The Manila Times - Are we ready for the digital future?

23 June 2018

By Al S. Vitangcol 3rd | The Manila Times

PLDT Inc., formerly known as Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, through PLDT Enterprise held a two-day Philippine Digital Convention 2018 with the main theme “Be Fearless.” I was invited to attend the exclusive plenary session on June 21 at the Marriott Grand Ballroom. The event was envisioned to present groundbreaking insights on technological breakthroughs that are shaping enterprises, society and humanity.

Their headline speaker that day was Jason Silva, the Emmy-nominated host of National Geographic’s “Brain Games.” Silva talked about exponential technologies, disruptive innovation, the future of creativity, and thinking beyond limits.

Prior to that, PLDT’s key officers – Jovy Hernandez, Vic Tria, Nico Alcoseba and Jojo Gendrano – heralded the digital future with their own exposition of available technologies and solutions provided by PLDT. Their presentations were dazzling with digital images and lighting effects, which I am sure, bedazzled their audience.

Anyway, if I have to believe their latest digital transformative technologies and solutions, as presented, then I can say that they are now at the forefront of this particular arena. Can I say that PLDT now stands for Philippine Leader in Digital Technology? Wow, they can use this as a new slogan to market their products – the Philippine Leader in Digital Technology (PLDT). Just be sure to give the credit to me.

Be fearless to embrace future technologies
Be fearless – this was emphasized throughout the plenary. It is said that the world has been defined by a few, a few who chose to be fearless. One will not succeed if one is afraid. For one to succeed, the challenge is to be fearless.

It was likewise emphasized that the world is evolving into a digital future. With this evolution we should welcome uncertainties, push boundaries to the limits, and be willing to take risks.

But who is afraid of technology? Of course, it is human nature to fear what they don’t understand. For one, the public fears electronic devices that communicate with each other without any human intervention. Would we be better off if there is no human intervention in automated processes? I believe so.

Automated election systems
Take the case of our present automated election systems (AES). This is supposedly a fully automated system. However, human intervention is interspersed within the automated processes.

And what are the results of these human interventions? One would find it hard to believe an incredible election count. Remember the twerking of the code to fix an “ñ” character? Another would be the loss of trust and credibility of the system itself. I could go on and on enumerating these disastrous effects.

What if we redesign the whole AES? Follow the fundamental principles of digital transformation. Change the way the election technology is perceived and run by incompetents. Reject the old ways of the vote counting machines and its corresponding consolidated canvassing system.

We Filipinos can design and develop our own AES. We can break our dependence on foreign AES providers. We can attain election sovereignty by escaping from the bondage of this undependable, unreliable, untrustworthy, and heavily overpriced foreign election machines.

Filipino information technology (IT) professionals have been battling for homegrown election systems. I have seen and reviewed several of these systems and a couple of them work fine. However, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) fears that this locally developed system will not live up to its purpose. Why fear? Remember, he who fears does not know.

Going back to my question – would we be better off if there will be no human intervention in automated processes? I definitely believe that an AES, without human intervention, can create a sense of reliability, accuracy and transparency.

For example, touch-screen voting machines can authenticate the voter through biometrics and then allow the casting of votes directly in the machine. At a predefined cut-off time (for example at exactly 3:00 p.m.) the voting machine will close the polls and transmit the results to a central server. The central server, upon receipt of transmissions, will automatically consolidate the votes for national positions and segregate the votes accordingly for local positions. There will be no more human intervention in between districts, municipalities and provinces. All of these can be done by a secure consolidation and segregation software.

Probably, we can tap the help of PLDT and develop an acceptable system for elections. I would be more than willing to provide and come up with a gross design for this would-be AES.

Let us be part of this technological evolution. Let us transform our election system to become more reliable and trustworthy. Let us change the way things are done for the betterment of the Filipino people.

In the end, using Jason Silva’s words, we are now the chief agents of our own evolution.