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Communicating reliable information digitally in the Philippines

Reliable, genuine and well-researched content and material have become critical during the pandemic.

The threat of COVID-19 apart, countries are confronted by another serious challenge – the widespread disinformation and misinformation about the pandemic.

As the general population relies on information from a wide range of sources, it is imperative to explain information, facts and developments in simple terms that non-technical people can understand.

This is exactly what a Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII) official shared recently.

Richard Burgos, DOST-STII Dir. said during the department’s virtual flag-raising ceremony, “Due to Covid-19, we learned to adapt and to fully embrace technology so that we, as an agency involved primarily in science communication, can continue to deliver science to more people and preserve their right to be informed, to be educated, to be inspired, to be engaged and to take action.”

The DOST-STII has played a proactive role in promoting the efforts and important contributions of Filipino scientists and researchers.

They have also sought to provide clarification and explanations so that Filipinos could understand the crisis better and respond appropriately.

Some of their initiatives include:

  1. Virtual Pressers and Digital Broadcasting

Virtual pressers have become the part of new normal and a crucial tool for the department to spread up-to-date information to the public.

Since April 30, 2020, the DOST-STII has been broadcasting the weekly online news program “DOST Report” every Friday at 4 p.m. on the DOSTv Facebook page.

Through the program, DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña provides updates on the various efforts of the science department on research and development, technical services and consultancies.

The information institute organised special pressers for the launching of major programmes of DOST for repatriated overseas Filipino workers called the iFWD Program; OneStore.ph online platform with mobile app; and Handa Pilipinas, a disaster resiliency campaign.

Earlier in the years, a mobile application called “DOST: Science for the People” was launched on April 8, 2020 to provide news updates about the agency’s efforts against COVID-19, S&T innovations and development programs that address major socio-economic problems of the country.

  1. STARBOOKS: The first digital science library in a box

STARBOOKS, popularly referred to as the library-in-a-box, is an award-winning knowledge and learning resource of the Institute that provides students and teachers with greater access to the latest science, technology, and innovation (STI) information to supplement textbooks and other learning tools.

During the first semester, there were 320 STARBOOKS sites that were deployed all over the country, bringing the total to 4,800 since the program started in 2011.

Several partnerships have been formed by STARBOOKS with different organisations to promote STI. These include the Department of Education, Philippine Rice Research Institute, FlipSciene.ph, Unilab Foundation, TripplesPH, and Carl Balita Review Centre.

  1. Increasing DOST’s online presence through official Facebook pages

There has also been significant increase in visitors of two major Facebook pages of DOST.

For DOST-Philippines, its page followers increased by 195% August 2019 (7,541) to July 2020 (22,261).

For DOST-Science and Technology Information Institute, its page followers increased by 77% from August 2019 (26,300) to July 2020 (46,600).

  1. #ScienceJournoAko webinars

Since 2015, the DOST-STII visited different schools in the country to bring its #ScienceJournoAko writeshop, an advocacy program aimed at capacitating aspiring journalists and communicators to write compelling S&T stories.

Despite the prohibition in face-to-face training, the Institute brought this service digitally through a series of webinars.

The three webinars conducted by DOST-STII focused mainly on science blogging, harnessing the power of Twitter and Instagram, and popularizing science stories.

All three webinars have gathered more than 300 participants composed of senior high school and college students as well as elementary and high school teachers nationwide, and even from abroad.

  1. Gandingan Awards

The DOST: Science for the People, the broadcast platform of DOST-STII, that aired over PTV-4, recently won three recognitions from the Gandingan Awards of the College of Development Communication, University of the Philippines Los Baños:

  1. Most Development-Oriented Livelihood Program
  2. Most Development Oriented Feature Story for the episode “Bakery sa Jail” and
  3. the highest award Gandingan ng Kaunlaran: Most Development Oriented Radio/TV Station/Online Platform.

Burgos said. “The pandemic caught us by surprise but we quickly shifted to the new normal and became the channel for the world to feel the heartbeat, the vital signs of the DOST championing Science for the People. The winds of digital fate blew in our favor as our main sails, STARBOOKS, DOSTv, are digital native.”

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