Wider internet access in PH remains a problem, according to dev’t study

MANILA – The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) on Thursday urged the government to strengthen policies and infrastructure to boost internet access across the country, describing it as still non-existent.

PIDS principal researcher Jose Ramon Albert said the government’s free wifi program “is still very, very, very, very far from achieving its goal” of providing free internet access across the country.

Citing the National Information and Communications Technology 2019
Household Survey (TIC), Albert said that “some communities, especially in BARMM, have poor access to telecommunications towers, fiber optic cable and free wifi”.

The survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted.

Urban barangays, he said, own 61 percent of telecommunications towers, three times more than the 19 percent of rural barangays. Meanwhile, 95% of telecommunications towers are “privately owned”.

These barangays without towers can have access to cellular signals, but they vary: 61% of them receive a 4G signal, with a higher concentration in urban barangays at 83%, while it is at 44% in the areas rural.

“Meanwhile, 3G is still prevalent in rural areas. Only 12% of all barangays have access to free wi-fi, ”said Albert.

“Although fiber offers the highest bandwidth and reliability, deploying it is very expensive in areas with low population density. “

NUMERIC FRACTION

Albert also said that there is still a “digital divide” even in cities, as 8% of barangays in Metro Manila do not have an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Meanwhile, the main reasons why some households do not have internet are as follows:

  • high cost of internet subscription
  • high cost of equipment
  • unavailability of internet connection in the area

“Nine out of ten Filipinos have access to television which shows that television will always be king, especially for the campaign (for the next election),” said Albert.

He believes that many government policies are “pre-digital” and should be updated.

“The key political trust in ICT development should therefore be to improve the coverage and quality of connectivity and I hope this becomes a campaign issue,” said Albert.

“We should be working on improving digital literary skills. DICT can partner with other government agencies and the private sector to disseminate much more information on the importance of digitization, the internet, ICT and all these technologies, cybersecurity.

“Filipinos should also engage not only in social media, but also in e-commerce and digital finance,” he added.

The government can “create programs” that can “retrain the population, train the elderly in the use of ICTs and raise awareness of their usefulness,” he said.

It can “solve the bottlenecks” because it “will create more incentives to use more ICTs”.

“The country’s connectivity issues are primarily caused by our analog age policies and laws. Government investments in digital infrastructure must target network segments in areas where the market fails to respond, ”said Albert.

“The government should also consider investing in areas where the private sector struggles to compete and make a profit. However, the most critical role of government is to introduce and enforce policies to ensure the accessibility, affordability and quality of the Internet. “

Digital transformation in the Philippines could generate up to P5 trillion in annual economic value by 2030, according to a Google report last month, as technology helps businesses go online and grow during the pandemic .

In 2020, the internet economy in the Philippines was estimated at $ 7.5 billion, AlphaBeta economists said.

This is expected to grow by 30% per year to reach $ 28 billion by 2025, said AlphaBeta founder and CEO Fraser Thompson.

This may be due to the country’s young and tech-savvy population, Thompson said.

– With a report by Jess Fenol, ABS-CBN News

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