Improving Philippines Internet Access

Improving Philippines Internet Access

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Last June 30 in Davao City, I got the chance to visit three (3) co-working spaces namely: Knights of Online Marketers (KOM), DreamWork, and Small Business Development Center of Davao Chamber.

KOM and DreamWork operate 24 hours mainly serving those working as virtual staff. Rates vary from P150 to 350 a day that includes use of air-conditioned co-working space, Internet access, and have coffee.

Thanks to the Internet, e-learning resources, social networks, freelance jobs sites, online payment facilities, and adventurous entrepreneurs, a growing number of Filipinos today are able to compete in various opportunities found online.

However, not all locations in the country are able to participate in the online economy due to poor Internet access in their areas. To note:

I. Slow Internet access is detrimental to e-commerce adoption outside of key cities.

In my visits to provinces covered by (Mindoro Oriental, Romblon, Marinduque, Mindoro Occidental, Puerto Princesa), I realized a lot of provinces today are still exposed to slow Internet access.

Teaching SMEs to post products and sell them online is a tedious process because of it. Oftentimes frustrating as a lot of time gets wasted in the process.

II. Internet traffic need not go outside of the Philippines just to access locally hosted websites

Not only do we need an Internet that is fast and affordable, but we also need it to be efficient. When Filipinos are accessing government and local websites hosted in the Philippines, we should already be in a stage where Internet traffic does not need to go out of the Philippines anymore.

Business groups and the government should insist telcos to connect and improve the local Internet exchanges to make our online traffic efficient.

That way, when government agencies like the BIR requires businesses and citizens to do their online filing next year, those at least 3 million users don’t need their Internet traffic to pass outside the country first and go back to access a government website hosted in the Philippines.

III. Lack of Internet access alternatives hurts Filipinos in market choice, consumer protection, & government unable to put strong sanctions.

We badly need new value-added services players who can provide additional Internet connection options.

Our National Telecommunications Commission charter and Public Telecommunications Policy Law needs to be updated to adjust with the present times and in the future.

I hope Filipinos concerned on poor Internet connection in their areas will choose leaders who will commit on improving their telecommunications infrastructure by updating existing laws and also granting new franchises especially when current players do not put them in priority.

Filing a complaint for that P50 wireless Internet for a day package not working or hardly providing Internet connectivity is tedious as it requires more effort (appearance, complaints process) to get a resolution out of it.

There needs to be an online complaints and dispute resolution process to monitor performance of value-added service providers. This is important especially when accommodating countryside complaints.

IV. Join Internet or E-Commerce Organizations and let your voice be heard.

For e-commerce to prosper, private sector must take the lead. But if we want to resolve various e-commerce related challenges, both government and private sector have to work together in arriving at solutions – agree on who will do what.

Last May 2015, the Department of Trade and Industry E-Commerce Office began crafting the Philippines E-Commerce Roadmap (2015 to 2020). DTI meets with the private sector and government regularly face-to-face and online to discuss its contents. Also to solicit inputs in the process.

The June 30 version of the Philippines E-Commerce Roadmap aims for e-commerce adoption at 25% of GDP. One of its five indicators include fast and cost competitive Internet access.

Concerned citizens and stakeholders need to join forums and create groups that aim to solve these issues. You can also encourage your current association or group to include Internet and e-commerce in their agenda. Participate in the many discussions and improvements happening in this space.

Ensuring that our Internet and e-commerce infrastructure are competitive requires a long-term commitment from both private and government. Sustaining it requires active private sector participation to withstand changes in political leadership.

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