Gloria Arroyo’s signature goes digital…at P12M

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo’s technophilia (if that’s the right word to describe her penchant for technology) really fascinates me. Many years ago, I was glad to know that she always carried with her a PDA, with the same brand as mine. Last year, I was amazed at her passion for high technology even when bed-ridden. Also last year, while I was confined in World City Medical Center, I had my laptop with me. So there, she and I must have the same passion for technology. But unlike her, maybe, I don’t have the luxury of being whimsical and capricious. To salivate is just what I can do at the sight and imagination of cool gizmos.

No wonder if we learned that Malacañang was up to one thing: Going digital in Arroyo’s communication with some 40 Cabinet members. To be completed mid-year, thanks to the collaboration of PLDT for the physical infrastructure and Softrigger for the front-end application, the project costs P12 million. Surely, the government thinks it’s just a drop in the ocean. But it’s not a judicious way to spend public money as far as technology investment is concerned. Does the government know that there are cheaper alternatives to the PLDT-Softrigger duo?

Of course, while PLDT’s services are indispensable (but it does not mean that the telco giant is shielded from suspicion due to the price of its contract for the project), FOSS advocates would recommend that there are open-source software and open-source developers and programmers that government can tap to develop the ‘digital dashboard’. For the unaware, Softrigger is Microsoft Philippines’ Partner in Learning. If you want to know more about Softrigger, don’t go to its site (yet). It appears to be a VPN site. The company must have had a good track record with the government (e.g., it is the designer of the Windows Server-powered OTOP Philippines, a DTI project).

I wish we had a new government run by pragmatic leaders. Pragmatic leaders would easily realize how huge the P12M is. They would rather allot the money for acquisition and distribution of 600 computers (with FOSS installed in them) to technology-backward schools. That would complement the CICT’s PCs for All initiative.

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