Memo to 2016 hopefuls: Filipinos deserve faster, stable Internet
This coming election, politicians will again promise to create jobs, fight poverty, improve education and health care, help OFWs, help small and medium enterprises, fight corruption, improve delivery of services, and pass the freedom of information (FOI) act, among others. That is the bad news.
The good news is that politicians can keep their promises if they can make the Internet and Wi-Fi faster, cheaper, secure and reliable. The benefits are immense and obvious, yet politicians and the government have done very little about it. One reason is ignorance and the lack of political will to take on vested interests. (READ: Average Philippine Internet speed 155th in the world)
Politicians, the media, and our bureaucrats have their smartphones but they are not “techno smart.” They all know the Philippines has the most expensive and slowest internet connection in Asia - “OMG!! Ang mahal na, ang bagal pa!” (It’s expensive and slow!) But do they know why and, more importantly, do they have any clue how to fix the problem?
For example, do they know that TV White Space technology can help connect remote schools, clinics, town halls in rural villages and remote islands and do so affordably? Do they know that the TV White Space experiment of Microsoft and DoST among fishing villages in Bohol won a prestigious international award? Do they know that the use of TV White Space can help make the government’s 100-billion-peso conditional cash transfer program more effective and accountable?
Do our politicians know that e-payment and mobile wallets can help improve the livelihoods of millions of farmers and small businessmen, as they have done in Kenya? Do they know that cloud computing, coupled with a reliable and true high speed internet connection, can help reduce the traffic gridlock in Manila by allowing workers to work at home instead of reporting to the office? Do they know that block-chains and distributed ledgers can help make our land registries more secure and thus foil syndicates? Do they know that OFWs will be forever grateful to politicians who can fix their Skype connections and make mobile transfers secure? Do they know that the Bangsamoro Bill can be made more meaningful if the Bangsamoro people have access to affordable, reliable, faster and secure connectivity? Do they know that FOI is more meaningful with Wi-Fi?
Do they know that a new generation of OFWs – the million-strong online Filipino workers - freelance architects, accountants, lawyers, graphic designers, digital animators, transcription and translation workers, online retailers, ukay-ukay entrepreneurs and many others - and another million BPO workers - would have a more secure livelihood if connectivity is made more affordable? Do they know that OFW remittances plus BPO earnings bring in USD46 billion annually, keeping our economy strong? Do they know that BPO investors are complaining about the costs of connectivity in the country?
In short, do they know that we can realize our demographic dividend and the immense creative talent of our young population if our Internet is made more affordable and reliable?
In this election season, there should be a public debate on the embarrassingly poor quality of our connectivity. The media, netizens, OFWs and students should flag this as an important election issue – not just issues of mental health, corruption, citizenship, and laglag bala, important as they are.
In this coming election, we call on all candidates to make a statement in their campaign manifestos on how they will make our Internet faster, more reliable, affordable and secure. We call on Mar, Jojo, Grace and Miriam (and most importantly MVP) to tweet their response to our call.
Finally, we call on OFWs, the media (especially Teddy Locsin), BPO workers, students and netizens and their families to share this manifesto and to vote for a faster, more reliable, affordable and secure connectivity. – Rappler.com
Ed Araral is Associate Professor and Vice-Dean for Research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy-National University of Singapore.
Lourdes Montenegro is a PhD candidate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy-National University of Singapore. She works on economics and policy issues in technology and telecommunications.