Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs
By EDD K. USMAN
(SDN) — STARTED years back, the Free Wi-Fi for All in Public Places and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) Program has yet to reach majority of Filipinos.
In fairness, the free internet initiative did not start with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT); the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) gave birth to it under then Science Secretary Mario G. Montejo. He officially launched the program on July 24, 2015.
Its main objective was to provide internet access to 99 percent of the Philippine archipelago of over 7,100 islands by 2016.
Montejo launched the ambitious program as the DOST “believes that maximizing the tons of opportunities on the web could play a vital role in speeding up economic progress, specifically in the underserved and unserved areas.”
Free connectivity was targeted by the DOST in 967 Class 3, 4, 5, and 6 municipalities and key cities across the country. Specific areas where Free Wi-Fi was to be installed in public places such as parks, plazas, schools, rural health units and government hospitals.
Then the DICT came into being in June 2016, established through Republic Act No. 10844, otherwise known as “An Act Creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology” signed on May 20, 2016.
By operation of law, the DICT inherited the Free Wi-Fi undertaking, particularly as the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) under the DOST became the core of the new department. ICTO was then implementing the Free Wi-Fi program.
It’s now July 2020 and the DICT now headed by Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan III seems determined to the see the Free Wi-Fi program through to the finish line.
From a DICT statement Honasan, former senator, is seeking a Php7.7 billion funding for the Free Wi-Fi program, allocating the amount in its proposed 2021 budget. The DICT has proposed Php46.6 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2021 “effectively implement the Department’s strategic programs towards digital transformation in the ‘new normal’.”
Under the DICT, the connectivity initiative is now dubbed the Free Wi-Fi for All in Public Places and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) Program.
He said budget the department is seeking will be utilized to reach the DICT’s target to establish 23,100 lives sites by the end of 2021.
“We are aiming to provide every public school and SUC with free Internet connectivity and access to aid our students and teachers adapt to the new normal in the education sector.
— DICT Secretary Gringo Honasan III
The DICT plans to deploy the most number of sites in public education institutions. A total of 10,300 sites will be deployed in public schools while 1,804 sites will be deployed in SUCs and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) technical-vocational institutions (TVIs).
The DICT head outlined the objective.
“We are aiming to provide every public school and SUC with free Internet connectivity and access to aid our students and teachers adapt to the new normal in the education sector. This is part of our commitment to DepEd, CHED and TESDA to ensure the education sector’s access to broadcast, connectivity and digital security this upcoming school year while the country is still under state of public health emergency,” Honasan explains.
DepEd is the Department of Education; CHED is Commission on Higher Education.
Part of the planned 23,100 sites, the DICT targets to install 5,644 sites in national and local government offices, 3,300 sites in government hospitals and rural health units, 1,505 sites in public parks, plazas and other open areas, 368 sites in public libraries, and 179 sites in transport terminals.
As of 30 June 2020, 4,248 live sites have been installed and are operational under the Free Wi-Fi for All Program. More than 400 of these are installed in government hospitals and rural health units.
Meanwhile, Dagupan City in Pangasinan province is now benefiting from the free internet access initiative, one of the lucky Local Government Units (LGUs).
The DICT said residents of the city, famous for its bangus (milkfish) species, have been enjoying free Wi-Fi service at its city plaza since March 22 this year.
This was implemented as a result of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that Honasan and City Mayor Brian C. Lim signed on January 20, 2020. The MOA calls for 10 megabits per second (MBPs) bandwidth on pre-identified locations in the city.
Under phase one of the collaboration, bandwidth from the DICT Provincial Office is transmitted to Dagupan City Hall, which will then be distributed to eight other sites through Wireless IP Radio Transmission. These include the City Health Building; Dagupan City National High School; Pantal Barangay Hall, Library and Health Center; Bolosan Barangay Hall, Library and Health Center; Bonuan Boquig Barangay Hall, Library and Health Center; Salisay Barangay Hall, Library and Health Center; Tabeng Barangay Hall, Day Care and Health Center; and Mangin Barangay Hall, Day Care and Health Center.
Filipinos have something to look forward to about the Free Wi-Fi Program’s proposed Php7.7 billion budget, recalling to mind that Honasan was a former legislator himself. His former colleagues may just grant him the amount. (SDN)