September 29, 2020

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Southern Leyte ramps up online learning as part COVID-19 recovery program

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted most processes online, therefore, the Southern Leyte provincial government plans to invest in computers, printers, modems, routers, and other related accessories for distribution to the 19 local government units (LGUs) in the region.

According to a press release, the move is part of the government’s Pangandam sa Bag-ong Panahon COVID-19 recovery initiative, in particular, the Manpower Re-Engineering Program “Bag-ong Abilidad sa Bag-ong Normal” project.

The Head of the Provincial Systems Administrator’s Office (PSAO), Vitto Tomol, who also handles the computer-driven project, noted that training centres in all the 18 towns and one city of the province will be established in line with ‘new normal learning’. Interested residents can gain access to modular, online training courses offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Citizens that were displaced due to the pandemic will be offered priority enrollment. It will help them to acquire skills or get certificates needed to set up a business or get employment, although concerned LGUs may welcome any other interested individuals in their areas.

Two months after being launched, however, bidding for the essential gadgets, which has a budget of PH₱ 1.9 million (US$ 39,288), was not carried out on schedule because of the high demand for laptop computers, the Head reported at the Media Briefing/Kapihan sa on Wednesday.

Another concern that is being worked out was on the matter of internet connectivity, and this would be closely coordinated with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which has plans to put up free Wi-Fi access in public places, schools among them.

Four LGUs- Tomas Oppus, Sogod, Liloan, and Saint Bernard- have maintained a functional 4TechEd Centre may proceed with the short-term training courses, although there is still a need to enhance connectivity in these places.

As OpenGov Asia reported earlier, DICT expanded its Free Wi-Fi for All Program in Zambales. The initiative is designed to improve access to online learning and healthcare programs by installing Wi-Fi hotspots with free internet. DICT has installed twelve hotspots in schools, hospitals, and quarantine facilities in the province.

The DICT Secretary, Gregorio Honasan II, explained that the efforts in Zambales showcase DICT’s initiatives to facilitate faster internet access for the educational (online and blended learning) and healthcare sectors in the province. In January, he signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the Zambales Governor, which aimed to amplify the cooperation and collaboration on ICT connectivity projects, governance, and training programs.

The Governor gave his support and placed total confidence in DICT. He added that the partnership would open many opportunities for Zambales. The internet would enable the community to explore and discover the potential for growth and prosperity in the field of ICT.

The Department aims to provide internet connectivity in underdeveloped communities as well as in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. The distribution of the free Wi-Fi hotspots is in line with the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act.

The distributed Wi-Fi Hotspots will run at 40 Mbps, which is impressive when compared to the common household spend of (up to) PH₱ 1,900 (about US$ 39) on a 20 Mbps connection. There is no longer a digital divide as an estimated 4,922 free public Wi-Fi Hotspots have been made available. The regions of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are now connected online.

Earlier in March, DICT activated thirty-one Wi-Fi sites in the provinces of Albay, Isabela, Lanao del Sur, Palawan, and Davao City. 41 access points are already fully functional in the provinces of Batangas, Pampanga, Quezon, and Cagayan.