There is something about a building or an office that screams “GOVERNMENT OFFICE.” I think you would know what I mean by that.
If there is a physical location for government offices, then there should also be a place for them in cyberspace. Individuals and companies are not the only ones on the web. Governments too. Since the internet is such a good medium for information dissemination, governments (and their agencies) realized that they could reach a whole lot more of their constituents rather than PSAs over trimedia outlets. Their websites can include news items, a list of services offered, the agency’s profile, projects, programs, and so much more.
Agencies like the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the National Statistics Office (NSO) have their procedures for their services posted on their websites. Even more, the DFA and the NSO is offering online applications for documents. One doesn’t need to wait a whole day in line just for a passport application. Your birth certificate is just one click away from your doorstep.
It’s kind of refreshing to see that the government is taking steps to be more efficient in information dissemination and delivery of services. It’s good that they saw the potential of the internet and worked it to their advantage.
While I can see that there is a definite level-up in many “.gov.ph” sites, I think that there is a still lot more work to be done. Going back to my first statement, there is just something about a building that makes you identify it as that of the state. Aside from the large Ionic or Corinthian pillars, there is that smell (I tell you, my nose can smell government a mile away) of history or old-ness, if you may. Likewise, I can easily identify if a website is a “.gov.ph.” Well, duh, there is that “.gov.ph” tag and the headers, but there is something about the colors (or the lack thereof) and the layout that is particularly distinct.
A lot of “.gov.ph” websites that I’ve visited is less than satisfactory. Some have layouts that looked as disorganized as my desk. Some have cluttered the page with news items, announcements, and links that would have been so informative had they been organized better. You would already get a sense of information overload without even clicking on one news items. And then there are those that have no content at all. While others are disgustingly obese with information, others have a skeleton for a website. Some just have no aesthetic appeal whatsoever. In the internet, appearances are everything. It’s so easy to click the X button on top of the tab. Somehow, these websites affect the credibility of the information contained in them and that of the agency itself. When I see a government website that makes my head hurt rather than enlightening it, I tend to think “what did you expect? It’s government. I’d wait in line for several hours anyway.” Then I hit “Close.”
So what, then? I think that how a website looks reflects the the personality of an individual or the values of an organization (not to mention, their aesthetics). With regard to government websites, some give me the impression of inefficiency. Yes, there are more important work to do rather than maintaning the website. Yes, we would have to deal with these agencies whether we like it or not. Then again, if these agencies have it in their mandate to serve the people, they should fulfill it to the fullest. Public
service is not just working in the frontlines and in offices. Public service is to keep people informed, to provide services in a way that will not inconvenience Filipino citizens, and to be as efficient as the bureaucracy can permit.
I am not asking for a site that runs on Flash. I am not asking for a site that has “palabok.” I am simply asking for a clean page that provides me with the information and the services I need.
Even if it’s “just” a website, government agencies should realize that it is already part of their service to maintain a site that can provide adequate information. Private companies have realized long ago that their official websites already makes or breaks them to their customers and clients. More than being a portal for information, websites can enhance an organization’s credibility. The quality of information and the look of professionalism that a website sports is more than enough evidence to say that this company means business.
So if the government means service, then its cyberspace counterpart should also mean service.