Opinion

No central database

No central database

What used to be the Department of Transportation and Communications lost one aspect of its mandate and a separate department was created, with billions of pesos in public funds allotted to maintain the new bureaucracy.

A year and a half into the worst crisis the country has faced since World War II, however, people are wondering what the Department of Information and Communications Technology is doing. There is no central database to track COVID infections, rendering the StaySafe contact tracing app useless. Shouldn’t the DICT be taking the lead at least in the technology aspect of contact tracing?

Several local government units have been forced to use their own contact tracing systems, which are not interoperable. The lack of a unified contact tracing system makes borders porous even under the strictest quarantine measures. Little wonder that the highly contagious Delta variant is now spreading rapidly across the archipelago, infecting even children, claiming lives and further derailing economic recovery.

Five months into the vaccination program, there is also no central database or a linked system to keep track of who has received one or two doses, and which vaccine brand was used. This has allowed some lowlifes to get boosters amid the tight vaccine supply.

Local government units and even hospitals accredited for COVID inoculation issue their own vaccination cards. There is no universal safety feature that will attest to the authenticity of the cards.

Little wonder then that Hong Kong has refused to recognize vaccination cards presented by Filipinos arriving in the special administrative region. In lieu of a unified vaccination card, Filipinos leaving for abroad will have to get a “yellow card” from the Bureau of Quarantine to attest that they are fully inoculated against COVID.

Obtaining the yellow card is another bureaucratic hurdle, especially for prospective migrant workers, at a time when international travel is already akin to going through an obstacle course. The DICT blames local government units for slow uploading of information for a central vaccination database. The LGUs say a common template should have been provided in the first place, both online and on paper, with the data obtained interoperable.

Thanks to Hong Kong’s rejection of the Philippine vaccination cards, and the possibility that other places might follow, the government is now scrambling to come up with an efficient data management system for the vaccination campaign. Since the DICT seems to be in over its head, designating the agency or person in charge of the overall effort would be a good start.