IN SUPPORT of the Free Public WiFi project of the Department of Science and Technology- Informations and Communications Office (DOST-ICTO), 42,000 technology education centers will be rolled out nationwide.
The project dubbed as Tech4ED (Technology for Economic Development) is a project component of the eFilipino program of DOST-ICTO that will will introduce digital education trainings in designated cyber hubs in rural communities.
In an interview with DOST Secretary Mario Montejo yesterday during the Digital Strategies for Development Summit (DSDS) held at the Cebu City Waterfront Hotel, the official estimated that DOST’s allocation for the Tech4ED project is roughly P50 million.
He said local government units will also shell out funds for their respective Tech4Ed centers while the private sector will also take part in this initiative.
A Tech4Ed center, according to the DOST-ICTO, requires an office space of not less than 20 square meters, has WiFi connectivity and at least one router, three computers and one IT staff member. It will operate from Monday to Sunday.
Tech4ED centers, according to DOST, are best located in areas where people flock like areas near schools and barangay halls. Since this project calls for digital inclusiveness, Montejo said it is preferred that the tech centers be in rural communities.
“Today, (there) is a convergence of our efforts in enabling out of school youth and adults, farmers, fishermen, teachers, seniors, PWDs, all Filipinos, the use of digital technologies in education, employment and entrepreneurship for economic development,” Montejo said in his speech, which was delivered before 300 stakeholders in the ICT sector.
Montejo said there are already around 400 tech centers in the country to date.
Services in the Tech4Ed Centers include offerings like the alternative learning system (ALS) where out-of-school youths and adults can avail themselves of a high school diploma by enrolling in online courses in the case of Tech4ED program; and learning English application for Pinoys (Leap), where one can improve English communication skills in preparation for the IT-BPM industry.
In addition, there will also be ICT programs for digital literacy, financial literacy, career development, and for entrepreneurs-- for those who want to learn how to start their own business and use ICT to expand market reach.
Future programs to be adopted in the tech centers include electronic assessment for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and mobile-agri (mAgri), where farmers can access advanced agriculture-related information digitally.
On the Free Public WiFi project, Montejo assured the DOST ICTO is “on schedule” in delivering the connection, especially in rural communities by the end of 2015.
According to DOST-ICTO, the digital divide is most evident in the Philippines, where more than 60 percent of the land area has little or no access to the Internet. The Philippines also has the “lowest” Internet speed in the region, only faster than Afganistan.
“Studies have proven the overall economic impact of ICT, especially broadband connectivity. An often-quoted World Bank report announced a 1.38 percent economic growth for every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration among low and middle-income economies,” Montejo said.
“With the projects I mentioned, we hope to significantly reduce the digital divide in the country and bring about a positive cycle of development for future generations,” he ended.