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Why the SSS Self-Service Information Terminal sucks

Earlier, my wife and I went to the SSS Pasig Branch to consolidate her contributions for her maternity benefits, and there we witnessed firsthand how sucky the “Self-Service Information Terminal” that are installed inside their branch.

How it’s supposed to work

There are a total of three machines inside the branch and each machine is equipped with two SSS ID sensors. One sensor can only read the old SSS ID, while the other can only read new cards called SSS Unified ID.

On the latter, users would have to place the card on top of the glass covering the sensor. On the other hand, the Old SSS ID sensor only requires the user to place the ID where the sensor’s laser can hit it.

In a perfect world, users would only have to place their ID on the designated sensor and the machine SHOULD pick it up effortlessly. After that, users would be asked to place their right thumb and left index finger on the machine’s fingerprint sensor to validate the identity of the user.

SSS Self Service Machines in real life

In reality though, the machines are far from perfect. During our 3-hour stay inside the branch, I observed that almost 90% of the members who tried the machine were not able to get past the first step (ID scanning stage) even after multiple attempts (which are usually not less than 7-8 times).

As expected, this resulted to long queues and confusion/dismay from the members.

What causes the issue?

The long queues on the service counters allowed me to observe some of the things that can be done to improve the process, and here are the three major lapses that I’ve observed.


1. Poor on-screen instructions – The moment a member arrives at the machine, he/she is greeted with three options, one for old SSS ID card holders, another for SSS Unified ID card holders and another is called “Web” which will direct them to the SSS website.

Excluding the latter, the two options will direct users to an on-screen “guide” that will show them how to place the card properly in order for the sensor to detect/scan it. This is where all hell breaks loose.

There were no clear instructions on how to place the card, just a lame drawing on the machine’s screen that shows the proper orientation of the card and that’s it. As simple as this process may sound to most of us, the agency CANNOT and SHOULD NOT expect every member to be knowledgeable enough to follow this. As such, a simple cardboard instruction near the machine or a poster on the wall would’ve really gone a long way.

2. Clunky sensors – Another aspect of the machine that contributed to the dismal process is its built-in sensors. Both sensors (for old SSS Card and UMID) were a hit or miss in terms of properly scanning the member’s ID and, sadly, most of the time it’s the latter.

Whether this is due to normal wear and tear, or the sensors are really clunky to begin with, I feel that the agency really needs to UPGRADE the sensors pronto, or better yet look for a better machine to replace these seemingly-prehistoric ones.

3. Outdated GUI – First off, I’d like to commend SSS for installing a touchscreen panel on their self-service information terminal. This made the process easier compared to having to fiddle with physical buttons.

Having a touchscreen panel, however, is useless if the User Interface is not optimized for it. The UI doesn’t support swipe gestures and two or more touch inputs which are important for zooming in/out of the information shown on the screen.

End of Rant

I’m pretty sure that the inconvenience that my wife and I have encountered with the SSS Self-Service Information Terminal is nothing compared to other more pressing concerns that our government has to address. But that doesn’t mean that the agency shouldn’t fix the problem, after all we are all paying our taxes for this exact reason, right?

This article was written by Ronnie Bulaong, a special features contributor and correspondent for YugaTech. Follow him on Twitter @turonbulaong.

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14 Responses

  1. sham says:

    So you post your rant here in a tech blog instead of your facebook or twitter account??

  2. Anony says:

    You could’ve at least tried to make the article look more professional. It looks like a rant.

  3. Justin says:

    What do you expect? Gubyirno yan, brad!

    Each of those machines most likely cost the tax-payers millions of pesos, when the actual hardware and software in it is only worth a hundred thousand or so.

  4. spiderman says:

    Hmmm, hindi naman kaya kinopya lang ang article na ‘to mula sa rant galing sa ibang sites. Knowing yugatech, the king of plagiarism, who knows…

  5. Carl says:

    It’s not pure rant, the author gives his opinion/ideas on how to improve the system.

  6. Hen-Sheen says:

    The Philippine Government should go back to college (at least some of them finish college)… Ever heard of Quality Control & Product Testing? I guess those terms I’ve used are deemed too costly…… When I bought my Universal Adapter @ Octagon for P595 (Originally P695), guess what… I did the product testing for the sales clerk! Upside-Down-Topsy-Turvy (UDTT)scenario! If I was the sales clerk, I would have learned & benefited from the sale I’ve just made & possibly saved my job in the process. The taxpayers money is not utilized properly and no budget allocation for any of these government operated machines. A Federal Government would have yielded better results & minimal errors (but that’s debatable)… The IT personnel who handled these costly machines should have documented and complied a manual that will be given to the government & for the people to understand, but that’s not happening anytime soon…

  7. Ronnie Bulaong daw?? says:


    isip ka din po muna di nmn lahat ng tao techie eh….

    wala na ata maisip na article eh kya khit basura pinopost dito..

  8. REconnect says:

    “Yugatech: Philippine Technology News and Reviews.”

    I think this blog post is 100% related to technology don’t you think? otherwise, don’t waste your time going here. Or just like what the author did, he gave some good suggestions on how to improve our goverment’s tech system.

  9. Ed says:

    “Having a touchscreen panel, however, is useless if the User Interface is not optimized for it. The UI doesn’t support swipe gestures and two or more touch inputs which are important for zooming in/out of the information shown on the screen.”

    just my observation:
    -most of the current card and fingerprint readers do not have drivers for android and ios; so touch swiping is out of the question. Maybe the latest one does; but not the ones released here.

    – most of the sad scanners/readers are incompatible with newer versions of windows. I work with a company that makes systems with these finger and id card readers and we are only starting to use windows 7 last year (2013). So Windows 8.1 is still far off.

    – the information and data on the screen should be readable without zooming in or out. Else they should just show zoom in/out buttons. Maybe the original plan was to use a bigger screen and due to budget constraints; they opted to use cheaper but small screens.

    – Having various of these devices (manufactured by different companies with their own SDKs) work together without any glitches is a very hard task. It requires months to even a year of bug fixing to get it to work even properly.

  10. Simonella says:

    Calling COA. If this system was acquired using government funds, then selection of its provider most likely was subjected to public bidding under the procurement law. Since the performance of the system is crappy then either the provider was incompetent or SSS shouldn’t have accepted delivery, or both. Whatever the case some investigation should be done to determine whether people’s money was spent wisely or misappropriated for kickbacks or to favor unsuitable suppliers.

  11. paolo says:

    Let’s accept the fact that because of the laws and policies concerning government procurement processes, the government is legally bound to acquire new stuff that is the CHEAPEST “commercially available.” The only thing is that Cheapest = Crappy Quality. Don’t feed me exceptions to the rule, that IS the rule.

    The only thing that will save us and better this SSS information terminal (and similar infrastructure) is for the government to acquire machines which are more upfront expensive but will LAST LONGER AND WORK LONGER WITH LESS MAINTENANCE.

    It will also help the taxpayer because agencies get kickbacks from contracts ordering ‘Repair and Maintenance’ of such bits like the information termnial.

  12. heck says:

    It is a rant post. Nakasasulat sa end of the article. I just wish to add some suggestions. A few ones only, yung sa tingin ko pinaka-basic:

    – they need to use a language that will be understood by most users. Sa kasong ito, Filipino.
    – they need to post a person who will assist customers in using the machines (sa mga hinde techie, hirap bumasa, takot gumamit ng machine). Kailangan to lalo na at nasa pilot stage pa lang sila.
    – they need to use visuals (nasabi na ito, dagdag explanation lang). People come in different forms and profiles. Me kinesthetic, auditory at, sa napaka-daming tao visual.

    Yun lang po :)

  13. Samontina says:

    let’s give the benefit of the doubt. having an application solutions is no walk in the park for these people. to develop this application requires continuous debugging & improvements even when on production stage already. heck, even microsoft’s windows OS continues to be upgraded to keep pace with technology.
    i agree with what @paolo said that with government procurement of goods, it is always the cheapest that comes out the winner. maybe it is time to have a second look at this policy because as with the saying goes “you get what you pay for”, we don’t get the best quality of service because the winning contractor is not the best of the crop but the cheapest.
    lastly, if those people whose got bright ideas on how to improve government service delivery, who keeps on posting on various forum/blogs, will apply in government to work instead of just having a rant on how to improve it, then maybe our government would be better.

    • anon says:

      well said. put your money where your mouth is as they say.

      all these rants and blogs, hoping SOMEONE might read it and take action. go and be part of the solution.

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