Liveable cities

Published on June 30, 2018

Have you ever been frustrated by the manual process of filing for any government permit ? You usually have to fill out multiple forms, line up in various offices or even commute from one office to another, and wait for some time.

One of the challenges we’ve faced in the Ease of Doing Business project was developing technology solutions quickly. For a variety of reasons, we couldn’t get government agencies to move fast enough. Procurement processes took too long or procedures for obtaining licenses and permits could not be simplified. In the meantime, entrepreneurs and investors suffered through the manual procedures.

We’re now attempting to change that process and radically speed things up. Last year, the National Competitiveness Council, with the support of the New Zealand Embassy and G2G (a New Zealand agency), worked with a firm called Creative HQ to scope out the problems businessmen face in applying for their licenses and permits. After a series of workshops and interviews with entrepreneurs and government officials in Manila, Cebu, and Davao, we zeroed in on three processes to fix in an effort to make doing business easier in the Philippines. We also decided to use a method called “Design Sprints” develop solutions.

Design Sprints originated at Google Ventures as a way of focusing on developing products. It has been used by technology start-ups, large corporations, and governments.

As the name suggests, a Design Sprint is run extremely fast over a short burst of time. In five days, a multidisciplinary team of seven people, assisted by facilitators, will Map, Sketch, Decide, Prototype, and Test a solution. The main purpose is develop a realistic prototype to address a particular problem.

This 5-day workshop is an intense and intensive exercise. Design Sprints use a highly-structured format for rapid prototyping through problem discovery and collaborative design and, most importantly, testing and validation with a target audience of end-users.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has now contracted Creative HQ to conduct Design Sprints to address three specific problems. Our goal is to create customer-centric solutions which can be prototyped and tested before some customers.

Design Sprint No. 1’s (July 23 – 27) goal is to develop a “wiki” on LGUs. For many entrepreneurs, finding out regulations per city or municipality can be like looking for needles in a haystack. This Sprint will create a portal containing the regulations and application processes of LGUs. As simple as that sounds, it hasn’t been done yet. Imagine the convenience that creates for businessmen when they can go through local applications online for any LGU.

Design Sprint 2’s (Sept 3 – 7) goal is to create a Philippine Business Number or PHBN. This single number will be used as a reference number for tagging all other numbers we receive from every agency we interact with. For instance, we receive different numbers from agencies like the SEC, BIR, SSS, Philhealth, Pag-IBIG, DTI, City Hall. PHBN will link these together so it becomes easy to trace records. This will, we hope, eventually remove the need for businessmen to carry so many papers to government offices to prove their existence when it comes to submitting applications. Over time, maybe government will only issue one number – a national ID for businesses.

Design Sprint 3’s (October 1 – 5) goal is to simplify the business registration or incorporation process. Today, it takes 16 steps and at least one month to incorporate a new company. The SEC’s new automated system, Corporate Registration System, can sometimes take longer according to some investors we’ve talked to. Many countries have used technology and process simplification to cut down that entire process of business registration to about an hour.

If you’d like to join Design Sprints to radically improve these processes, please don’t hesitate to send us an email.


Guillermo M. Luz ( served as Private Sector Co-Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council from 2011 to 2018.

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