Digitalisation the Main Driver in Philippine Tax Collection – OpenGov Asia

Taxes lies at the heart of a government’s ability to function. Being able to collect needed taxes allows the administration to be the well-oiled machine that it can serve its people. This is why digitalisation has played a pivotal part in the country’s Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) ability to collect and ensure quality service to the Filipino nation even at the height of the pandemic.
As reported, BIR’s timely digitalisation transformation (DX) programs, complemented by its growing workforce of young and skilled professionals under the current administration, enabled the agency to steadily improve its collection performance and broaden the taxpayer base in 2021.
We can attribute our improved performance to our DX programs as well as to our increasing number of young workers who are quicker and more adept at learning digital skills.
– Caesar Dulay, Commissioner, Bureau of Internal Revenue
In his report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay said 4.63 million business taxpayers were registered last year despite the pandemic. This represented a 5.14% increase from the previous year’s 4.41 million registered businesses. The BIR’s collection steadily grew from PHP 1.58 trillion (USD 29,946,940,800) in 2016, to PHP 1.78 trillion (USD 33,737,692,800) and PHP 1.96 trillion (USD 33,737,692,800) in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Dominguez congratulated Dulay and the rest of the BIR.
You have done a great job, particularly in introducing digital technology, which has really helped continue the tax collection effort, especially during the pandemic.
– Carlos Dominguez III, Secretary, Department of Finance
At the onset, the virus stifled the collecting body, making the highest numbers in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, when collections amounted to PHP 2.19 trillion (USD 41,508,734,400), before dipping to PHP 1.96 trillion (USD 41,508,734,400) at the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global outbreak in 2020. However,  these numbers climbed back to PHP 2.08 trillion (USD 39,423,820,800) in 2021, thanks mainly to digital initiatives.
With the BIR expanding the use of digital payment channels to settle tax dues, about PHP 1.75 trillion (33,169,080,000) or 84% of the PHP 2.08 trillion (USD 39,423,820,800) tax collection last year was collected electronically. The number of electronically filed tax returns of 23.78 million made up 93% of the 25.66 million filed returns in 2021. New business registrations can now be done through the BIR’s web-based portal launched on June 1, 2021.
The  BIR has also put in place its online application for tax clearance for bidding purposes and tax compliance verification certificate; the e-Personal Equity and Retirement Account System; and its eAppointment, which received around 90,000 bookings from May to December last year.
It has also improved its Electronic Filing and Payment System (eFPS), Electronic Fund Transfer Instructions System (eFTIS), and other e-payment channels to make it easier for taxpayers to pay taxes online.
Digital transformation is causing positive change to ripple through the country. The CREATE Law has been set in motion to usher in new digital technology investments in the country as reported on OpenGov Asia. The nation’s chief justice is seeking a tech-enabled justice system in the future.
The Government of Queensland aims to tap into the state’s best and brightest to help drive the state’s AgTech superhighway. The Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities stated that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) was creating an AgTech Roadmap to provide direction for AgTech development in Queensland and to accelerate the uptake of AgTech opportunities.
The Minister noted that the AgTech Roadmap is a vehicle that will enhance Queensland’s reputation as a global leader in the exciting and rapidly developing AgTech space. He added that Queenslanders are renowned as early adopters of technology and the AgTech Roadmap will not only assist the agriculture industry to keep pace with the rapid growth in technology in the sector but maximise its benefits.
This is an important opportunity for the AgTech community including industry, entrepreneurs, business, research organisations and all levels of government to have a voice in driving the strategic development of this roadmap. DAF was keen to leverage the knowledge and ideas from all stakeholders across the AgTech ecosystem.
Queensland has a rich pool of technical expertise and ideas that, combined with its reputation for innovation, will be vital to creating and optimising the AgTech Roadmap’s benefits to industry and the wider community, the Minister said. Consultation is open until the end of May and contributors are encouraged to participate via the online collaboration hub or by completing the AgTech survey.
The smart agriculture market is expected to grow from US$12.9 billion in 2021 to US$20.8 billion by 2026; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.1% during the forecast period. The smart agriculture market witnessed a decline in 2020 owing to the spread of COVID-19.
The outbreak had adversely impacted the supply chain of the smart agriculture market, as some of the prominent players are based in China and the US, and these countries were the worst affected countries in the pandemic in the first half of 2020. The market is expected to witness a U-shaped recovery in 2021 with the rising demand for equipment and automation products in various applications, such as precision farming, precision livestock, and precision aquaculture among others.
AI and data analytics are gaining popularity among farmers. With the help of AI, farmers can analyse weather conditions, temperature, water usage, soil conditions, and others. Precision agriculture uses AI to detect pests in plants and about plant nutrition. AI helps in creating seasonal forecasting models to improve agricultural accuracy and productivity. As the penetration of technology is increasing in the world, its demand in the smart agriculture market.
According to the DAF, new and emerging technologies in robotics, packaging materials, biotechnology, digital and wireless systems, weather and animal monitoring, geospatial, and precision agriculture, to name a few, are expected to enable the industry.
The DAF is helping to evaluate Queensland agriculture’s tech-readiness and the ability to cope with disruptions of all types, including natural disasters. These challenges have spurred us to focus on transforming Queensland into a world leader in adopting innovative solutions in agriculture.
It was noted that the future will be complex and unpredictable, but the opportunities to grow and prosper through the adoption of AgTech are significant. AgTech, particularly digital developments, has the potential to transform the landscape of agribusiness. Exploring Frontiers provides a snapshot of cutting-edge technologies on the horizon for agribusinesses.
The Steel and Mines Minister for Odisha, Prafulla Mallik, recently said that the state will make mining for minerals safer and more efficient by using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and the Internet of things (IoT). He noted that cutting-edge exploration technology using computer vision, sensing applications, and predictive monitoring systems enhance workers’ safety.
Speaking at an event called ‘Technological and Digital Advancements in Mining and Mineral Beneficiation’, Mallik highlighted the efficient means of extracting value from “increasingly low-grade deposits”. Harnessing technology is imperative to reducing potential harm and boosting productivity. The impact of various digital initiatives within the sector and the value they could create for the industry were assessed during the event. Participants also discussed digital innovations that have the greatest potential to create value for the mining and metals industry over the next decade.
As per an article by the government’s AI portal, there is a need for a well-developed mining and mineral beneficiation industry in the country as it provides important raw material to many sectors that are the backbone of economic development. The Odisha government has adapted to the changing technologies in mining and implemented an IT-based mineral administration through a software application called Integrated Mines and Mineral Management System (i3MS) a few years ago. An official explained that the introduction of technology in mining has gained paramount importance over the years to enhance safety, environmental awareness, and production. An industry expert noted that greater use of minerals in existing and emerging applications, coupled with new technologies, could lead to a paradigm shift in the way minerals are produced and consumed in the future.
Sensors, digital twins, drones, AI algorithms, and control systems can help mining companies reduce manual labour and errors, increase productivity, facilitate decision making, bridge gaps in team collaboration and equipment utilisation, prevent accidents, and better predict market demand. AI algorithms streamline ore fragmentation assessment, pre-and post-blast surveys, and site inspections in underground and open-pit mines using satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and 3D maps.
Government agencies and research institutes have been researching and implementing technologies in the mining sector. In March, the National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd (NMDC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur (IIT-Kharagpur) for drone-based mineral excavation. NMDC, which is the country’s biggest iron ore public sector enterprise, and IIT-Kharagpur will develop software, products, methods, and algorithms for mineral exploration using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles). They will also collaborate on capacity-building training programmes on mining technology.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the partnership makes NMDC the first central public sector enterprise (CPSE) in India to carry out drone-based geophysical observations and hyperspectral studies in mineral research. For the last 60 years, NMDC has been mining minerals like copper, rock phosphate, limestone, magnesite, diamond, and tungsten, among others from the reconnaissance G4 level to the detailed G1 level of the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources. NMDC is also the first CPSE to use space geophysics in the central Indian diamond province and the first to use the online monitoring of exploration of data on the BHUVAN platform. NMDC is increasingly relying on technological innovation and the digitalisation of its database on mineral exploration and mining.
A leading developer and operator of high-performance data centres in China announced the start of construction of its hyperscale data centre campus in Nusajaya, Johor. The development of this project is supported by the Digital Investments Office (DIO), a collaborative platform between Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).
In line with the DIO’s role to ease investors’ journey in Malaysia by combining MIDA’s global presence and MDEC’s subject matter expertise in the digital economy ecosystem, the DIO has been working closely with GDS Holdings to facilitate its Request for Information (RFI) during the planning phase of the project, as well as providing support to ensure smooth implementation of the overall project in Malaysia.
According to the CEO of MDEC, the data centre operator’s presence in Malaysia and the construction of the hyperscale data centre will have a great positive effect on the development of Malaysia’s digital economy.
He noted that the new centre signifies Malaysia’s competitive advantage in attracting data centre investments, in line with our aspirations under the Malaysia Digital initiative. It also brings with it the world-class infrastructure capabilities that will further strengthen Malaysia as the digital hub of ASEAN.
The MDEC CEO also thanked Invest Johor and the Johor State Economic Planning Division (BPENJ) for their support and assistance with this project. Building a thriving digital economy and infrastructure takes an entire nation – MDEC will continue driving more collaborations to further develop the country’s burgeoning data centre industry, he added.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO), Investment Development, MIDA, similarly commended the company’s investment in the country. She noted that data centres are a key infrastructure enabler to transform Malaysia into an advanced digital nation, paving the way for modern businesses.
She added that MIDA, through the Digital Investment Office will continue our efforts in transforming new and existing economic clusters and facilitating strategic investment partners like GDS Holdings, as digital enablers to create high-income jobs and encourage digital upskilling of the local workforce and businesses.
Meanwhile, the Menteri Besar of Johor stated that the project will catalyse Johor and Malaysia to emerge as a hub for data centres as well as stimulate the development of clusters of local public computing services companies. The data centre will also help with job creation, a key priority of the state.
The entry of the data centre operator and its hyperscale data centre to Johor is very welcomed and timely. The local government sees this as a validation of the state’s attractiveness as a top international and domestic investment destination. This, in turn, is driven by its world-class infrastructure and lifestyle offerings, as well as the state’s enduring stability. It is hoped that this will be the first of many such investments and projects here.
The Chairman and CEO of the data centre operator said that Malaysia is the ideal nation for the major step of the company’s regionalisation plan, thanks to its strategic location, world-class infrastructure, and access to high-skilled, multi-cultural and multi-lingual talent.
He noted that these factors, including Nusajaya’s proximity to Johor Bahru and Singapore, will be great for the company’s existing customers looking to expand in the region.
The ground-breaking ceremony that was held in Nusajaya, Johor on 24 April 2022 kickstarts Phase 1 of the operator’s hyperscale data centre campus, which is expected to be completed by 2024. This marks the beginning of the Shanghai-headquartered company’s long-term investment plan in Malaysia and Southeast Asia and includes the development of a potential Phase 2 of the Nusajaya data centre campus.
There are many things that make faster internet makes better. Not only can one communicate better but it would mean faster and more effective transactions in business. World-class Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) is now available in Haast, one of New Zealand’s most remote West Coast towns, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark announced recently.
A reliable, fast and secure internet connection is an important asset in the digital economy and that is why the government is boosting rural connectivity.
We extended the UFB rollout through the Provincial Growth Fund to include more rural communities in the scheme and ensure rural businesses are equipped with the tools to be more innovative and productive – which is what we need as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. We promised to continue to boost rural connectivity at the 2020 election – and we will continue delivering on that commitment.
 – David Clark, Minister, Digital Economy and Communications
He shared how the government struggled for nine long years to roll UFB outside of urban centres but that the country is on track to reach its goal of 87%  of all New Zealanders having access to UFB by the end of 2022. On the West Coast alone, the population with access to UFB has surged from 23% to 71% since 2017.
Alongside its fibre connection, Haast now has a new 4G mobile tower replacing an old 3G site. This will cover around 90 households and businesses as well as 14km of State Highway 6. Ultimately it will bring significantly improved mobile connectivity to the area.
As such, all of these connectivity boosts are going to be a great driver for business in the region. As Damien O’Connor, the Minister for Rural Communities, detailed this is a huge milestone for the Haast community and South Westland. This will greatly benefit many people and businesses, as improved connectivity is a key driver of economic growth, he added.
The nearby settlement of Hannah’s Clearing will benefit too. They received 4G coverage for mobile and broadband services and a further 4G mobile tower covering the settlements at Neil’s Beach and Jackson’s Bay will be commissioned at a later point in time.
The ongoing work will see existing cell towers upgraded and new towers built in rural areas experiencing poor performance, as well as fibre, additional VDSL coverage and other wireless technology deployed in congested areas.
Separate to the UFB rollout, by the end of 2024 around 47,000 rural households and businesses will experience faster internet speeds and better reception than they do right now courtesy of the Rural Broadband Initiative. This unlocks further opportunities for economic growth and improved services to rural communities in the digital age, as detailed by David Clark.
Digital transformation can indeed usher in positive change for the community. Faster internet should be a leg up for both businesses and families in the most remote of places such as Haast. That can certainly mean better protection in times of the virus.
A classic example here is the recent rollout of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATS). With millions of RATS to be deployed, people should be happy to receive them and protect themselves from the claws of a deadly virus. The problem is how to deploy such a huge number so everyone can have easy access. The answer, Wellington found out is in the use of the internet making ordering easy as reported on OpenGov Asia.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is of great help to man’s quest for greater innovation. However, there may not be a greater use for AI than to save lives. A new AI-based product deployed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in one of Taiwan’s major hospitals is a true lifesaver.
Taipei Veteran’s General Hospital (TVGH), one of Taiwan’s first-class medical centres and teaching hospitals, was founded years ago in 1958. TVGH and a major electronics brand have joined forces in AI-based precision medicine to create an intensive care early warning system for shock and an individualised precision cancer treatment system.
Together, the hospital-private sector collaboration announced their results in the field of AI-based precision medicine recently. They have successfully established an early warning system for shock in intensive care patients. The AI machine can predict the likelihood of shock among critically ill patients 7 hours in advance. Thus, this system will allow physicians to seize precious opportunities for saving lives.
In addition, they completed the similarity analysis of patients with rectal, gastrointestinal, and hepatobiliary cancer, which can be used to accurately predict the patient’s disease duration and treatment outcomes. This will assist physicians in clinical decision-making and provide patients with a reference. These findings should serve as a basis for creating personalised medical care, to achieve the goal of shared decision-making between physicians and patients.
TVGH stated that these were the results from the first phase of the research agreement signed with the major brand in 2019, which aimed to jointly develop AI-based precision medicine by combining medical Big Data with AI. Furthermore, TVGH officially founded a medical AI development centre in 2021, to fulfil its goal of becoming a smart hospital of the future.
As for the treatment of rectal, gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary cancer, the private sector research team used data from the TVGH Cancer Registry to compare the similarity between individual patients and historical patients based on the relationship between key patient parameters and treatment prognosis. Groups of similar patients were established, which provided more accurate and individualised predictions of disease duration and prognostic analysis of treatment outcomes.
By accessing the similarity analysis data platform in the TVGH Cancer Registry, patients can select key parameters (e.g., disease stage, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), primary site, initial treatment, tumour pathological stage, and several regional lymph node invasions) to search for similar patient groups through AI assistance. This will help them understand their treatment methods and prognosis (including recurrence and death).
Therefore, this platform can assist physicians in their clinical decision-making, while also providing patients with a reference for their treatment, thus allowing both physician and patient to jointly determine the best treatment option.
Digital innovation is definitely on the rise in Taiwan and is looking to let the latest technology change its health care system for the better. A good example is the launching of a digital system for the submission of medical device patents to the government. That should spur the process of getting new medical innovations out to the people.
In what could be a great example for other cities to emulate, Beijing is using digital sales to promote a better, more sustainable circular economy. China’s capital will offer digital vouchers worth more than 300 million yuan (USD 47 million) to spur consumption in the energy-saving sector between April and September this year.
As Beijing has been making efforts to accelerate its steps to build itself into an international consumption centre, a series of 20 new policies will be carried out this year to boost innovation and market vitality. 
– Guo Wenjie, Deputy Director, Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau 
Looking at a seamless promotion for energy-saving devices, the city is making these vouchers available online. Thus, these energy-saving vouchers, also known as coupons, are among the latest measures initiated by the bureau. Moreover, it announced that the coupons will be offered on several online shopping platforms each month between April and September. Residents of the city can avail of them online.
Initially, around 200,000 coupons worth between 50 yuan (USD 7.57) and 400 yuan (USD 60.53) each will be given to those who want to purchase energy-saving electric appliances, including TV sets, washing machines and air conditioners.
The private sector is also doing its part. For instance, one of China’s biggest e-commerce companies is one of the participants. It will cooperate with more than 70 brands – mostly electrical appliance producers-to offer more than 1,800 products online that can use the coupons for discounts or purchases. A company executive explained it is a growing trend to speed up consumption upgrades in the energy-saving sector, especially regarding the purchase of electrical appliances.
For their part, they have begun recycling outdated electrical appliances since 2016 to ensure that the huge amount of such goods which have become a burden after the end of their service lives can be treated properly. Further, they have been offering services for consumers to trade in old items for new ones when purchasing electrical appliances. The old machines will be recycled back to steel, nonferrous metals, plastics and rubber via our industrial chain, he disclosed. In addition, the company is boosting its online platform for a circular economy. Each consumer can get six coupons with a total value of 900 yuan (USD 136.19) each month on their website.
Beijing consumers are happy to buy more energy-efficient products and be part of a green economy via digital. What’s more, all these spell convenience consumers can also use the coupons at physical stores to buy certain items.
Since 2015, the Beijing municipal government has offered subsidies to local residents for energy-saving products covering 13 types of goods, led by electrical appliances, to spread the low-carbon consumption concept among the general public. In the past six years, thanks to the policy, companies participating in the programme have sold more than 11 million items and brought in revenue of 42 billion yuan (USD 6,355,643,280). Further, the city has saved 760 million kilowatt-hours and cut carbon emissions by 522,000 tons as a result of the policy, according to the government.
Truly, China is intent on making its digital adoption bear fruit. The Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is still in its trial stages but already making a dent as construction managers made payments with them recently as reported on OpenGov Asia.
Rapid progress in scientific research technology has invigorated technical communication and collaboration in scientific research between Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) Shenzhen office has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) to establish a joint laboratory over the next 5 years. It shall be utilised for research and development, as well as application of advanced semiconductors, next-generation communications and more. ASTRI will allocate RMB5 million, initiate R&D projects, and provide relevant technological advice.
This is ASTRI’s first collaboration with a university in the Greater Bay Area to manage a joint laboratory, which marks the beginning of the comprehensive collaboration in R&D projects between Hong Kong and GBA.
ASTRI and SUSTech have signed an MoU recently to establish the SUSTech School of Microelectronics – ASTRI (Shenzhen) Joint Laboratory. ASTRI shall initiate R&D projects with funding and relevant technological advice; on the other hand, SUSTech shall provide more than 2,100 feet of laboratory space, 100 patents in electronic design automation, serial high-speed electric circuit inspection facilities, close to 13,000 feet of cleanroom laboratory space, and no fewer than 5 postgraduate students to participate in any joint laboratory project.
Through these collaborative efforts, it is hoped that a positive impact will be made on nurturing of talents in scientific research, the application of technology, and subsequent translation into substantial results across Hong Kong and GBA.
Following the launch of the new joint laboratory, ASTRI will immediately begin two projects in scientific research technology in collaboration with SUSTech from April 2022. ASTRI plans to devote HKD 1.5 million of its budget to research on 5G mmWave communication systems in the field of communications, as well as integrated circuits for power management and the relevant systems.
ASTRI plans to carry out different projects to support the government of the People’s Republic of China’s vision to develop the Greater Bay Area as an international innovation hub, which is outlined in the Fourteenth Five-Year Plan. It strives to develop more R&D projects in the Greater Bay Area, working with universities and research institutes in the region to produce substantial and applicable results. At the same time, it also hopes to attract and nurture talents, as well as develop more R&D resources.
The CEO of ASTRI stated that this collaboration between ASTRI and SUSTech marks the beginning of scientific research collaboration between Hong Kong and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. There will be a focus on promoting projects in the fields of integrated circuits and communication technologies.
Through these collaborative efforts with universities and research institutes equipped with advanced technologies in the Greater Bay Area, ASTRI hopes to attract and nurture talents as we strive to become an international innovation hub.
In January 2022, OpenGov Asia reported that the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) announced several development plans that are aimed at aligning ASTRI with the vision of developing the Greater Bay Area (GBA) into an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub, as outlined in the 14th Five-Year Plan.
The Chief Executive Officer of ASTRI noted that the agency would be undertaking more R&D projects in the GBA, cooperating with local universities and research institutes, attracting and cultivating I&T talent, and expanding its R&D resources in the GBA. In addition, ASTRI is looking to attract students from renowned universities overseas to take part in its internship programme and start their careers at ASTRI.
ASTRI’s CEO stated that the agency’s R&D team is looking to further leverage the advantages of the GBA, which include its rich resources and its huge market for technology applications, as well as input from R&D professionals from the mainland and the rest of the world.
These are advantages that will enable ASTRI to make more I&T breakthroughs and have an even greater social impact while supporting the 14th Five-Year Plan and contributing to the development of Hong Kong and the country, he said.
© 2022 OpenGov Asia – CIO Network Pte Ltd.


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