From Where We Sit

Building the golden source of data

Third Librea Third Librea

Building the golden source of data

I’ve been working with data and data sets for most of my working life. Nothing is more difficult in this field than dealing with similar data coming from different sources managed over time by many different people.

In information systems, this challenge is dealt with by establishing golden sources or authoritative sources of data. For instance, unique “master” data such as customer data (e.g., name, gender, phone number, age, address, etc.) or product data (e.g., brand, make, model, stock-keeping unit, etc.), are stored in a single data set.

Records in this data set are added or modified only by authorized personnel to ensure data integrity. When a transaction such as a sale is made, it’s recorded by referring to the customer ID in the customer master data set and the product ID in the product master data set. There is no need to reencode all the customer or product details for each and every transaction. This helps speed up the transaction and ultimately makes customers happy.

From a management perspective, this also allows for easier and faster generation of reports relying on multiple data sets such as sales volumes of a certain product by a certain kind of customer for a specific period which managers need to perform their jobs well and to improve the conduct of their business.

The Philippine Identification System Act of 2018, passed by the legislature in May this year and now awaiting the President’s signature, intends to create a single national ID system referred to as “PhilSys” for all citizens and resident aliens of the country to facilitate government transactions.

PhilSys will be our foundational identification system—the golden source of citizen and resident alien master data—that will capture our demographic and biometric data in a secure database. It will create a unique ID number (PhilSys number or PSN) as well as a physically secure ID card (PhilID) and authenticate us for all our government transactions. It’s a long-overdue identification system that’s essential for automating and improving government services.

What does this development mean for our new passport application process, for example? The current process requires an applicant to submit a birth certificate to validate his identity and ensure that he’s a citizen of the Philippines. The application process also requires one to submit biometric information. These parts of the application process can be made obsolete by PhilSys which is already tasked to capture these data. Tighter integration of DFA with PhilSys may even allow online applications and renewals in the future.

Imagine applying for a new passport through your mobile phone by entering your PSN, taking a live picture, and scanning your fingerprint to validate your identity against PhilSys. The possibilities it brings to government services make me giddy in anticipation.

The centralization of our fundamental identification data also allows for better law enforcement. I remember a high school friend who faked his age to obtain a driver’s license (this was way before we had birth certificates on PSA security paper). Faking personal information will be made difficult by linking the Land Transportation Office’s systems to PhilSys for age authentication.

Using the PSN, the LTO systems can also be integrated with other government systems to get a picture of a person’s driving violation history across all municipalities. The LTO can use this information to determine if one’s license can be renewed. Authorized parties can even query Philippine National Police/National Bureau of Investigation databases for drug use convictions and other criminal violations.

This example, of course, is what makes privacy advocates scared of this entire endeavor. While it has a lot of potential for good, the PSN, once it’s widely used by the public and private sector to uniquely identify an individual, has the capability to unify a person’s data from various government and private databases into a data set that can be queried, profiled, used, or abused at the whim of anyone who has access to the data.

There are built-in protections in the proposed bill itself as well as in the Data Privacy Act of 2012–now coming into the awareness of our citizenry–that will and are providing the important legal and regulatory frameworks to ensure that our data will be safeguarded.

You most likely have a Facebook or a Google account and use them to log in to all sorts of online services where you possibly post private matters trustingly. Think of your PSN as your online account for government services. As long as you are a law-abiding citizen and you’re aware of and enforce your privacy rights, you have few reasons to be afraid of PhilSys.

Look at the gains and what this development can mean for the improvement of government services. I’m looking forward to the day when dealing with government agencies becomes a pleasant experience.

Third Librea is a Partner and Head of Advisory Services. He is also the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 900 staff members. To know more about us, visit us at www.grantthornton.com.ph; Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton. You may email your comments to third.librea@ph.gt.com or pagrantthornton.marketscomm@ph.gt.com.

 

As published in The Manila Times, dated 27 June 2018