Journey from Batac to Subic: How one person works to make a difference

eric-august-7-2009-008Eric Nagal is an interesting guy. I am working with him this week on the eGovernance for Municipal Development (eGov4MD) project, in the Municipality of Subic, in the Philippines. Eric is the designated IT Officer for the Municipality of Batac, 15 hours (give or take) away by public bus. I’m here as a Volunteer Advisor with the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO).

Eric’s job in Batac is to look after all the computer hardware, software, and major applications for the 200+ municipal employees of Batac. He is also developer and administrator of the Batac municipality website.  He does all this as the sole IT employee of Batac municipality! He’s travelled to Subic to help them their eGov4MD efforts. The eGov4MD project is an international collaborative; orchestrated by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), and brings together various local (Filipino) organizations and municipalities, as well as foreign nonprofits (e.g., CESO).

On his bus journey to Subic from Batac, Eric stopped off in Urdaneta for an evening of informal training of, and conversation with, his eGov4MD peers.  They are all members of an eGov community of practice group that shares their experiences and knowledge among themselves, and to the benefit of the municipalities they serve.

In Subic the next day, Eric began helping that municipality prepare for implementation of a new e-property taxation system, re-configure a recently installed e-business licensing and permitting system so that it will be blazingly fast, and train Subic IT staff in website development using Joomla; a free, open source, content management system that allows users to build Web sites and online applications.  The picture below is Eric along with Lorie Egenias, designated IT Officer for Subic, and someone else who knows how to make a difference!


Facing adversity

Last night, I sat down with Eric over a few beers at the By The Sea Resort‘s open-air restaurant, by the sea!  We spent several hours talking about eGov in the Philippines; and pulling out his laptop, we looked at some of the web sites he’s developed, and others he’s fond of. It’s obvious Eric is passionate about his work, and combines that passion with a great sense of humour; both of which are in demand given the challenges he faces; including:

  • Why share? This question is not uncommon; the idea of openly and transparently sharing information, experiences, and knowledge is somewhat counter-culture (both here in Philippines and across much of the world); and yet sharing his experiences and knowledge is exactly what Eric is doing by being here in Subic this week.
  • Free riders. With every group there are those look for ways to positively contribute and those who don’t (the free riders). How to increase that numbers of those who positively contribute?
  • Infrastructure. The starting position for most of the municipalities planning to implement eGov4MD is little or suitable technology infrastructure. Maybe more important though is that there is little or no organizational structure in place to guide and support the IT systems development and maintenance efforts.
  • Open source freedom with a price. Like any initiative that makes extensive use of free, open source applications and software, eGov4MD benefits from reduced up-front costs and autonomy (from software vendors); yet longer-term benefits require increasing staff development and effective participation in the broader open source community.

As if this wasn’t enough, Eric tells me he is also concerned for his family back in Batac. It’s rainy season in the Philippines, and recent monsoon flooding is directly impacting his family.

Looking ahead

One of the videos Eric shared with me last night was this one. It’s a promo videoke for his home town Batac (known for its festivals), and as he likes it (it covers the Batac theme song and dance) he included on the Batac website home page, so I thought I’d share it with you:


Friday, Eric leaves for home. First though is another stopover in Urdaneta for a re-convening of the conversation with some eGov peers. By Saturday afternoon he’ll be back in Batac. I suggest he’ll have done a good week’s work!

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