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The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Luzon Cluster 3, through the Free Wi-Fi for All Programme (FW4A), has recently completed setting up 80 newly activated free Internet sites within 20 locations in the island provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro.

According to a press release, the DICT Secretary, Gregorio B. Honasan II, noted, “It is this administration’s strong stand that Internet is a right. Access to data is a right – much like food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare, among others. Thus, it is the duty of the government to ensure that this right is afforded to every Filipino citizen—that every Filipino is connected to the Internet, regardless of where they are in the Philippines,”

Institutionalised through the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, DICT has been fast-tracking the rollout of the programme in light of the pressing connectivity demands of the new normal. The launching of the Internet hotspots in Mindoro is expected to enhance accessibility to the Internet and to bring digital opportunities closer to the residents.

“I hope that this will be the first step in forging a productive partnership as Wi-Fi connectivity is now considered as an essential need, more so in this challenging time of the pandemic crisis when quarantine measures compel our students to study through online learning and employees to work from home,” said Mayor Arnan C. Panaligan of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.

In reopening the economy and when transacting business online becomes a compelling necessity, the Free Wi-Fi for All Program is an important step in the right direction in ensuring the people’s access to Wi-Fi connectivity, he added.

The press release said that, presently, the modern Filipino’s life revolves around technology, however, due to poverty and challenging circumstances, many citizens are deprived of the opportunities provided by new technology. Thus, it is part of the mandate of the DICT to bring technology closer to the public. The Free Wi-Fi for All Programme allows people, particularly students, to access the Internet and limitless digital opportunities.

Government representatives and partners from the province of Occidental Mindoro also noted how the programme is a welcome development for the community, especially for the education sector. “This programme will be helpful for our citizens, particularly our students with little or no access to Internet services. Through this program, we expect that their educational burdens will be eased. Again, we are thankful for the support.”

Further, free Internet connectivity and access are now available at the Relief Operations Centre of Cagayan under the same programme. The centre is located at the Capitol Compound, Tuguegarao City.

The free Wi-Fi aims to provide support to the provincial local government unit of Cagayan in information dissemination and coordination as they provide relief assistance to families affected by Typhoon Ulysses and the subsequent flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.

More than 100 families have already benefitted from the free Wi-Fi and charging services since 14 November; citizens have to follow standard health protocols. 60 government sites are connected to the Regional Government Network (GovNet) in Tuguegarao City and DICT is taking other initiatives to boost connectivity services in affected areas including the deployment of a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) flyaway antenna equipment.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Cagayan Provincial Office is providing free Wi-Fi access and free cellphone charging services to citizens affected by the recent flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.

According to a press release, the government has been offering the services to the public since 14 November. They are available at DICT Cagayan Provincial Office located at 2 Bagay Road, San Gabriel Village, Tuguegarao City. The department has put in place measures to observe health protocols. Nonetheless, citizens are still advised to observe physical distancing to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 amid the calamity.

The DICT will be deploying additional assistance in communication and emergency response to the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela through the Free Wi-Fi for All Programme and the Government Emergency Communications System, the DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

Cagayan has already been placed under a state of calamity due to devastating floods which also caused a power outage. Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba made the recommendation to declare a state of calamity on 13 November and was approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in a special session.

DICT has been ramping up the restoration and deployment of free Wi-Fi in Typhoon hit and flooded areas in the Philippines to aid the national government and local government in disaster response operations and to help citizens communicate with their families and loved ones.

Further, DICT installed free Wi-Fi and the Government Emergency Communications System on the island of Burdeos in Quezon Province as a part of the department’s disaster response initiatives in areas ravaged by Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.

Through the request of Governor Danny Suarez, DICT installed a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite in Burdeos Municipal Hall to provide Internet connectivity, which has helped citizens in Burdeos contact their families and loved ones online for free. The provisioned Internet connectivity also allowed Governor Suarez to talk to Burdeos Mayor Freddie Aman to discuss the situation in the island. The equipment used was transported to Burdeos with the help of the Philippine Air Force.

In the last two weeks, DICT was able to restore and provide additional free Wi-Fi in typhoon-hit and flooded areas across the country, including Catanduanes, Albay, Cagayan, and Quezon, among others.

Gregorio B. Honasan II noted that communication is one of the most important things during a disaster. Communication does not just allow citizens to contact their families and loved ones to inform them of their situation but also helps authorities and emergency responders in data gathering and site assessment, which will then provide the needed basis for effective decision making and execution.

“Recognising this, the DICT continues to provide assistance to areas severely affected by the recent calamities to help both the national and local government units in disaster response,” he added.

As OpenGov Asia reported earlier, countries are exposed at some point to a variety of threats like natural or manmade disasters, cyber threats, and crime, etc. The current pandemic has not only increased our realisation of the risks but has also generated a sense of urgency for individuals and organisations to be better prepared for the next critical event.

World experts in critical event management Everbridge offer the most proven modern public warning platform which delivers best of breed capabilities to help governments and public authorities keep people safe before, during, and after critical events, anytime and anywhere in the world. The Everbridge Public Warning platform delivers the most comprehensive, flexible, and modular solutions for population alerting to suit the needs of each city, state, or country.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), following instructions from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) ordered all public telecommunications companies, through a memorandum dated 12 November, to fast-track the repair and restoration of telecommunication services in areas severely affected by Typhoon Ulysses.

According to a press release, the NTC also directed the companies to accelerate the mobilisation and transport of their respective technical or service personnel and equipment to the affected areas and to deploy free call and free charging stations in strategic areas.

Likewise, the companies were also reminded to coordinate with the local government units (LGU) and observe strict health protocols in the performance of these instructions. Public telecommunication companies are to provide the commission, every six hours, updates on restoration activities of their respective networks and facilities, as well as a timeline for the full restoration of services.

On 10 November, the NTC directed all public telecommunications companies to ensure a sufficient number of technical and support personnel and standby generators with extra fuel, tools, and spare equipment in areas forecasted to be affected by the typhoon.

“The management of disasters is not just about our ability to repair damages, not just about resiliency—it is also about damage mitigation and preparedness for a quick response. This is why, as much as possible, we want to be proactive in our approach—we instructed public telecommunications companies to prepare for repairs even before the typhoon hits,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

Similarly, as the telcos were instructed to prepare, DICT, as chair of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), issued a memorandum addressed to member agencies and organisations to request them to monitor communication channels within their respective areas of responsibility for possible deployment and mobilization of communications assets and resources relative to Typhoon Ulysses.

In relation, DICT had equipment and manpower complement ready to step in to support the members of the NDRRMC and to provide emergency communications services to the public. Particularly, Flyaway VSAT (very-small-aperture terminal), satellite phones, HF (high frequency), and VHF (very high frequency) radios, IP (internet protocol) Radio Satellite Dish, access points, routers, and generator sets were on standby. Likewise, the free Wi-Fi for All programme field team has been made ready to restore Free Wi-Fi sites in typhoon-hit areas.

After the recent Goni typhoon, which OpenGov Asia had reported on earlier, DICT facilitated information and communication services in Catanduanes, Albay, and other devastated areas.

To aid the affected areas, DICT’s Albay Provincial Office is offering free internet and charging services to Albayanos. Their office is located in Legazpi City. Individuals can avail of the free services within the vicinity, provided they observe proper health protocols.

The forecasting, planning, and management of critical events help authorities prevent disruption of life and damage to property. Governments rely on several, specific systems for critical event management. Such programmes are essential to national well-being especially with the increase in natural disasters. But, more often than not, they operate in isolation of each other. According to world experts in Critical Event Management – Everbridge, this approach can create duplication in information and processes, data contradictions, and, when unchecked, could lead to loss of life and damages.

Unlike fragmented or homegrown tools, Everbridge offers the most proven modern public warning platform which delivers best of breed capabilities to help governments and public authorities keep people safe before, during, and after critical events, anytime and anywhere in the world. The Everbridge Public Warning platform delivers the most comprehensive, flexible, and modular solutions for population alerting to suit the needs of each city, state, or country.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is pushing for the completion of the government-owned broadband network in a bid to improve the internet quality in the country, expand its coverage and make it more affordable to people. The DICT has been looking for a bigger budget for 2021 to allow the government to complete its broadband network through the National Broadband Program (NBP) in the face of increasing dependence on connectivity and internet service due to the pandemic.

The approved budget under the 2021 National Expenditure Program has been set PHP 902 million (US$ 18.6 million). Secretary Gregorio Honasan has appealed to the Senate and the House of Representatives for an additional PHP18 billion (US$ 371.4 million) for the NBP completion and rollout.

“We accept the fact that the appreciation of the government sector for ICT being the future is limited. More priority is given to those which can be felt—roads, bridges—those that are physical. That’s the infrastructure component. But from where we see it, we believe that we can actually do these simultaneously,” Honasan said at a Senate budget hearing recently,  where he emphasised that the new normal dictates that the government should make ICT program a priority.

According to Rey Caintic, DICT assistant secretary for Digital Philippines, the completion of the NBP will make internet service cheaper and accessible while improving the quality. He added that the country’s internet service may be expensive as compared to other countries because of the costs involved to build relevant ICT infrastructure.

These costs would include laying of fibre optic cables and erecting towers. The government needs to builds a fibre backbone – first mile, middle mile. When the government lays this groundwork (like the towers and fibre) private networks can connect to this infrastructure and start to distribute to residential sectors. He suggested that spectrum users fee paid by telcos can be used by the government to re-invest it in creating more digital infrastructure.

Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) reiterated at the same the senate hearing that the Philippine government should invest in a broadband network, just other countries where states pour massive capital in telecommunications infrastructures for better service. All the telcos lease from the national government. That is the model that is being used in other countries so their service is reasonable. They have no problem with the right of way and with permits because it is the national government that is doing all of that.

Studies have shown that in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, their governments have made substantial investments for its internet and national broadband plan. From 2014-2019, Indonesia’s total funding requirement for its national broadband plan amounted to approximately PHP1.12 trillion (US$ 23.1billion), 10 %of which was covered by the state budget. Vietnam has spent about PHP39.7 billion (US$ 532.1million) worth of investments for a 23,000-km system submarine cable to boost its ICT.

Meanwhile, South Korea, one of the countries with the fastest internet service in the world, had invested some PHP1.34 trillion (US$ 27.7billion) in 1995 for its internet connectivity under the 10-year Korean Information Infrastructure Project, its version of the NBP. Australia and New Zealand had allocated PHP1.79 trillion (US$ 36.9 billion) and PHP1.9 trillion (US$ 39.2 billion), respectively, for their national broadband network.

The Philippines is taking its internet connectivity and wi-fi access for all very seriously and has been for several years. The Philippine government has an ambitious program to provide free public Wi-Fi to all citizens in all public places in the country underpinned by legislation that passed in 2017 that mandates the government’s Department of Information and Communications (DICT) to implement the Free Public Internet Access Program.

OpenGov Asia has reported on DICT’s boosting communication services in aftermath of typhoon Goni. It has also distributed free wi-fi to schools including Zamboanga, province-wide connectivity in Zambales and to aid in military education. Another article revealed how the National Broadband Program could save the Philippines US$ 15 million in 2021

The pandemic has severely impacted governments around the world, fundamentally changing the mode of service delivery and citizen’s expectations over a very short period of time. Despite the limitations created by lockdowns, restricted movement orders and remote working, citizens expect their governments to deliver and interact with them smoothly.

The fact that governments had to quickly transform their operations and delivery mechanisms brought to fore several challenges and revealed systemic lacunae. The OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight on 11 November 2020 in collaboration with VMware attempted to understand these pain points and propose technology as a possible solution to ease the transformation.

The audience comprised of senior executives from various government agencies in the Philippines with an overwhelming response from in terms of attendance and engagement.

The pandemic has made governments rethink their current mode of working

Mohit: Partner with people who can support you on your journey towards becoming an e-governmentThe session was opened by Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia. Mohit began by sharing that 2020 has made everyone realise the importance of being agile and to pro-actively pre-empt the challenges even in the most difficult of times. This is especially relevant for public sector organisations as they have a mandate to maintain business continuity rather than reacting to changes.

In the recent crisis, governments were faced with two major challenges. First, to provide citizens with accurate, useful and up-to-date information on the pandemic. Second, to meet the new needs for digital services and a greater demand for existing services.

Citizens’ expectations and demands of government agencies to provide unparalleled and smarter services increased during the pandemic and continue to rise as governments grapple with the situation.

Mohit advised the audience that to fully satisfy and engage citizens in a digital age, e-government services must move beyond digitising processes and services and focus on citizen experience.

He also cautioned them of the plethora of challenges that they might face in the process. Mohit urged them to not try and do everything on their own but to partner with those who champion the field and could add more value to the goal they are trying to achieve.

Demands of a digital citizen and how governments can meet them

Michael: VMware can support governments to meet citizen requirements

After Mohit laid the groundwork for the discussions ahead, Michael Hoo, Director of Solution Architecture, SEAK, VMWare shared his insights.

Michael began by talking about the 3 major requirements of a digitally empowered citizen today:

  1. Convenience: citizens want convenience in the way they interact with their government.
  2. Security: data security is of utmost importance to citizens
  3. Mobility: interaction anywhere, anytime is what citizens expect of their government

After sharing about citizen expectations, he then explained how governments can meet these expectations by developing digital solutions.

Michael highlighted the first and most vital step in this process is to try and understand the pains, challenges and goal of developing a solution from a citizen point of view. Having understood the pain points and what needs to be achieved, the next step is to come up with a suitable platform/application keeping in mind the supporting ecosystem.

The final step in this process is to ensure the utility and security of the app for citizens and civil servants. He emphasised that merely devising a solution for citizens is not enough, data security is a priority for the citizens.

Michael shared a few examples to illustrate how VMware is supporting digital initiatives of governments around the world. These include transforming employees’ provident fund application and revamping an income tax core application program in South East Asia and enabling 35,000 public servants to work from home safely in Australia.

He concluded his presentation by highlighting the ways VMware can help and support e-government initiatives. VMware helps build and run applications in e-government services, manage their operating environments, ensuring their security and increasing their effectiveness.

Overview of South Korea’s journey towards becoming an e-government

Kiyoung: Use technology to maximise the power of data and serve citizens better

After Michael’s informative presentation, Kiyoung Lee, Executive Principal Researcher, National Information Society Agency, Government of South Korea shared their journey on the path to becoming an e-government.

Tracing their digitalisation beginnings to the 1980s, Kiyoung shared their step-wise transformation journey from being a paper-based organisation to becoming a mobile organisation powered by big data, cloud and IoT.

He explained the phased approach followed by his organisation during this transformation. Phase one was predominantly about laying the foundation, consolidating internal administrative procedures and establishing a common basis. Phase two comprised of the advancement of internal procedures and expanding integrated services.

Talking about their present situation, Kiyoung proudly shared that after years of hard work and planning they were able to establish themselves as an effective, service-oriented and transparent organisation. They have successfully integrated and automated many procedures that have significantly enhanced citizen’s demands and satisfaction.

Requesting government records, applying for licenses, permits etc. no longer requires the citizen to make multiple visits to various government offices. It has all been enabled online. Understanding the importance of feedback, the Korean government has set up online feedback portals where citizens can share their problems and challenges so that action can be taken to rectify them.

He concluded his presentation by enumerating their future goals to further enhance the service delivery experience for the citizens. They want to take the next step by ensuring government support to citizens throughout their lifetime depending on which stage of life they are at. They are also bringing in chatbots to ensure they are better available to the citizens and facilitate better communication. They are also planning on digitising loan applications and tax procedures so that these services are not disrupted due to crises and emergencies.

Kiyoung encouraged the delegates to be open to digital transformation and technology as it helps maximise the power of data, enabling governments to serve citizens better.

After the enriching presentations from the speakers, Mohit engaged the delegates in the live polling session. There were interesting reflections, insights and opinions that came out of these discussions.

On the first question about the evolution of e-government services in the next 2-3 years, a majority of the delegates voted that there will be a significant increase in the development of new apps and software to improve e-government services (67%).

A senior executive from Department of Health shared that because of the pandemic there has been a major drive towards contactless technologies and it is imperative to develop new apps and platforms that will enable contactless transactions. According to him, the development of new apps is the way to go.

On the next question about the most important enablers for a breakthrough transformation of e-government services, a major chunk of the audience voted for innovation and ideation (41%).

A delegate from the Department of Budget and Management shared that she believes everything needs a vision and ideation for it to become a reality. But at the same time, they have to be mindful of the limitations of budgets which are a major consideration.

On the final question about how applications are run and built in organisations, most delegates shared that they are in the middle of rolling out modern applications for their existing government services (41%).

A delegate reflected that before the pandemic, they had very limited online services. So they are now using the pandemic as an opportunity to expand their online services. They have successfully transformed services like filing for loans, retirement and unemployment benefits to their online portal. He also shared that they plan to launch a few more services on the online portal.

After the interactive polling session, the session came to a conclusion end with closing remarks by Walter Co So, Country Manager, VMwarePhilippines.

Walter began by thanking all the delegates and speakers for their insightful contribution to the session. He shared with the audience that enabling digital services in governments is a life-saver, especially in time of crisEs when citizens are unable to reach out to governments physically.

He also shared how the citizens of the Philippines are adapting to the new normal. Over 40% of Filipinos engaged in online transactions for the first time in their lives.

Walter lauded the IT professionals in governments and at large for becoming drivers of change rather than being mere supporters of change. He also encouraged the delegates to engage in dialogue with his team to know and learn more about how VMware can support them on their journey to becoming an e-government.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is helping facilitate information and communication services in Catanduanes, Albay, and other areas dealing with the aftermath of the typhoon Goni.

Goni or Rolly as it is known in the Philippines is considered to be the strongest tropical typhoon of the year. It made landfall on Catanduanes, Albay, Camarines Sur and neighbouring areas of Quezon province on 1 November, leaving the Bicol Region devastated in its wake.

To aid the affected areas, DICT’s Albay Provincial Office is offering free internet and charging services to Albayanos. Their office is located in Legazpi City. Individuals can avail of the free services within the vicinity, provided they observe proper health protocols.

Further, in Pandan, Catanduanes, select free Wi-Fi sites remain operational, offering connectivity services as globe and smart telecommunication services remain down within the locale. The department is also undertaking other initiatives to aid connectivity services in typhoon-hit areas from other regions. The DICT’s Luzon Cluster III (LC3) had installed emergency backup Internet connections in the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) MIMAROPA Regional Office located in PEO Compound, Kumintang Ilaya, Batangas City. The backup service aims to ensure uninterrupted connectivity services for the government office.

Restoring communication lines are crucial as electricity and telecommunication lines in the worst-hit areas remained down as strong winds caused substantial damage to electric posts and other infrastructures. The OCD stated that around 53,863 homes were left without electricity following the typhoon’s landfall.

While telco lines had been restored in Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, and Naga City, Catanduanes still lacked access to electricity, running water, or telecommunications. Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC) also released a statement recently that estimated a possible 2-month period to fully restore power in Albay province due to severely damaged transmission lines.

Communication and access to information are crucial, especially in areas badly hit by typhoon Rolly. DICT is fast-tracking its efforts to help Filipinos get their much-needed aid and is closely working with other government agencies in expediting the rebuilding of infrastructure in the affected areas—to reconnect the people to the rest of the country, DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

The forecasting, planning, and management of critical events help authorities prevent disruption of life and damage to property. Governments rely on several, specific systems for critical event management. Such programmes are essential to national well-being especially with the increase in natural disasters. But, more often than not, they operate in isolation of each other. According to world experts in Critical Event Management – Everbridge, this approach can create duplication in information and processes, data contradictions, and, when unchecked, could lead to loss of life and damages.

Unlike fragmented or homegrown tools, Everbridge offers the most proven modern public warning platform which delivers best of breed capabilities to help governments and public authorities keep people safe before, during, and after critical events, anytime and anywhere in the world. The Everbridge Public Warning platform delivers the most comprehensive, flexible, and modular solutions for population alerting to suit the needs of each city, state, or country.

The Everbridge front-end alerting gateway can be deployed as a standalone solution through to more sophisticated hybrid or multi-channel systems. This combines cell broadcasts or location-based SMS technology to send targeted alerts to mobile phone users, through to secondary channels including mobile apps, emails, SMS, voice calls, sirens, radio, television, social media, and opt-in address-based systems.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Education, Training, and Doctrine Command (AFPETDC) has installed free connectivity services under the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) Free Wi-Fi for All – Free Public Internet Access Program.

The AFPETDC, which houses the AFP Command General Staff College (CGSC), is mandated to provide professional military education to AFP uniformed personnel for higher command responsibilities and doctrine development.

According to a press release, to commemorate the establishment of free Wi-Fi at AFPETDC, a virtual launching ceremony was held on 28 October with DICT and AFPETDC officials in attendance.

“We understand the plight of our educators, trainers, and learners during these unprecedented times, and we cannot take this sitting down. We hope that by making free Internet available in public schools, colleges, and universities, we can help alleviate the situation,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II asserted. “We likewise hope that we were also able to help the AFPETDC in its quest of providing quality education and training to its learners by providing free Wi-Fi Internet in the AFPETDC premises,” he added.

Free Wi-Fi has been made available at the AFPETDC’s library for the benefit of both professors and students, allowing them access to limitless learning and teaching resources online. Officers on-site may also use free Wi-Fi services for the submission of reports and other daily tasks requiring an Internet connection.

The Free Wi-Fi for All is one of the greatest leaps that the government has made to accelerate the efforts of enhancing accessibility for the Filipinos, Major General Edgard A. Arevalo of the AFPETDC said. “We are grateful that DICT has chosen AFPETDC as one of its recipients as it has tremendously helped us, especially our students in their academic requirements amid the COVID-19,” he added.

The prioritisation of the connectivity needs of the education sector for S.Y. 2020-2021 is one of the key objectives of the Free Wi-Fi for All Program’s intensified rollout. Presently, the project has established free Wi-Fi sites in 138 public libraries, 1,018 public schools, 967 state universities/colleges, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) institutions.

The intensified rollout of the Free Wi-Fi for All Program is a significant component of the department’s commitment to accelerate the provision of equitable Internet access for Filipinos so that they may benefit from the economic, social, and educational opportunities of the new normal, Honasan explained.

There are currently 6,723 Free Wi-Fi for All sites nationwide as of 27 October, covering 80 provinces, including Metro Manila, and 1,021 municipalities and cities. DICT is targeting the rollout 10, 069 live sites by the end of 2020. It also plans to establish up to 100,000 Wi-Fi access sites by 2023, following the deployment of the National Broadband Program. DICT has also expressed complete support for the vision of e-governance as outlined in the Senate Bill 1738 (E-Governance Act of 2020) as a means of institutionalising e-governance in the Philippines to cope with the transition to the new normal and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 threat.

Ninety schools in the Zamboanga Peninsula are now Internet-connected through the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) Free Wi-Fi in Public Areas and State University and Colleges initiative.

The project is part of the Department’s efforts to aid the education sector transition to ‘new normal of learning’. A press statement explained that the government recognises the importance of the Internet in the continuance of education in the new normal and is aware that, despite this, a lot of teachers and students still do not have Internet connectivity in their homes. With the provision of free Wi-Fi Internet within these communities, the department hopes to be able to help address some of the challenges faced by learners and teachers as they adjust to blended learning, at least with the availability and affordability of Internet connectivity.

Various school heads expressed their appreciation to DICT for free Internet connectivity and access. According to them, free Internet access has helped teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as students, better adapt to the new normal in the education sector. Teachers have easy access to different educational platforms.

Online platforms are now feasible, and students are very happy to learn in a modern way with the use of the Internet provided, Adrian G. Refugio, Principal of Zamboanga del Norte National High School, stated.

“It (Free Wi-Fi) provided us with better Internet connectivity that we need for our schoolwork and to be more productive despite restrictions of the new normal. It allows us to perform our duty on the go without thinking that we will run out of data,” Maria Lisa B. Elopre-Valdehueza, Principal of Dipolog City National High School added. “It maximises information dissemination, lessens the burden of teachers because communication with our students is made easy through Facebook messenger and other Google platforms.”

Last month, OpenGov Asia reported that DICT and the local government unit (LGU) of Zambales would provide internet connectivity in the province through the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA).

Under the MoA, the province received the continuous deployment of free public Wi-Fi through DICT’s Free Wi-Fi for All Program and established the Zambales Provincial Broadband Network.

The ceremonial signing took place during the launching of 64 free Wi-Fi live sites in 16 locations in Zambales. The fee Wi-Fi sites were the result of the cooperation between DICT and the Province of Zambales, formalised through a previous MoA signed in January. These sites have been accessible to the public since August this year.

The heightened clamour for internet connectivity after the onset of the community quarantine in the Philippines took the telecommunications sector by surprise. Government offices, hospitals, state universities, and local colleges, among others, have benefitted from existing free Wi-Fi sites in the province. These include the President Ramon Magsaysay State University and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy. The MOA was expected to provide more public institutions with free Internet.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Broadband Network will be linked to the national broadband backbone. Phase 1 of the government-owned network will be completed by the end of 2020. The collaboration aims to be a catalyst in furthering inclusive and comprehensive broadband penetration in the province by supporting the government’s initiative to establish a provincial broadband network. And by ensuring that the provincial LGU is provided with adequate bandwidth at reasonable, competitive rates as allowed by law, if not free, the DICT Secretary, Gregorio B.Honasan, explained.

GLF Forum 2018

OpenGov Government Leadership Forum – Empowering the Digital Business.