Faster connection
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2016 - 12:00am

What do you get when you crave for faster internet speed and you chance upon studies that actually show that ICT (information communication technology) development in the country is getting better?

Take for example these three very positive news on the ICT front which came out soon after the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte started charting the country’s roadmap to have faster internet. Spearheading all these commendable changes is President Duterte himself – and his sincere desire to improve all aspects of the Filipino’s life.

Out of 167 countries, the Philippine ranking rose by seven notches, or this was from 105th place in 2010 to 98th in the International Telecommunication Union – ICT Development Index (IDI) of 2015 over a five-year period.  Breaking down the list, the Philippines ranked 15th among the 32 countries within the Asia and Pacific Region countries. And out of the ten member-states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines ranked 5th and notably outpacing Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

With a total of 193 countries included in its list, the United Nations (UN) E-Government Survey 2016 on E-Government Development Index (EGDI) also showed the Philippines’ rank improving to 71st from 95th the previous year. Or this is an impressive 24-point leap. The Philippines ranked an impressive 3rd out of 10 ASEAN neighboring countries – higher than Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Worth mentioning, too, is the Global Connectivity Index (GCI).  In this study, the Philippines was ranked 38th out of 50 countries. The country edged out Indonesia and Vietnam in its cluster. The rank was still an improvement of four notches from 2015.

If the recent past has generated an improvement in our global ICT-related rankings, then it is safe to say that government policies and private sector initiatives are now working to the country’s benefit.

Then faster internet is now being realized, though much more speed is desired.

Noticing how Globe Telecom and Smart Telecom have recently been firing up a good number of cell sites left and right are good indications that the telecommunications companies (telcos) are doubling their efforts in delivering better internet service. They have to keep true to their rollout plans after all. The only way we can push our numbers even higher is to keep or even exceed our current pace of development.

It’s unfortunate to note that it’s an excruciating process for telcos to get new cell sites built and fired up. Telcos have to secure 25-30 permits from local government units. When actually, all that is needed is just one permit necessary from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to get things done!  And we want faster internet – now?

It doesn’t help also that exclusive villages are resisting and opposing vehemently to have cell sites put up within their areas. Remember, a lot of these villages’ residents are actually the ones who download all sorts of video and audio materials from the internet which ultimately take much of the available bandwidth.

The Duterte administration’s firm plans of rolling-out a National Broadband Network (NBN) and extending the coverage of free wi-fi might just do the trick.  If it can implement these programs as swiftly as it did when it established the 911 and 8888 hotline numbers, then the vibe gets even better.

President Duterte made an oblique announcement on the government’s new NBN roll-out in his usual extemporaneous remarks made at the National Banana Congress 2016 held in Davao City last Friday. This, when President Duterte announced about the launching soon of his one-hour program over government-owned PTV-4 with dedicated mobile numbers to reach him.

Patterned from his radio/TV program while he was still Mayor of Davao City, the President exhorted the help of each Filipinos in his administration’s bid to clean up corruption in the government as among his campaign promises during the May 9 elections. Describing himself as the “chief clerk” of the government, the President exhorted the public to write letters or just send SMS – anonymous or not – to complain against any erring or lazy officials, especially the corrupt and grafters in government.

“If you do not help me, I cannot erase corruption. I just can not go to any office and start asking anybody: ‘Where’s the SOB here?’ You have to tell me,” the Chief Executive urged.

In couched words, the President gave a thinly veiled warning to the owners of the country’s major telcos to make sure their respective companies would be able to deliver the messages and reports to the “text hotline on corruption” feature of his TV program to air soon.

“If you do not do it right, you wait, I’m going to China,” the President said, and warned: “I’ll open up everything for competition.”

He is, of course, referring to his scheduled official visit on Oct. 18-21 to China where he vowed, among other objectives of his first trip to Beijing, to encourage big Chinese companies to invest and put up railways and other infrastructure projects in the Philippines.

Ironically, a number of major Chinese investments in the past including North Rail project with Sinomach and the NBN deal with ZTE Corp. of China were junked due to alleged corruption and anomalies that went into contracts with their joint venture agreements with the previous administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Now Pampanga Congresswoman, Mrs. Arroyo was charged and detained for almost six years for plunder cases, including the NBN-ZTE deal at the Sandiganbayan. She was freed from her hospital detention and was subsequently cleared of charges from the NBN-ZTE deal.

In a light note, President Duterte promised to make sure there will be no repeat of these costly deals of the previous government. “Baka ma-Arroyo ako, place the marginal notes, ‘Okay, approved.’ But you have to read it (documents),” he wisecracked in obvious digs to the ex-president.

Seriously though, absolute cooperation among citizens, telcos and the government is necessary for us to move forward. It’s a good thing the country is slowly inching its way up in global rankings in connectivity.  We have to sustain the momentum. But we must not lose sight of the greater interest of connecting faster the Filipino people with the rest of the world.


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