At the heart of public service is the citizens’ interest, and with resources in short supply, organizations must reassess their efficiency and productivity. The Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), as the Asian Productivity Organization Center of Excellence on Public Sector Productivity, trains public sector agencies through the Designing Citizen-Centered Public Service Improvements (DCCPSI) Program to evaluate government service delivery, identify inefficiencies, and develop solutions to adequately address clients’ needs and expectations using the approach on Service Design.

The second batch of the DCCPSI Program was conducted on September 13-15 for Phase I and on September 20-24 for Phase II. Participating agencies included the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Energy (DOE), National Wages Productivity Commission (NWPC), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Participants could also avail of additional project incubation interventions to prepare for implementation.

First day plenary, Ms. Adona San Diego of DENR shares their agency’s critical service and the experience of citizens in service delivery.

Service delivery in the shoes of our citizens

The first phase, Citizen-Centered Service Design and Data Gathering, asks public sector agencies to consider their services from the perspective of a typical citizen. By having a picture of the client journey, agencies can empathize with the citizens on the end-to-end service experience. Mr. Peter Dan Baon, COE-PSP Program Manager, emphasizes the service design principle of human-centeredness because it gives “perspectives of the clients, their emotions and pain points when availing of the service.” As a result, agencies are able to evaluate the efficiency of their services and redesign areas for improvement according to clients’ insights.

Ms. Jodellie Pacala of DSWD leads conversation of their agency’s Client Journey Map.

To further develop a citizen-centered design, agencies supplement their ideas with local examples of design initiatives. Agencies draw inspiration from concrete examples of local government units like Valenzuela’s Paspas Permit and Pasig City’s Ugnayan sa Pasig (UsaP) as good examples of public service despite the hindrances that come with battling the pandemic. They also look at design fails as caution for what to avoid when implementing citizen-centered services. With these observations on design initiatives, they paint together a picture of what citizen-centered design should look like.

Redesigning services to improve citizen satisfaction

Once agencies understand the principles of service design and use the same in empathizing with clients’ perspectives, they engage in an ideation process to brainstorm solutions to their clients’ pain points. The Design Sprints look into many angles of the problem and explore even the most radical ideas on how the agencies might resolve them. Using tools and strategies prepared by the program, agencies develop prototypes of potential solutions. Ms. Elizabeth Alladel of DOST appreciates the ideation process as “it is very useful especially when you want to modify or develop an improvement in the existing system or operations.”

Mr. Mohammad Victor of OWWA shares their agency’s proposed approach to solving the observed problems in Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program for OFWs.

Following the development of their prototypes, agencies identify and invite users to test their solution. After days of analyzing problems and brainstorming solutions, they finally test their prototypes. Day 4 of the Design Sprints is an exciting stage for the agencies as they uncover hits and misses based on the experience and feedback of real live users. 

One of BIR’s test participants, Mr. Jalandoni, appreciates the prototype since “somehow, personnel are focused on the system because face-to-face transaction consumes time and prolongs queuing.” He adds that “it’s a big step for BIR to improve the business registration process since less stress for the frontliners, and saved time is diverted to other office work.” 

Ms. Janette Cruz of BIR instructs test users on how to go about their prototype.


Ms. Glenda Pua of NCIP demonstrates their prototype to the test users.

After their participation in the program, the agencies developed the following solutions:

  1. OWWA – OFCs (Overseas Filipino Circles) as site inspectors of Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program for OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers)
  2. NWPC – Revision of evaluation forms to cater to clients’ demands on learning sessions related to wages and productivity
  3. NEDA – Web-based self-assessment tool on completeness of project proposal documents
  4. DOST – User-friendly online submission of collaborative research proposals
  5. BIR – Web-based system on end-to-end business registration process with collaborative interface with other government agencies
  6. DOE – Online application of Notice To Proceed (NTP) for Downstream Natural Gas Facility
  7. NCIP – Integration of an information system on the NCIP official website for tracking of application requests
  8. DILG – Delegation of authority to regional offices in processing of multi-purpose vehicle requests
  9. DMB – Tracking system for client agencies to access the status of requests
  10. DENR – User-friendly online tree cutting permit application process
  11. DSWD – Accessible online application of Minors Traveling Abroad (MTA)

Efficiency of iterative design

In a span of less than two weeks, agencies understand their unique inefficiencies, brainstorm possible solutions, develop prototypes, test their solutions with real users, and redesign their processes. The principles of service design help agencies respond to challenges in government service delivery with the least amount of time and least possible use of resources. The outcome is a noticeable improvement of critical government services. Ms. Yvette Batacandolo of NEDA said it best, “we have a tendency to create programs without asking users how it will affect them.” With the help of the DCCPSI Program, agencies know better how to improve efficiency in government service delivery.

In closing, agencies are strongly encouraged to join project incubation interventions. In this phase, agencies relish opportunities for focused coaching and guided implementation from beginning till end. Ms. Lucita dela Pena of DILG shares her realization, “this is the reason why there is alpha, beta, gamma in product testing, to keep on remodeling until we reach an ideal model where issues are resolved.”

The public sector must adopt more dynamic strategies and mindsets and continue delivering effective services in the face of fiscal and regulatory constraints. This was the call of the  Conference on Public Sector Productivity, organized by the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) in partnership with the Asian Productivity Organization (APO), last August 25, 2021.

Through presentations and a panel discussion, the conference tackled alternative workplace and service delivery strategies, measurement and management of work productivity, and nurturing a productivity mindset in the new normal. 

Over 3,700 participants made up of policymakers and government officials, representatives of government enterprises, and staff of public-sector organizations and research institutions watched the livestream through Zoom, Youtube, and Facebook. Participants also included 181 international delegates from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Republic of China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

APO Secretary-General Dr. AKP Mochtan and APO Director for the Philippines, Undersecretary Jose Miguel R. De La Rosa both emphasized the need to leverage the available digital platforms because of the multifaceted impact of the pandemic Aside from highlighting productivity and innovation, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara added that public sector professionals should perform their duties to the best of their ability and go beyond the call of duty if they can. 

Dynamism, Flexibility for Service Continuity

In South Korea and Malaysia, the public sector used regulations and digitalization to ensure continued functioning despite the pandemic. 

Using public-private data for their Covid-19 Response System, the South Korean government was able to easily detect the location of the patients for effective contact tracing. Data-sharing was also used in their Mobile Vaccine Reservation in cooperation with the leading messaging service in the country, Kakao Talk, making it easier, faster, and more accurate. Through this, the citizens can also easily access information if there are leftover vaccines.

The Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) ensured productivity gains through the integration of regulatory facilitation and digitalization between public and private players. The digitalization of their procurement system diminished the use of hardcopy documents and enabled better tracking of the application process. Increased productivity and flexibility were noted because of the use of online meeting platforms as well as limitless educational possibilities with a full subscription to online platform learning. The transformation from physical seminars to online webinars boosted the number of participants as they can participate from all around the globe. Companies can receive certification from MPC faster and at a lower cost through an online self-assessment mechanism.

One of the public sector’s major stumbling blocks during a crisis is that it does not anticipate and innovate enough. The architecture of system thinking, innovation and foresight functions will enable efficient governance approaches in the new normal, according to Dr. Piret Tõnurist of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Using Anticipatory Innovation Governance, organizations can foresee various futures and explore options. The framework requires an authorizing environment with networks and partnerships, public participation, vested interests, legitimacy, evidence evaluation, and learning loops to develop policies for complex and uncertain contexts. 

The framework pushes governments to challenge the status quo by asking the following questions: Should governments rely on crises to make technology, solutions, and innovations within the public sector possible? What other processes, tools, and methods can organizations use continuously to improve its processes? What behavioral, organizational, and institutional drivers within organizations will drive innovation?

Innovation and COVID-19 Responses

Partnerships are the great enabler for the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines (OVP) pandemic response programs. By working with the private sector, they were able to expand their reach and multiply their efforts making their presence felt throughout the country. By working with local government units, the online application market service Community Mart, improved the income of market vendors and tricycle drivers while having less exposure to customers. Volunteers paved the way for the Bayanihan E-Konsulta, a free teleconsultation service that aims to help decongest hospitals in Metro Manila.

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In Makati City, the Makatizen application and card served as lifelines for residents who needed government support and emergency services. The Makatizen Card is a multipurpose card that allowed the Makati government to transfer financial assistance to its constituents, and enabled citizens to make electronic purchases. The Makatizen app offered a platform where users can access the latest announcements from the city government and offered access to the proper authorities for any emergency that requires urgent government assistance and intervention. Technology aided new possibilities in addressing the demands of governance under the new normal.Education should continue despite the challenges of internet-based/blended learning through the establishment of community learning hubs, which serves multiple school-age children, rather than trying to ensure that each household has a device or internet service.

For his closing remarks, DAP President and Chief Executive Officer, Atty. Engelbert Caronan, Jr. relayed that pushing for productivity, innovation, and foresight in the public sector is not a matter of perspective anymore, and the government’s capacity to respond effectively and efficiently to the current and emerging concerns of the people should be a given. According to him, the government must be agile  and must assume that we have to hurdle the digital divide on behalf of our clients, instead of them having to invest in additional resources to access our services. And lastly, he imparted that every organization’s quest for productivity should consider the effects their interventions have on the lives of the people they serve.