The City Government of Valenzuela and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) formally forged the Scaling Innovations in Mobile Money (SIMM) Project to create an enabling environment for mobile money (m-money) services in the city to boost its expansion and adoption of its services to positively impact financial transactions.
Valenzuela City Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment, Mr. Eric G. Postel, together with USAID Philippines Mission Director Gloria G. Steele inked the Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the SIMM Project which is expected to help the local government cut administrative costs, increase transparency, reduce potential leakage of government funds and simplify doing business transactions for the citizens.
The SIMM Project is a two-year program that intends to promote global knowledge sharing through the adoption of m-money in the Philippines. For Valenzuela City, this shall target three key areas, namely; payment of government services, payroll distribution and payment of private services such as utilities. It will initially cover real property tax payments and will later include payment of community tax certificates, business permits, market fees and other local government fees.
Although technology plays an integral part on this project, Mayor WIN does not discount the value of human capital which is salient for the reforms on good governance that he advocates for. He stressed, “We employ the 3S Program here in Valenzuela City, which stands for Simple, Speed and Service. While 3S essentially revolves on enhancing our technological systems in the government, the service part which is the human part, is equally important for the developmental transformation of our city.”
Being abreast with technology has always been part of the equation in the selection of USAID’s target site for benchmarking. USAID Assistant Administrator Eric Postel praised Valenzuela City for its 15-minute turn-around service time for business licenses acquisition. “You are setting standards in the world,” he said. “There are certain cities in the US that could learn from you,” he added.
SIMM Project Chief of Party Mamerto Tangonan also shared, “USAID has worked extensively with mobile network operators Globe and Smart over the past few years and is poised to expand cooperation to deepen financial inclusion through technological innovations grounded in developmental applications. While most m-banking deployments around the world provide a new delivery channel to existing bank clients, transformative models like SIMM aspire to integrate unbanked populations into the formal financial sector.”
SIMM is under the umbrella project of Better Than Cash (BTC) Alliance, a coalition of private institutions, governments, and international organizations committed to implementing cashless payment systems to facilitate transparency in government transactions. Peru, Kenya, Colombia, and the Republic of Philippines are the first governments to make commitments to digitize their disbursements and payments to people living in poverty, thereby becoming eligible members for the alliance's technical and financial support.
Mayor WIN considers the implementation of the SIMM Project as another milestone for the city. Its business and investment platforms are continuously reaping awards and citations from numerous credible organizations, such as, the DILG, the World Bank and International Finance Corporation. Last month, it was hailed as the 2012 Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit in the Philippines under the Highly Urbanized City Category.
The city was also a choice benchmarking venue for the implementation of USAID’s Investment Enabling Environment (INVEST) project which benefits the Cities of Cagayan de Oro, Batangas and Iloilo.