Unisys helps modernize government agencies

- Wilson Lee Flores -
Can information technology revolutionize the notoriously inefficient Philippine bureaucracy and help stamp out the age-old corruption, which dates back to the Spanish colonial years? Unknown to most people, a multinational IT firm which has been in Manila since 1929 is helping modernize government agencies, hoping to drastically upgrade public services such as the issuance of birth, marriage and death certificates, Customs operations, and the issuance of driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registration.

Dr. Gabriel Francisco Leiva von Bovet, Unisys president for the Philippines and Thailand, says, "Unisys is not only the second oldest here in this country, we are also the only multinational IT company investing in the build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects of the Philippines. Why? Because we believe in the future of the Philippines; we have been doing business here since 1929. Like the National Statistics Office (NSO) project, we are committed to this 12-year project which will facilitate processing of requests for civil registry documents nationwide within 30 minutes from the current four-day processing time."

What are the prospects for IT multinationals like Unisys in the Philippine market in the next two to three years? The Peruvian executive replies: "With a continuously unstable political, economic and peace and order situation in the Philippines, it is a daunting challenge for companies to grow their business and increase profitability in the next two to three years. Unisys is not immune to this, but with our strategic repositioning as a services-driven, technology-enabled provider, we are in a better position now than ever to grow our business and help the Philippine economy."
Public sector projects
Among the successful public sector projects of Unisys which will modernize the Philippine government and its delivery of services include the World Bank-funded, $65-million National Statistics Office’s Civil Registry System Information Technology Project and the Land Transportation Office’s IT project.

Aside from the government, other clients using Unisys’ technology include Metrobank, Equitable PCI Bank, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Philippine Bank of Communications, Banco Filipino, Smart Communications and BayanTel.

What is the biggest problem of multinational IT firms in the Philippines? Leiva says, "The biggest problem is that the processes here are not being followed. Your country has good rules, but many of them are not enforced. In some cases, there are projects that will start bidding, and multinationals like Unisys would each spend at least $200,000 to $300,000 to bid, but then nothing happens. Often we wonder if we should join these bids at all. Foreign investors and multinationals will support Philippine economic development if your government will follow processes and win the confidence of the international community."

One big disappointment for Unisys and its partners like IBM and Polaroid is the lack of action on the computerization of the Commission of Elections (Comelec), which their consortium with local firm Photokina won in 1999. Leiva said this project would modernize Philippine elections and systematically register 35 million voters, thus, helping clean up the democratic electoral process.

Leiva sees many similarities in the Spanish colonial past as well as the political, social, cultural, religious and even moral problems confronting his country Peru and the Philippines. He and his French wife and their two daughters have been in the Philippines for three and a half years, and he says the Philippine economy is already recovering and that Unisys has been receiving more orders now than last year.

Leiva is also optimistic about the US economic recovery, with increasing consumer spending, although the rate of recovery may not be as high as others expect it to be. He says the recovery of the IT industry will even be faster than that of the whole Philippine economy, and that Filipinos, in general, should be more confident of and think positively about the future.
A global giant
Unisys is a global giant with annual sales of $6 billion last year, employing 39,000 people and with presence in 100 countries. With over a century of corporate history in the US, Unisys started out in Manila in 1929 under the name Burroughs and then producing adding machines. Its first agent in the Philippines then was Lester W. Woodin.

Unisys became the modern-day name of the alliance between Burroughs and Sperry, which was then the biggest-ever business merger in computing history. During its illustrious history, this company introduced to the world the first practical typewriter (Remington), the first commercial mechanical adding machine (American Anthmometer), the first gyroscope (Sperry) and the first "portable" adding machine (Burroughs) – known as the PCs of the 1920s.

Unisys was also a pioneer in the Computer Age, by engineering and developing the UNIVAC, the world’s first commercial computer. It was a large-scale, general purpose electronic computing system designed to help business management. World history actually recorded the delivery of the first UNIVAC to the US Census Bureau on June 14, 1951 as the official beginning of the world’s Computer Age. The Philippines received its first-ever UNIVAC mainframe installation in 1968.

Today, Unisys is not content to rest on the laurels of past glory and continues to be at the forefront of the technological revolution. Its roster of clients includes 41 of the world’s top 50 banks, 50 percent of the world’s leading insurance firms, over 1,500 government agencies worldwide, nine of the top 10 telecommunications firms, over 200 large newspapers and 18 of the world’s top 25 airlines.

In the US, its home-country, Unisys provides information services and technology to all 50 state governments and more than 900 local governments. Unisys helps eight out of the 10 largest states to deliver public assistance benefits. Unisys systems in 25 state criminal justice agencies help protect 55 percent of the US population. Unisys teams up with the state police to enforce the law in 11 out of the 13 largest states in America. Unisys systems also process 250 million annual income tax returns worldwide.











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