CAMALIG, ALBAY – Information and communications technology (ICT) will play a BIG role in the “new normal” that we will all embrace. This concludes the virtual meeting conducted by the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) Geomapping and Governance Unit (GGU) National Project Coordination Office (NPCO)-Project Support Office (PSO)-Regional Project Coordination Office (RPCO) on April 15, 2020. The meeting was presided by NPCO GGU Head Joseph Pacon via Cisco Webex, a videoconferencing application.

One of the highlights of the meeting was the launch of the DA-PRDP Applied Geotagging Technology-Short Message Service (SMS) or GeoSMS application, designed to trace and monitor PRDP personnel while on duty amid the threat of COVID-19. 

According to PRDP-Bicol Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Officer Engr. Philbert M. Nebres, the DA-PRDP GeoSMS App was simulated since April 16, 2020. Using this innovation, PRDP personnel particularly those who will be assigned to conduct physical validation in subproject sites to support PRDP operations will be receiving essential information including daily case reports, total confirmed cases and location of testing areas while on fieldwork.

PRDP Project Director Engr. Ariel Cayanan signed Memorandum No. 898 series of 2020 on April 22, 2020 approving the utilization of the PRDP GeoSMS app to monitor travelling PRDP staff. Geo-SMS android-app works by adding geographical identification to SMS messages’ metadata. Currently, the GGU team is collaborating with PRDP staff who will be involved in the app installation. All PRDP staff from the national to the regional levels, particularly those who are part of the skeleton workforce are required to install and use the app. Using it, they must send a text message to the official contact number administered by the Administrative Unit twice a day at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. with information about their current activity, persons they are with, and work output. The assigned Admin Unit receiving the Geo-SMS is directed to reply to the 11 a.m. text message of the concerned PRDP staff with a real-time update on COVID-19 in the latter’s current location, sourced from the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Case Tracker. The Admin Unit will email the report generated from the GeoSMS app every Friday of the week to the GGU for the post-processing of data. The GGU is then tasked to prepare an online report and analytics to be submitted to the respective Project Directors and other members of the PRDP Management.

Nebres added that to safeguard the PRDP staff’s privacy, the Admin Unit and the GGU are directed to guarantee confidentiality of all information collected, generated and processed by sharing them only with the PRDP Management members.

Another feature of the PRDP Geo-SMS is an offline map of the country, which PRDP staff can use as a navigational tool while traveling and on-site. Only Global Positioning System (GPS) and SMS load are needed to make the app work. It does not require Internet connection.

“We are looking forward na maging successful and also, na mai-mainstream ito sa regular program management offices or different agencies ng Department of Agriculture,” Nebres added. On April 12, 2020, Cayanan also released Memorandum No. 886 series of 2020 authorizing the issuance of Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) Identification Cards (IDs) for all PRDP staff, their counterparts at the local government unit (LGU) level, contractors and frontliners to ensure the continuous implementation of PRDP subprojects nationwide. Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) promulgated  Resolution No. 2000540 (Revised Interim Guidelines for Alternative Work Arrangements and Support Mechanisms for Workers in the Government During the Period of State of National Emergency Due to COVID-19 Pandemic) on May 7, 2020 to enable government agencies in fulfilling their mandate amid the COVID-19 crisis, while protecting their workforce’s health and safety. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V with reports from Engr. Philbert M. Nebres, PRDP Bicol GIS Officer)