PLDT Inc. (PLDT) and its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) have ramped up their digital inclusion efforts in the Visayas region, empowering senior citizens and visually impaired persons through digital training under their Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Advocacy through Technology or IDEATe program.
IDEATe aims to enhance the digital skills of individuals, particularly those from vulnerable sectors, to ensure that no one is left behind as technology advances.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to empower senior citizens and visually impaired persons in Visayas by increasing their confidence in using mobile technology to assist them with their daily tasks. With the help of our partners from both government and private sectors, we’ve been able to reach out to more vulnerable communities and create a more inclusive world for them,” said Marylou Gocotano, Visayas relations head, Stakeholder Management at PLDT and Smart.
Together with non-profit organization Adaptive Technology for Rehabilitation, Integration and Empowerment of the Visually Impaired (Atriev) and the provincial government of Negros Oriental, PLDT and Smart supported the Android accessibility training for 20 visually impaired persons in the province.
Atriev capacitates visually impaired persons using technology-enabled assistive programs. The 10-day training helped participants navigate their Android devices independently with the help of a TalkBack screen reader. They were also introduced to digital tools and apps that they can maximize for their daily activities and businesses, such as social media, email services, editing apps and online word processors.
“It’s my first time using my device’s screen reader feature, and it has been very helpful. This training has given me a lot more confidence, especially in my job search,” said 32-year-old Kris John Santillan from Valencia City, who has been visually impaired since he was in high school.
Expanding the reach of their inclusion initiatives, PLDT and Smart also implemented digital training for Cebuano seniors through their #BetterToday platform. The group partnered with French non-governmental organization Passerelles Numériques Philippines (PNPh) and the local government units of Lapu-Lapu City and Cebu City to hold a digital literacy and mental health awareness training for 200 senior citizens.
Lapu-Lapu City and Cebu City, two of Cebu’s major cities with large elderly populations, have been actively implementing programs that keep their senior constituents engaged and healthy. Through PLDT and Smart’s digital training, the senior participants learned more about basic smartphone usage, internet safety and how to take care of their mental health in the digital age.
“As someone who is not particularly tech-savvy, I found the digital literacy training to be extremely beneficial. It is interesting to learn about other smartphone features and how we can protect ourselves from internet scammers. We are motivated to try these new and convenient ways of connecting with our families and friends online,” said Luis Funtanar, an engineer who leads the Lapu-Lapu City Office of Senior Citizen Affairs.
These initiatives are aligned with PLDT and Smart’s efforts to help the country achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 10 on reducing inequality by empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, including persons with disabilities. It also helps underscore the PLDT Group’s commitment to innovation and digital inclusion, and to assist in the government’s key digitalization efforts.