Filtered By: Scitech

BIR's online system is incompatible with half of all PHL computers, data shows

The Bureau of Internal Revenue's (BIR's) electronic system isn't as democratically accessible as BIR Commissioner Kim Henares thinks it is, independent data showed.
As the April 15 deadline for income tax filings draws near, the BIR's Electronic Filing and Payment System (eFPS) and Electronic BIR Forms (eBIRForms)—meant to facilitate the bureau's transition to a paperless tax system—were met with heavy criticism, notably from Sen. Bam Aquino and investigative journalist Raissa Robles.
Computer programmers and IT experts have also joined the fray, citing the system's numerous technical shortcomings.
"I think I'm more fortunate than others in that I know what is happening from an IT standpoint. (Pero) kung ako nagka-issues na, I can't imagine the hassle that non-techies go through," says Ian Tabora, a self-employed business owner and former IT faculty at De La Salle University.
Among other stringent requirements, the eBIRForms program can only be run on a computer running Windows Vista, Windows 7, or higher. Other operating systems, particularly the older Windows XP or rival Mac OS are unsupported.

'Let them go to the Internet cafe'
In a TV interview, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares brushed off compatibility complaints, saying that the majority of computers run Windows anyway.
"Pumunta na lang siguro sila sa Internet cafe. Kasi ang karamihan (ng tao) ay may Windows," she said.

Half of PHL computers are incompatible with BIR program
However, Henares' statement is belied by current data from independent research firm StatCounter, which regularly publishes web browsing data from some 15 billion pageviews per month from across 3 million websites around the world.
According to the analytics firm, as of March 2015, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 combined account for barely 53% of all operating systems—desktop as well as mobile—in use in the Philippines.
In other words, almost half of all computers in the country are incompatible with the eBIRForms program.


Source: StatCounter Global Stats - OS Market Share

Android OS, a mobile platform, accounts for close to 20%, a sizable chunk of users. This reflects the rise in mobile usage in recent years, thanks to the ubiquity of cheap Android tablets and phones that have made mobile access a more economical alternative to desktop access for many users.

Online access, particularly in developing areas, is achieved primarily through a mobile device—something that the BIR might well be advised to take notice of.

Indeed, mobile online usage has been significant enough for local telcos and banks to sit up and take notice: the Philippines is home to dozens of full-service mobile payment and banking systems and apps.

Cybersecurity risks of public computers

Compatibility issues notwithstanding, the mere prospect of downloading the eBIRForms program via third-party computer is problematic in itself.
"Even if users can download the software (in an Internet cafe), does it necessarily follow that they have computers at home? And if they do, can the BIR guarantee that the program will work on the users' system?" Manila-based software developer Paolo Barazon said.
Filling out BIR forms inside an Internet cafe is a cybersecurity risk for both the user and the cafe owner.

On the one hand, it leaves the user vulnerable to prying eyes and potential spyware on a publicly-accessible terminal. On the other hand, cafe owners are also unlikely to allow customers to install programs on their computers for similar cybersecurity reasons.
"Sino bang Internet cafe owner ang papayag na their customers will install software without their knowledge? That's a valid concern that Henares can't simply brush off," Barazon pointed out.
BIR design is stuck in the 1990's
Barazon also criticized the eFPS system, which carries a label that it is "Best viewed with Internet Explorer versions 6 and up; or Mozilla Firefox 2 and up; or with Netscape versions 6 and up; and with 800x600 or higher resolution."

"(The label) assumes Windows-only users, but websites are supposed to work with browsers, not with OSes. It also assumes specific versions of browsers, all of which are old or obsolete versions," he said.
Many keen observers have pointed out just how laughable the label is, given that Netscape—though a popular browser in 1990's—no longer even exists: it was discontinued over half a decade ago, in 2008.
"Wake up, BIR, you're no longer in the 1990's," Barazon said.
StatCounter data also belied the BIR's choice of browser: as of March 2015, 62.54% of web surfers in the Philippines used Google Chrome. 
The number of users of Internet Explorer? A paltry 3.13%.


Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Browser Market Share


Platform agnosticism and Tim Berners-Lee
The concept of "platform agnosticism" is an old one—and, in fact, one espoused by none other than the very man who invented the World Wide Web itself.
"Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network," Tim Berners-Lee told the MIT Technology Review somewhat prophetically in 1996.
Indeed, since then, the very backbone of the World Wide Web has been redesigned with the aim of displaying graphics and information clearly on almost any computer platform.
One can only hope that the BIR takes a similarly progressive stance. — NB, GMA News