GOING about our daily chores, we are constantly reminded of how technology has permeated virtually every facet of our modern life. Unless you’re living under a rock, we will somehow make use of technology from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed. And if surveys are correct, we’ve become overly dependent on technology.
For instance, a recent poll showed 84 percent of people couldn’t go a single day without their mobile device in hand. Another study revealed that Internet users spend more than two hours every day on social media and messaging services.
With the pervasive impact of technology, it is only logical that government leverage this same technology to enhance the access to, and delivery of government services to our citizens. This digital transformation is geared towards reducing the cost of government operations and improving transparency and accountability.
At the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the use of technology has made it easier for us to connect with overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in any part of the globe. And what better way to reach out to our migrant workers than through the smartphone.
One of the fastest and simplest ways of communicating and transmitting information via the mobile phone is, of course, by text message. Perhaps this explains why during one online interview, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello 3rd gave out his personal cell phone number. Many of our OFWs are now contacting him via text to voice their concerns or ask for assistance.
Those who missed out on Secretary Bello’s number can always send a text message to OWWA’s 24/7 Operations Center text line (0917-TXT-OWWA) any time of the day or night, everyday. Or call OWWA’s hotline number (+632-551-1560/+632-551-6641). In case our readers are wondering if the text line or hotline works, it does. I’ve tried it several times myself to get information on our kababayan abroad. If our OFWs can’t text or call, they can also email OWWA anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aside from text, OWWA also makes use of the most widely used social networking “app” for Filipinos – Facebook. The agency has a Facebook account, or a “fan page” as it is commonly called, where our OFWs can send messages or ask questions. OWWA’s Facebook page is also the platform for disseminating the latest programs and services of the agency for our migrant workers. It is also where our regional offices can post reminders or news items relevant to the OFWs in the area.
Also using Facebook (or more accurately, Facebook Messenger) frontline labor officials such as labor attachés, welfare officers, and administrative staff from our overseas posts, have created a group to serve as the venue for relaying and monitoring incidents, cases or requests for assistance involving our OFWs. This has enabled our officials to send texts, photos, documents or even videos in real time to speed up the delivery of crucial information.
To manage all of the information and cases being handled by the different posts and offices, OWWA created an online case tracking system so that it can track and monitor the progress of each case. This case online tracking system is accessible to authorized users here and abroad. At present, OWWA can view and update the cases through this online system via desktop PC or mobile phone. This is a big leap forward as it provides quick access to check or update the status of welfare cases, and faster coordination among our regional and overseas offices.
The online case tracking system has already proved its worth in several instances. One of them involves the request for assistance made by “Norly.” According to Norly, his wife “Rona” is a domestic worker in the Middle East who ran away because she was not being fed properly by her employer. Norly was worried sick because he lost contact with Rona and he wanted to know what happened to her.
Through our online case tracking system, the case officers learned that Rona was already in the custody of our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)’s Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Resource Center (MWOFRC), or the female shelter. A quick text message to the overseas post, and the case officer was told that Rona was to be repatriated the following week. Compared to the back-and-forth memos of the past, a simple log-in can instantly produce the information that our client-OFWs need.
The newest app launched by the agency is the “OWWA Member Mobile App,” which can now be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store to any Android smartphone. With this new app, OWWA members can view and verify their membership status, their membership payment details and history, their profiles, the programs and services that they can avail of and even apply online.
Unlike before when OWWA members with expiring or expired memberships had to personally go to the POLO or to a bank to renew their membership, our OFWs can now renew and pay their membership fees online from anywhere in the world. And even if they have no load for a text or call, so long as they have internet access, our OFWs can use the “OWWA Member Mobile App” to send a message or to ask for help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Of course, no technology is perfect. This is why even as we roll out these programs and applications, OWWA is constantly updating and tweaking our information systems so that we can respond to and address the concerns of our OFWs faster and better.