IT’S small world, indeed. A devastating earthquake with a magnitude 8.8 devastated Chile yesterday. Then I read the breaking news over the internet after a few minutes of the first tremor.

I connect with Chile, a Latin American country. I have a human rights lawyer friend there -- Claudia Kravetz. We were together in a class in Montréal, Canada last year and the group still connects through emails or Facebook.

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Then, yesterday morning, I posted a yahoo news account on my Facebook Wall and asked my Latin American colleagues how the others are. It turned out everyone’s ok. Clau responded from her Blackberry: “Dear friends I'm OK. No electricity though, be back ASAP, gotta keep my cell battery the longest I can. Thanks for the concern. Love u all. Clau (scared to death).”

After Chile’s massive earthquake and potential Pacific Rim tsunami damage, relief organizations, government agencies, corporations and throngs of people are on Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other services to seek and provide information and help.

It’s easy to get real-time responses half-way across the other side of the world, without resorting to expensive long-distance calls or travel. It’s a snap to keep in touch with one another across the seas and other countries. Everything is now local and global at the same time.

Take the Philippine national elections. I get responses from all over the country on my Wall posts, not to mention from Filipinos across the seas. And even some from foreigners.

Many politicians with no computer savviest think it’s still the big world out there with independent fiefdoms, and they can keep people in the dark.

Not anymore. While the Internet penetration rate in the country has remained in the high single-digit level, more and more Filipinos, particularly those in urban areas, are getting hooked on online activity, linking everyone else as a chain within and outside their geographic boundaries.

The Yahoo-Nielsen Net Index 2008, done last year by measurement and analysis firm Nielsen Company and Internet juggernaut Yahoo, reveals that 28 percent of Filipinos in National Urban Philippines -- or in 22 major cities, including Bacolod City -- access the Internet.

Young Filipinos are the most attracted to the Internet, the survey shows, with 50 percent of those in the 10 to 19-year-old age bracket accessing the Internet in the past month. Another strong user category is that of the 20 to 29-year-olds, with 41 percent going online. That means, mostly students.

Local Internet users obviously want to keep in touch with loved ones and friends overseas, and that the huge number of Filipinos living and working overseas contributes to this trend.

In terms of attitude, the Net Index shows that Internet consumers are more likely to want to stand out in the crowd than traditional media consumers. Looking young, being fashion-forward and keeping abreast with the latest developments in technology are also important to Netizens.

Online social networking ad spend in Asia should hit $260 million last year, $345 million this year and $415 million by 2011. Asia is growing faster than the rest of the world.

Almost all candidates have their own social networking sites. But judging from sites, a large number has a low level of expectations of what these sites could do. Many still want to press the masa (crowd) in the flesh.

Rightly so. But they forgot that from the demographics, most internet users are the young, the largest voting bloc in Bacolod. Moreover, many reached high school and college levels. That means, they are less susceptible to what their parents tell them to vote for, but are easily swayed by their online peers.

It’s no longer just a small world, but an integrated world as well. Let’s see then how the Philippine elections will turn out and how the internet will impact on electoral campaigns. I predict that many young candidates will see themselves winning many of the posts up for grabs.

Comments are most welcome. Please send email to bqsanc@yahoo.com