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The Philippines to Push Further on Digital Readiness and Accelerate Digital Transformation

In a recent discussion hosted by an international research organisation based in the Philippines called Digital Readiness PH: Fostering a Digital Empowerment Agenda, the country’s telecom service provider’s Senior Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Head of Corporate Communications announced the company is investing $2.1 billion in capital expenditure this year to expand the country’s digital infrastructure.

If the Philippines government intends to boost digital infrastructure and promote economic resiliency, it is mentioned that the government must adopt and consider the private sector’s initiative in infrastructure investment to improve internet connectivity and lower costs.

“We targeted a million fibre lines this year and we were able to hit that target as early as September, and we have made 4G the default technology for mobile data and we are aggressively expanding into 5G to enable services like AI, IoT, robotics, among others.” She spoke. It is also highlighted that the major issue is no longer internet speed, per se, but the seamless connection across various places in the archipelago.

According to the recent study on digital payments in the Asia Pacific region by cybersecurity firm, the Philippines has the highest number of “e-cash adopters” among 10 countries in the region topping at 37% followed by India (23%), Australia (15%), Vietnam (14%), Indonesia (13%) and Thailand (13%), and Singapore (11%).

Moreover, COVID 19 has accelerated digital adoption among Filipino consumers, particularly in the areas of e-payments and e-commerce, and a wide range of economic activities, including micro, small, and medium enterprises, are now conducted online. In addition, the telecommunications company has also been focusing on the education sector, establishing Filipino Schools that provide 21st-century learning in all 17 regions of the Philippines. Other education-related plans include teacher training that includes not only the standard curriculum but also mental health, recognition of parents’ critical role in distance learning, and the establishment of an IT Academy, and the development of a technopreneurship module with De La Salle University.

The DICT Secretary, who also participated in the discussion reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the transformation, beginning with actual physical connectivity highways via the National Broadband Network. The country is also working to bring connectivity to underserved and unserved areas throughout the country. Capacity-building initiatives to prepare Filipinos for the digital economy complement these efforts.

Ultimately, the president of the International Research Organisation acknowledged that private-sector investments had significantly improved internet services during the pandemic. The challenge, amidst these gains, is to enable the education sector to catch up with these infrastructure improvements.

OpenGov Asia in an article reported that as the DICT rallies its efforts under the framework, the agency aims to enhance its plans to be more responsive to the actual needs and demands of the Philippine ICT landscape.

The Free Wi-Fi for All Programme, on the other hand, will improve internet access to bridge the digital divide and expand socio-economic opportunities for the public. The Department intends to establish a total of 10,069 live sites by the end of 2020, with 2,588 sites to be formed in government hospitals and rural health sites to support COVID-19 recovery efforts. A total of 23,100 sites are planned for this year. The Free Wi-Fi for All Programme also adapted its implementation to the most pressing need during the pandemic, installing around 50 government-designated quarantine facilities nationwide with Internet access to provide connectivity for both patients and doctors.

The Philippine’s lawmaker meanwhile stressed that “while there are people with access to the Internet, there are grossly underserved or unserved,” she said, noting that “broadband is still a challenge, considering that broadband speeds in the country average 16Mbps, which is far from the average of many countries.”

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