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DICT continues to bridge PH digital divide via 'Free Wi-Fi for All' program

In addressing the gap between those who have access to the internet and those without access in the Philippines, the government through the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is continuing to expand its "Free Wi-Fi for All" Program providing free public internet access in more public areas in the country.

With affordability and accessibility being the main factors behind what is called the digital divide – the term used to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology (ICT), and those that do not have access or have restricted access - the DICT recognized the need to address these challenges to provide Filipinos with accessible and cost-efficient entry to digital spaces. 

According to DICT, based on the results of the 2019 National ICT Household Survey, the percentage of households with Internet access stands only at 18%, while the average monthly spending for Internet connection at home is at P1,280.59.

The data suggests that internet accessibility continues to be a struggle for most Filipino households while the level of demand for internet access continues to increase as it is now a major requisite for sectors and industries in adapting to the current digital economic environment.

Free Wi-Fi: A big help to students

For Ron Cabardo, 17, of Cebu City, access to free Wi-Fi is critical in his studies. "Importante kaayo ang free Wi-Fi labi pa namong mga estudyante nga walay Wi-Fi sa among balay, kay dili nami angay nga mo adto pa sa coffee shop para lang maka free Wi-Fi aron lang mag submit sa amoang assignments and projects sa among teachers (The free Wi-Fi is important especially for us students who don't have Wi-Fi in our homes. We don't want to go to the coffee shop just to get free Wi-Fi and submit our assignments and projects to our teachers),” he said. 

A senior high school student who relies heavily on the internet in doing his academic work, Ron is one of the many students who were able to avail the services of the said program of DICT.

Considering their family’s current financial status, Ron admitted that the free internet access in their school is a big help in his studies. He hopes the program will be rolled out in more areas to benefit more students like him.  

"Hinaot ila pa padaghananon ang free Wi-Fi sites, ilabi na sa mga duol og schools para namong mga estudyante kay dako ni nga tabang sa amoang pag skwela, hilabi na karon nga tanan gi asa nagyud sa technology (I hope they will increase the number of free Wi-Fi sites especially in schools for the students because it is really a big help in our studies, especially now that everyone is interested in technology)," added Ron.

DICT-7 Regional Director Frederick Amores presented the regional ICT updates during the National ICT Development Agenda Regional Multistakeholders' Consultation held in Cebu City on August 1, 2023. (RGC/PIA7)
Free Wifi for All 

During the Regional Multistakeholder's Consultation on the National ICT Development Agenda held in Cebu City on August 1, the DICT-7 presented the regional ICT updates in Central Visayas, one of which is the agency’s ongoing "Free Wifi for All” program that provides free Wi-Fi internet access in selected public areas across the country.

DICT is actively collaborating with more local government units in expanding the free internet service to more public areas in the region. 

DICT-7 Regional Director Frederick Amores said that through the partnership with the LGUs,  it will be easier for them to put up more free Wi-Fi sites as the LGUs can identify the potential areas to be given free Wi-Fi access, such as state universities and colleges, public hospitals, public plazas, and government offices.

"The strategies that we are working on right now to increase our free Wi-Fi sites is to collaborate with our local government units. It is easier if we work with the LGUs, because they know which areas do we put these free Wi-Fi sites. The DICT will provide the bandwidth while the LGU will bring it to the barangays and other areas with no internet access,” said Amores. 

He said that DICT is now seeing an increasing number of LGUs who are acknowledging the importance of connectivity and ICT, prompting their agency to continue fostering partnerships with them in putting up more free public Wi-Fi sites.

The program also seeks to encourage knowledge growth and accelerate economic development in the country by giving free internet access to more Filipinos that would allow them to participate in online learning, perform online transactions, and avail other online services and activities which contribute to the nation’s digital economy.

"We want our citizens to be at least knowledgeable in the digital space, and it's difficult for the economically challenged segment to use the internet if they don't have money, and that's where the free internet services provided by the government come in. We provide avenues or spaces for those citizens who cannot afford to access the internet. After that, people will appreciate that there are a lot of economic opportunities awaiting them," added Amores.

The DICT Cebu station "Free Wi-Fi" Site located at Plaza Independencia, Cebu City. (Photo from DICT Region 7 Facebook page)
Active Free Wi-Fi Sites and LGU collaborations

According to DICT, there are 3,961 active free Wi-Fi sites in 493 localities across the country as of April 2023. 

Under the "Free Wi-Fi for All" program, DICT aims to set up 9,762 additional sites in public areas and 162 sites in state universities and colleges at the end of 2023.

In Central Visayas, there are 137 active Free Wi-Fi sites, with 57 in Negros Oriental, 43 in Cebu, 35 in Bohol, and 2 in Siquijor.

As to the percentage of connectivity based on site type, 74% of these active sites are state universities and colleges, 9% are public schools, 7% are offices of national government agencies, 4% are LGU offices, 3% are government owned hospitals, and 1% are public plazas.

DICT-7 also disclosed that they have ongoing collaborations with eight LGUs and upcoming partnerships with another five LGUs as they continue to expand the number of active Free Wi-Fi sites in the region. (RGC/PIA7 Cebu)

About the Author

Robinson Cabardo Jr

Information Officer I

Region 7

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