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DICT Expands Free Wi-Fi for All Programme in the Philippines

The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communication Technology’s (DICT) Free Wi-Fi for All Programme deployed a total of 20 new hotspots to five different locations in Batanes with four Wi-Fi access points in each location. The new sites were launched through the DICT’s Luzon Cluster 1. The locations include Batanes General Hospital, Batanes State College, Provincial Capital of Batanes, DICT Batanes Provincial Office in Basco as well as the Mahatao Town Hall.

Officials from the Province of Batanes expressed their gratitude for the initiative and its significance in bettering the lives of the Ivatans or locals. The Representative of the Lone District of Batanes said that this project will certainly have a strong impact on their healthcare workers, educators, students, entrepreneurs. They also emphasised that through the programme, the island will no longer be left behind in terms of adapting to the rise of digitalisation in the country amid the new normal.

The DICT said that while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring the country and the world to a standstill, internet connectivity keeps us going, keeps us productive, and keeps us connected. However, access to Internet connectivity remains a challenge in remote areas, particularly in the countryside. Hence, the DICT is ramping up the deployment of Free Wi-Fi sites in various locations and strengthening their partnership with local government units for the implementation of the programme in their respective localities.

The DICT aims to bolster economic, social and educational opportunities and bridge the growing digital divide in the Philippines and provide last-mile connectivity, complementing the National Broadband Programme which also serves as the agency’s key flagship programme.

DICT Assistant Secretary for Regional Operations and Countryside ICT Development also stated that the Free Wi-Fi for All Programme has intensified its efforts in enhancing internet accessibility, especially to identified geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) sites just like Batanes and across the country.

Mandated by Republic Act 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, the DICT continues to intensify its rollout of the Free Wi-Fi for All Programme to reach even the most geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) of the country.

To put things into perspective, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the country’s President, Rodrigo Duterte, signed the revised Republic Act 10929 in August 2017. Also known as the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, the move aimed to accelerate the government’s efforts in enhancing internet accessibility for Filipinos.

According to the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), the Act mandates the government, including local government units (LGUs), to provide free internet access in government offices and public places. The measure, which now mandates both national and local governments, has been seen to bolster further economic, social, and educational opportunities, and bridge the digital divide, especially amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.

With more public areas slated to have enhanced internet connectivity, the Act is expected to aid in the exchange of timely and important information during this crucial time.

To ensure the productivity of internet users riding on the free Wi-Fi access, the Act also sets the minimum internet speed per user under the National Broadband Plan, which should be at least two megabits per second (2 Mbps). DICT is the lead agency to oversee the effective and efficient implementation of the law.

As of March 30, 2021, the DICT has established 8,361 sites across the country, serving millions of Filipinos, including students, freelance workers, educators, medical front liners, uniformed personnel, and government employees.

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