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Enhancing digital inclusion in Philippines through Tech4ED centers in public libraries and internet cafes

Enhancing digital inclusion in Philippines through Tech4ED centers in public libraries and internet cafes

Yesterday, a partnership was announced between the Department of Science and Technology–Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO, now the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)), and the National Library of the Philippines (NLP) to establish Tech4ED Centers in up to 1,000 public libraries nationwide. The signing of the Memorandum of Agreement was led by Blesila Velasco, Chief of the Public Libraries Division, NLP and Bettina Quimson, Deputy Executive Director for eSociety, DOST-ICT Office.

Tech4ED or the Technology for Education, Employment, Entrepreneurs, and Economic Development Project is a digital inclusion initiative, aimed at providing affordable or free-of-charge access for citizens in rural and underserved areas to various communication resources, with focus on the internet. As part of the programme, governments and other stakeholders are establishing multi-purpose community public access points. Need-based, community-responsive contents and services, mostly existing materials from various partners, are delivered through the Tech4ED platform.

The services on the platform are categorised into: eEduskills, which provides non-formal education and skills training through e-Learning on demand, eAssist which provides learning and continuous skills development opportunities for digital inclusion for special sectors such as women, People With Disabilities, senior citizens, Overseas Filipino Workers including their families and relatives, Career shifters, and teachers, eAgri for advanced farming technology for farmers and fishermen, eMarketPlace, which provides greater market reach beyond the entrepreneurs’ community and eGovServ which provides a more convenient, direct access to various government services in rural communities.

Key services under Tech4ED are eGovServ for government transactions, such as applications for birth certificate, driver’s license and clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), among others; eEduSkills for learning on demand, including the Alternative Learning System and courses under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA); and eAssist, which aims to enhance digital and financial literacy.

The objective is to  expand access to ICT services, learning resources, and opportunities for  entrepreneurship and employment.

The programme evolved from the Philippine Community eCenter Program that aimed to provide critical e-government and ICT-enabled services in communities with minimal or no access to information and government services.

Bettina Quimson said, “Tech4ED is about creating equal opportunities for everybody…If the public library has at least three computers and Internet connectivity, we will work with them immediately to set up the Tech4ED platform.”

“This project is really innovative, collaborative, relevant and citizen-centric. Every member of the community will benefit” Blesila Velasco, Chief of the Public Libraries Division, NLP.

On the same day, DICT announced the integration of the Tech4ED project among 36 internet cafes under the Internet Café Association of Davao (ICAD) to serve as cyber education hubs in the community.

Davao is the first city to pilot the integration of the Tech4ED project among the ICAD affiliated internet shops. ICAD President Alexis Bangayan has been optimistic that the partnership will open more opportunities in the community since the internet shops in the city are the “most effective way” to easily access the Tech4ED project.

In its report, “Measuring the Information Society”, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reported in 2015 that only 20% of households in the Philippines have access to Computer and only 26% of Households  have internet connection. The State of the Broadband Report in 2015 by the same organisation ranked Philippines is ranked 106th out of 191 Countries, with internet penetration rate of 39.7%. Another report in 2016 found Philippines once again had the lowest average connection speeds among surveyed countries/regions in Asia Pacific, at 4.1 Mbps.

If successfully implemented, the Tech4ED project can tackle part of the access problem. At the same time, DICT is looking to introduce a 5-year National Broadband Plan for the Philippines (NBP) to ‘provide a clear direction for the Philippine government to ensure that all Filipinos will reap the benefits of broadband, address challenges and accelerate broadband deployment.’ The newly created DICT was directed to draft the NBP by the President according to Secretary Rodolfo A. Salalima. The plan has already been submitted to the President and is expected to be approve by January 2017.

Read the press release on the tie-up between DICT and NLP to establish Tech4ED centers in public libraries here.

Read the press release on the integration of Tech4ED in Davao City’s internet cafes here

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