A consumer advocacy group has batted for intensification of the telecommunications infrastructure development program “to address the prevailing digital divide in the country.
“Private telecommunication companies have been doing a commendable job of ramping up their investments by the billions every year,” said Orlando Oxales, co-convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines.
He said governments of other countries invest in their digital infrastructure heavily and strategically on a national scale, with a vision of becoming a globally competitive digital economy.
“Right now, we are not able to compete with that,” Oxales lamented. Oxales said the Philippine Digital Economy Report 2020 of the World Bank and National Economic and Development Authority indicated that there was a “very significant digital divide” in the Philippines with majority of households lacking Internet access and low fixed and mobile Internet penetration.
The digital divide, according to the report, contributes to unequal opportunities to harness the benefits of online services that are delivered via the Internet.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at a recent Telco meeting said the country’s current 70-percent connectivity rate is “not good enough,” and that “the government and its partners could do so much better.”
“It is the goal of this administration to build a truly digital Philippines,” Marcos said, adding that they are trying to reach the most remote parts of the country by providing access to mobile cellular services and wi-fi.
Oxales said it is good that digital transformation is now a priority of the government, pointing to boosting connectivity and
the digitization of public services and bureaucratic processes is one of the key strategies of the recently approved five-year Philippine Development Plan.
“Our ability to quickly shift to online transactions during the height of the pandemic gave all of us experiential proof of the great value and utility of digital technologies,” he added.
Oxales noted that the five-year Philippine Development Plan will prioritize the boosting of connectivity and the digitization of public services and bureaucratic processes as one of the key strategies.
However, digital access and proficiency remain limited and uneven, with many geographic locations and socio-economic groups not being able to use technology to its full potential.
“The way all consumers and businesses are now heavily reliant on doing transactions online should be clear impetus for government to prioritize the fast development of digital assets that will at least be at par with global standards.”
“The government and the private sector now has a great opportunity to ride on this momentum and must move together to meet the fast-growing demand for fast and reliable broadband services,” Oxales said.