Posts Tagged 'philippines'

Where do you get good news about the Philippines?

I was hanging out with a couple of Pinoy immigrants when one of them said, “Sa Pilipinas wala nito no? (This does not exist in the Philippines, right?)” Of course there are a few grains of truth to it. But what disappointed and pierced me inside was that the tone of the voice felt like the Philippines will never rise out of its ashes. It was as if life abroad is always the best and we all came from a filthy place. I also felt very useless that even though I was involved and emotionally attached in projects and movements that I believe will change the nation, all efforts are futile.

Face it. The only time when the Philippines get featured in international news networks like CNN is when: [1] a really big storm or calamity struck us, or [2] someone from the government screwed up big time. No wonder why Filipino immigrants do not see anything good happening in the Philippines.

I firmly believe that something big is on the rise in this nation. You can’t find it on mainstream media or its equivalent websites. Big things are happening locally in small communities. But where can you know these good things happening in the country? With the advent of Web2.0 and its high democratization of user contributed content small community movements are letting themselves known throughout the world. Here are some of a few sites and blogs I frequently read that makes me proud of to be a Filipino:

  • The WhyNot? Forum – inspired by TEDtalks, it is a gathering of Filipinos daring themselves to ask: Why not? Bakit hindi? Speakers share their thoughts on what we can do to put the Philippines back in the map. Their website is a bit too flashy and but you can get the latest updates and most of the videos of the last 5 forums at their Multiply page.
  • Ateneo Innovation Center – a new approach in doing research in the Philippines. Doing projects relevant to be implemented in local communities. Acting like a startup to work around the big hurdle of getting funding. The site features some of the crazy projects we are doing in my old university.
  • Kolektib – a group of diverse professionals seeking to create real products and inventions that solve’s a Filipino’s everyday problems.
  • Game Changer – Mark Ruiz’ blog about innovating and ideas that make an impact to the world.
  • Young Public Servants – a site dedicated to promoting good governance and citizenship to the youth.
  • Gawad Kalinga – a worldwide movement that seeks to provide housing and nurture communities in depressed areas.
  • AyalaTBI – a project of the Ayala group of companies to incubate technology startups based on great and innovative ideas. They host various events like the Innovation Forum, Kape@Teknolohiya (Coffee and Technology), and TechBootCamp.
  • The Bliss Project – my sister’s project to enrich the lives of a local community in my native town. I just installed the site for her but you can also look at her blog for an initial description about the project. I’m including this in the list as a proud Kuya 😛

Where do you go on the web to inspire you as a Filipino?

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The Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure

About time. Original article from Inquirer.net: CICT explores use of digital signatures.

MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) has secured a $2.3-million grant from South Korea to help establish a national public key infrastructure (PKI) standards body in the Philippines.

This PKI body will be responsible for issuing digital signatures (or digital certificates) for individual and business users transacting with government-run websites.

It’s nice to know that got some grant so that the government can do some action. Doc Mana has been ranting about creating an infrastructure a few months ago during press releases about the modernization of the national elections.

Even if we did not receive a grant, the Philippines can creatively setup an infrastructure. Given that PKI technology is not new and a lot of local companies are providing these service anyway, we can simply setup a national federation of Certification Authorities (CAs) in the Philippines issues these public keys.

Probably most of the funds of the grant will go into the pilot deployment on government organizations like the BIR (which volunteered). But hey, how about Comelec? You guys have a deadline right?

Happy 50th anniversary to DOST!

NSTW2008 banner

Every second week of July (7-11) we celebrate the National Science and Technology Week. This year, it is DOST‘s 50th anniversary so it is expected to be a very grand celebration (also probably the reason for cost-cutting the previous years :D). Too bad I won’t be able to go this year 😦

I looked at the DOST website to grabe some teaser news but the website does not seem to work. When I click on a news article, it goes back to the main page. Hey DOST web people, updates please! 🙂

Technical aspects of election computerization

I was invited (via Facebook events) to attend the first CSP Kapihan discussing the technical aspects of computerizing the Philippine elections. Dr. Pablo Manalastas and Ms.Ito Gruet gave very interesting ideas and pointed out key concepts that the Comelec missed out in the planned pilot testing in the ARMM elections.

Doc Mana stressed out that the Vendors demonstrating ballot counting equipment simply saw the digital signatures as a burden to them despite the fact that the electronic documents such as ballots or election returns from the precints have to be digitally signed according to the law. His blog discusses what does it mean for a document to be digitally signed in detail. To my law school and lawyer friends, what does the e-commerce bill and election modernization bill really mean by digitally signing?

It was very interesting to note Ms. Ito Gruet’s point on the current election process. Of the 25-40 days that consumes the canvassing of votes, only one day is spent in the precint-level tallying. After that, the generated election returns will travel to various levels of canvassing boards to declare winners for municipalities, provinces and the Philippines. The the use of digital recording equipment or optical mark readers will only improve the counting on the election return generation. Clearly the bill describing the modernization of Philippine elections failed to analyze the entire process properly and misidentified the bottlenecks. I like Ms. Ito’s group’s suggestion to deploy a simple web app that will facilitate submission of election returns. With this we can simplify the communication process and reduce the possiblity of missing election returns as it travels to various boards of canvassers.

I had a fruitful discussion with Doc Mana and Dr. Bill Torres, grandfather of the Philippine internet and president of MozCom Philippines on how to deploy the system. In the process of submitting the encoded election return, the board of election inspector will digitally sign the submission to guarantee the authenticity of the data transmitted. In terms of deployment, we can integrate the DepEd’s school computerization program since most of the precints are public schools and the officers are the teacher. When the election season is not around, the computers can be used for their teaching materials. This is an efficient way of utilizing taxpayer’s resources for IT infrastructures. For communications, we can use our mobile phones as GPRS modems to send encoded data to the central database.

But with these suggestions comes new challenges to the system. Instead of political magnates using guns, goons and gold to propel their electoral machinery, they will be commissioning hackers to send denial of service attacks to Comelec’s web server so that no-one will be able to submit results of the election retur ns. Engineers building the system must be vigilant to prevent these attacks.

Links:

Successful IT for farmers

A few days ago, the Philippine Daily Inquirer posted a report on the province of Quezon’s IT program for its farmers.  Here is an excerpt of the articles from [1]:

Quezon farmers, entrepreneurs sell more by going online
By Myrna Rodriguez-Co

MANILA, Philippines — In Quezon Province, the farmers and entrepreneurs have begun selling their produce and goods in the Internet. They do this through the province’s “E-commerce for Farmers” project.

quezon-products

The work by the Ateneo’s 4f group (I do not know who they are) is very laudable in terms of effectively using technology. For example, if you go to the product list of Quezon’s various produce, small and medium community enterprises like “Zenaida’s Store”, post their unique product. The culture of using the Internet for commerce has deeply penetrate in the minds of their constituent entrepeneurs. In terms of usability standards, the presentation of the website appealed to them. It does not employ sophisticated online merchant tools like Paypal and using credit cards for purchases. The project does not need to yet. When you perform a query for more information about an Uraro (type of Philippine cookie) supplier, you will obtain basic company contact details such as email, mobile phone number and address. Through this the testimonies of the users in the articles was that they were able to get contacts outside of their local networks. This provided an opportunity for Quezon citizens to expand their market.

Lucena Grocer

Dr. Greg Tangonan’s [2] keeps stressing that it is not important to be able to use and achieve the bleeding edge technologies. What matters more is how you engage it to the community that has the greatest need and transform it into a multi-billion dollar industry! The government can already claim success by sparking a paradigm shift in the province of Quezon about IT. Although the report also states reluctance from common Internet phobias such as online theft of money and information the momentum is there for a complete change in our method of conducting agriculture in the country.

To explore around with the security concerts reported in the article, I went to the Lucena Grocer Online. The design of the site was for government staff in Lucena to be able to purchase their groceries online. I can only speculate with the purchase process. Government staff probably requests a list of orders using their accounts and clicks on a “Purchase” button. Then at the end of the day, they will receive their groceries at the exit counter of their offices. The amount they spent on groceries are probably deducted automatically from their grocery allowance or salaries. An ad about the Lucena grocer is display in the upper-right hand corner of the Quezon products list page. This model was probably released first for internal use and then made public because of a press release. To confirm my assumptions, I created an account and bought a bottle of UFC banana ketchup for Php 12.50. Upon signing, up they only prompted me for contact information such as address, email and phone number. The system did not ask any merchant account information. Therefore the site was indeed designed for the internal use of the employees. So a good security question is why did they released it in public? An answer can be found when the system emailed my about my order of ketchup:

Hello,

Please be informed that Lucena Online Grocer is real-time online
grocery system which is under process of ownership and management
transfer.  Getting orders are on hold until further notice. Please be
also informed that we collect information from you (like your IP
address).  Thank you so much for your interest with our service.

O. C. (Lucena Grocer)

On Nov 11, 2007 2:48 AM, xxxxxxx wrote:
>
>
> Total Amount of Order: P 12.50
>  Telephone: Cellphone Number:
>
> Qty
> Brand / Description
>
> Unit Price
>
> Sub Total
>
> 1   UFC Banana Catsup 320mL.
>  12.50
>  12.50

Apparently they are pushing the web application for public use. They still have a lot to fix before going completely public. The most disturbing security hole in the merchant application is that the website does not use a secure channel for its transactions. In the URL you can see that the web page uses the standard “http” protocol and not through an SSL layer reflected by an “https” in the address bar of the browser. So to the system administrator of the Quezon government’s e-commerce office, please try to secure your web applications as soon as possible! Your citizen’s internet security concerns is apparently true and not simple common misconceptions.

[1] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/infotech/view_article.php?article_id=100125
[2] Dr. Tangonan is a Professor in the Electronics, Computer and Communications Engineering Department of Ateneo de Manila Universit