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DICT fast-tracks free WiFi project in Philippine schools

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is speeding up the installation of free WiFi sites across educational institutions in the country, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DICT’s Secretary has issued a memorandum for the project.

Under it, the Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Team, Regional Operations Coordination Service Directors, and Regional Cluster Offices will coordinate and collaborate with the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), state universities and colleges, and other educational institutions for the installation and deployment of free WiFi.

According to a press release, the DICT team will provide technical assistance if needed.

DICT is targeting to establish 2,527 live sites in public schools and 1,804 live sites in state universities as well as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) institutions.

The Department will implement its programmes and services through the ICT literacy and Competency Bureau, Cybersecurity Bureau, and its regional offices.

To check on the updated list of free WiFi sites, the public can visit DICT’s social media pages and the official website for more information.

The current health crisis requires more innovative and flexible learning programmes, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said, following the latest results of the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) labour force survey (LFS).

The unemployment rate rose to 17.7% accounting to 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos in the labour force in April 2020. This is a record high in the unemployment rate. In January 2020, it was 5.3% while in April 2019, it was recorded at 5.1%.

Workers now need to adapt to the changes in business operations brought about by the pandemic as economic activities resume.

Online or blended learning programs will now play a key role in providing opportunities for Filipinos who will require retooling and upskilling, especially those whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.

The TESDA Online Program (TOP), launched in 2012, serves as an open educational resource to make technical education more accessible to Filipinos using information and communications technology. Currently, the TOP has 70 available online courses under 16 categories.

According to the TOP Monitoring Report, 564,828 users, 70% of whom are female, enrolled during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period. Meanwhile, 62% of active users revealed that they registered to the TOP considering the lockdown. These users expressed that they intend to learn more skills either to secure their jobs or to find new employment.

The report also identified tourism (21%), entrepreneurship (16%), 21st-century skills (14%), and ICT (10%) as the most enrolled courses in the TOP.

Courses that utilise electronic media in facilitating training, development of training curriculum (blended), and facilitating e-learning sessions were developed to address the skills needed in the education sector due to the shift to flexible learning delivery modes.

NEDA’s Acting Secretary said that digital transformation, particularly in government offices, is an important structural reform. Also, ensuring appropriate policies are in place to encourage private sector participation to improve the country’s information technology structure.

As the country transitions to the ‘new normal’ where physical contact remains restricted, it must invest in digital transformation, social services, and enable people and businesses to transact with the government safely and easily.

The challenge is how to bring down costs while increasing the quality of services, the Secretary added. The government should invest in infrastructure and create competition policies that will encourage the private sector.

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