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DICT, Philippines connects remote islands with free Wi-Fi

In line with its mission to provide Internet connectivity to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in the Philippines, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is set to deploy Free Wi-Fi sites and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) facilities in remote islands in Mindanao this coming March.

This initiative is made possible through the efforts of DICT Mindanao Cluster 1 with the support of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, Philippine Coast Guard, and BARMM’s Ministry of Transportation and Communication.

This year, DICT aims to strengthen the roll-out of Free Wi-Fi sites, particularly in remote and underdeveloped areas, to provide various opportunities for Filipinos and help them better adapt to the new normal, the department’s Secretary, Gregorio B. Honasan II, noted.

According to MinDA Chairman Emmanuel Pinol, residents of the islands need to go to higher elevations to get cellphone signals from a Malaysian telecommunication facility. With the help of DICT and MinDA, the people from these areas will no longer be isolated from the rest of the country.

The islands of Taganak and Mapun in Tawi-Tawi will be provided with two VSAT facilities each and 24 other communities in the Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA) area will also get VSAT facilities. Likewise, DICT will also provide four desktop computer packages to the local government unit (LGU) of Taganak Island and four more will be given to Mapun Island LGU.

Further, 21 thin client (a computer that runs from resources stored on a central server instead of a localized hard drive) packages will be given to the Mapun National High School and Turtle Islands National High School.

The Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be providing security and facilitate the deployment of DICT teams who will install the VSAT facilities and Wi-Fi equipment to the beneficiary areas.

By the end of last year, DICT put up 4,305 live broadband sites under the Free Wi-Fi for All Programme or the FW4A. This figure is a 500% jump when compared with data logged in during the past four years under the programme, as OpenGov Asia had reported. FW4A aims to expand free internet access to public spaces, especially those located in regional areas. It tries to meet this goal through the installation of Wi-Fi sites in several key locations.

The department established over 3,000 live sites in three years starting in 2016. Currently, the total number of broadband sites launched is at 7,556 on the back of a surge of new sites put up last year. Maximum Internet service shall be ensured in key places like computer laboratories and libraries within basic education facilities. Internet service shall likewise be maintained at its maximum in main lobbies of public buildings and offices. Free Wi-Fi signages were also provided under the Free Wi-Fi Act.

FW4A has been revalidated and redesigned so that procuring network components and transacting with suppliers for materials can be more seamless. By reinventing its existing platforms, the department said it was able to maximise its budget spending. The Philippines’ overall budget for 2021 is PHP 4.5 trillion (US$ 93.6 billion). A total of PHP 1.9 billion (US$ 39.5 million) was allocated for the DICT.

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