January 19, 2021

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Free Wi-Fi spots launched at state universities in the Philippines

As businesses and government organisations continue to feel the effects of strict health protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to digitalise and boost virtual connectivity is made more apparent.  The Philippine government has long realised this challenge and as a solution, it is now fortifying broadband services in a bid to accelerate its digital transformation.

To help ramp up internet connectivity in the country, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) announced that it has launched its Free Wifi for All Programme (FWAP) in state-universities located in Baguio City.  The department said that they have installed free Wi-Fi hubs at the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB) and the Benguet State University (BSU), two of the biggest state universities in the whole Cordillera region.  

The DICT added that students, faculty members and visitors in UPB were able to use the free internet hubs earlier as the installation of these hubs started before the national government placed the city under enhanced community quarantine due to the pandemic in March last year. It stated: “Students who were stranded on campus were then able to utilize the connection early on.” 

To attest to the efficiency of the free Wi-Fi hubs, students of the university alluded that the project of the DICT proved to be vital for those who rely on broadband services to keep in touch with their friends and families during the lockdown. They explained: “Right now, the free Wi-Fi service is being used by school personnel and those who visit the university for any concerns, and even our students here in Baguio who are still going here for their academic concerns.” 

In BSU, the DICT said that several Wi-Fi sites were installed at the College of Nursing and the College of Agriculture. Officials at the university lauded the initiative of the DICT and underscored the importance of free broadband services in facilitating alternative learning programmes for their students. Dr Jude Tayaben, the outgoing dean of the BSU College of Nursing, explained: “We’re planning on online and limited face-to-face [classes], and most of the resources that we have now are in need of internet connection. This is a blessing that will help our facilitators and learners.” 

The department said it is amplifying efforts to increase the number of free internet hubs in other public areas and state-owned education facilities and universities. In its statement, the DICT said they are set to put up more Wi-FI hubs at the Bokod and Buguias Campuses of BSU not just to expand the coverage of its programme but to assist in the online learning systems to be implemented by the University.  

DICT’s FWAP aims to enhance internet accessibility for the general public by providing free internet access in a host of public places. These include national and local government offices, public schools, state universities and colleges, government hospitals, rural health units, public parks, plazas and public libraries. 

The DICT is also the government agency responsible for the implementation of the National Broadband Programme or NBP. The government is at the fore of supporting the department in rolling out the NBP. As earlier reported by OpenGov Asia, this year’s budget for the programme has been increased to a total of PHP 1.9 billion (US$ 39.5 million). 

In a separate report, the DICT said it has installed 4,305 broadband spots in areas across the country. This figure has increased significantly when compared with data recorded in the last four years. For three years since 2016, the number of live sites launched was at 3,000. There are currently over 7,000 Wi-Fi sites in the country.