web portal with a fast-growing online community professionally groomed by a CeC Academy – the CeC Academy – the Program rightfully became the turning point in the Philippine campaign to bridge the digital divide.

    List 5 key challenges faced while implementing the programme/project/initiative and how they were overcome?

    1. Diverse CeC initiatives. The CeC movement in the Philippines began as a diverse mix of individual initiatives. Unifying the different CeC models and their organizational mindsets, each with individual purposes and mandates, was daunting. The program addressed this challenge by engaging in persistent numerous consultations and brought together CeC leaders for them to see the value and benefits of a national community that respected individuality but promised support and sustainability under a national program and community sharing. In the end, leaders of the initiatives themselves called for a national organization and direction. Capping this effort was the creation of the Strategic Roadmap for the Philippine CeC Program which united all CeC initiatives under one national vision.
    2. CeCs and Politics.  The establishment and operation of CeCs in municipalities was hinged on active sustained support and sponsorship of municipal mayors who are local chief executives in these towns.  Providing facilities and manpower to staff the CeCs, the commitment and quality of support extended by mayors to the program was crucial, to say the least.  The program secured the commitment of more than 1,400 mayors by assiduously orienting them on the benefits of ICT to their communities, showing what the program has achieved in other similar towns, and opening up ownership of the initiative to the mayors towards achieving the resource and benefit-sharing arrangement formalized by agreements entered into for the establishment and operation of the CeCs.  The program also had to contend with local political changes every 3 years as the helm of local leadership changed hands.  In this case, the program always plainly showed itself to be apolitical and repeated the process of orientation and persuasion for newly-elected leaders until the desired results were achieved and CeC continuity assured.
    3. The Program and Politics. Teleport the setting in the municipalities to the national level and we see the program facing the challenge of bureaucracy alignments every 6 years as a new administration takes over.  In this case, it is the national program office that coped with change and worked to ensure program continuity successfully.  In the end, the program’s results was its most eloquent spokesman and it spoke loudly, in a manner of speaking, with the voices of more than 1,400 CeCs in as many towns ringing with the changes and opportunities introduced in these communities.
    4. The Resource Well. Launching and sustaining a national program on the scale of the Philippine CeC Program required government pump-priming to set the stage and generate the initial momentum.  But as things progressed, the program had to rely on local counterpart contributions, spirited advocacy by a core of champions that steadily grew in number, and concrete results that justified the program’s efforts.  The combination worked for the PhilCeC Program.  As more stakeholders joined in, pooling their resources in common effort, the program’s growth, dynamism, and spirit brought in international support organizations that augmented the resource pool and enabled the program to go beyond its initial targets.  There’s nothing that brings in resources like committed players, undeniable results, and effective advocacy.
    5. CeC sustainability.  This challenge was inevitable and continues to be a valid concern for years to come.  As the program progressed and in brought in more members from other CeC initiatives, it was clear that not all CeCs were on the same footing as far as capabilities, personnel, and resources were concerned.  As analysis of this situation continued, it became clear that much of a CeC’s health and dynamism was anchored on the quality and strength of leadership at the CeC level.  The orientation, commitment, and capabilities of CeC managers and knowledge workers often emerged as the determining factor for CeC success or failure.  This was openly made known and the support of for the establishment of the Philippine CeC Academy was a response to the need for capable and committed CeC workers.  The Academy now works to produce a CeC workforce dedicated to the cause of ICT-driven community development and equipped with the orientation and skills to effectively operate and manage their CeCs.

    List 5 points on how the programme can serve as a model that can be replicated or adapted by others?

    1. Vibrant knowledge exchange and sharing. Crossing over turf lines of diverse CeC initiatives and initiating the sharing of experiences and lessons derived from individual CeC operations laid the groundwork for the birth of the Philippine Community eCenter Network and the definition of the Philippine CeC Program.  When CeC players realized there was much to be gained from a national program and a national organization, the die was cast.  In areas where rivalry between CeC initiatives exists to the point that primacy is made an issue, governments may have to come in and point to the Philippine model as a strong case for achieving a national CeC program.
    2. Program — Local Chief Executive Partnership.  The Philippine program relies to a great extent on the support and sponsorship of local town mayors for the operation of CeCs using local government facilities and personnel.  The special bond and agreement between the program and these mayors can serve as a model for areas where local chief executives can be made entry points for CeC operations.
    3. Multi-stakeholder roles and contributions.  The Philippine CeC program spread a wide talent and experience net that brought in some of the country’s best and most qualified minds to help the program.  It brought in institutions like the Development Academy of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines, and other organizations to ensure the quality of program content and management.  It brought in grassroots experts to inculcate in the program an inherent and active appreciation of community-level needs and challenges.  It brought in global friends to keep the program attuned to global ICT trends and sensitive to global resource opportunities and networking.  From the bottom to the top, the program was infused with the help of many stakeholders that ensured its strength and relevance, and pushed the achievement of its results.
    4. Web Portal.  The program invested in the establishment and operation of a special web portal for the program and PhilCeCNet.  Given the archipelagic configuration of the country and the tremendous cost of maintaining interaction on conventional terms, the web portal now exists as the online hub for the program and PhilCeCNet.  It is a binding facility, keeping stakeholders, knowledge workers, supporters, and partners in touch with each other.  It is abuzz with information and knowledge sharing, where experiences are traded, and where achievements are highlighted.  It is the repository of all that there is to the program and PhilCeCNet.  The web portal can be a model for areas seeking to unify their telecentre initiatives using an online hub to jump-start the sharing process.
    5. Reward and Incentive System – The Annual Philippine CeC Awards is a look-forward-to event.  It is where the CeC achievers of the year are recognized and honored before a general assembly of the program’s stakeholders and partners.  CeCs in rural areas by nature physically work in isolation (though bound online to a larger support community).  The opportunity to have achievements recognized and for face-to-face interaction even once a year is a strong incentive and motivation for CeC performance.  The Philippine CeC program recognizes its top performers and uses their example as a stimulus for others to emulate.  It operates on the “If they can do it, you can” approach.  Other areas with CeCs can use the Philippine model in this regard to set the stage for greater CeC motivation and performance in their environments.

    List 5 points to elaborate on the scalability of the programme/project/initiative :

    1. From municipality to barangay. From a horizon of 1,500 municipalities to one of 42,000 barangays.  If ever there was a case for scalability, this is it.  Total coverage is the benchmark for success of the Philippine CeC Program. But while this is so, arriving at the seemingly overwhelming end point will be under a strictly managed strategy that will underscore the program’s philosophy of taking a challenge in small doses.
    2. The macro-micro approach. Before burrowing into the smaller barangay communities, the Philippine CeC program sets the stage by establishing a CeC in all municipalities. This ensures that the program has a municipality base to operate from. It also ensures that the municipality takes ownership of the barangay CeC challenge in its political area of responsibility while counting on program support for its initiatives. It brings in 1,500 potential partners to handle a scaled-up target population.
    3. The multi-phase approach. The Philippine CeC program adheres to its multi-phase approach, breaking down implementation into three program phases: Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3. This has the advantage of flexibility as targets, resources and efforts can be adjusted depending on the accomplishments of the previous program year. It also allowed the program to pace its activities while maximizing the use of its resources.
    4. Working by components. The program is further broken down into major components. These components have their own targets and planned activities, simultaneously working autonomously and in sync with each other towards the achievement of the overall objective of the program. This approach allows the program to cover more ground in a small amount of time.
    5. A Program Management Office for each island group. Through the recent years, the program has been steered by one Program Management Office.  Not anymore.  A Program Management Office has assigned for each of the 3 major island groups of the country to better oversee and coordinate the program efforts in the regions. These main regional offices serve as valuable sources of information and conduits for deployment of logistics and cascading of national policies to local communities. The Island Group Program Management Offices (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao) will provide better program focus, improve local initiative and response, and serve the program’s strategy of taking the journey not non-stop but by legs.

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