“Philippines is the SMS Capital of the World”
What e-content means in Philippines:
A: E-content, to be meaningful, must be able to make a difference i.e. from being unknown to being known, from being known to being better understood, from being understood to providing enlightenment; from being just stored knowledge to something that is shared and made available to others who have the technology or the means to access it; from something that already exists to something that has been verified, proven or disproved, or has become an input to discover new knowledge.
What is the current status of e-content in your country, including national e-content development across all the sectors of the industry?
Information is power. Most decision making processes largely depend on the quantity, quality, and the ‘recentness’ of the information gathered. The Internet as a potent source of information has gained worldwide acceptance, including in the Philippines, considered as the ‘texting’ (or short messaging) capital of the world in view of its having the highest number of mobile phone users for short message exchanges. The power of mobile technology was demonstrated in EDSA 2, when the people wanted to express their dissatisfaction to the country’s leadership, they communicated their sentiments via cellular phone and e-Mail, and gathered at the EDSA shrine to demonstrate their power for the second time in Philippine history. The event told the world that the Filipino had politically matured, and I believe ICT can help rally people and economies.
Filipinos are highly sociable people; thus, e-mail and Internet chat are as equally important for communications as SMS. With regard to content, the Filipinos are generous and creative information providers and sharers. Their opinions on certain issues are expressed in a verbal or non-verbal manner to lighten the spirit during critical times.
E-content, in many respects, is useful information provided for specific purposes like education, commerce, business, entertainment, etc. Some of it is first-hand information in the form of online and offline surveys, statistics, results of exams, current events, news flashes, project status reports, updates, announcements, etc. Some e-content reflects various services provided for online communications and transactions like e-banking, e-payment, e-registration, e-inquiry, etc. Some of it is in the form of archives to preserve important artefacts and events, such as those provided by e-libraries and other repositories, while others are in the form of databases of valuable information. Some e-content comprises medical or legal transcriptions. Philippine e-products are more in the digital form than analogue, and more textual (using concrete words, written or spoken) than visual (graphic or abstract). Many of the web sites I have visited are broad in their scope and generalized in content instead of being highly specialized.
Which e-content area is best developed in your country?
In my opinion, we are progressing in the areas of e-commerce, e-business, e-government and other e-services; developing e-inclusion, e-culture, and e-community; and just starting on e-learning, e-science, e-health, and e-entertainment.
Which sectors in your country are the leaders in e-content development?
The business and private sector, individual and corporate, have been very aggressive in developing e-Content, but the government and civil society are catching up. There are collaborations going on between the Government, private and civil society to promote greater awareness of ICT throughout the country, link different agencies with similar or related services across the country, reach other Filipinos abroad, and connect to the rest of the world.
Please describe the progress of e-content development in your country.
The business and private sector has been very aggressive in the computerization of their systems since as early as the 1960s. Witness to this is the Philippine Computer Society (formerly the Data Processing Management Association) which was created in 1964 by the pioneers of computer
technology who had had their computer training in the United States.
The Philippines is probably among the first Asian countries to embrace ICT, with its National Information Technology Plan in the early 1980s which was drafted to develop the essential TIGERS components i.e. Telecommunications, Industry, Government, Education, Research, and Systems. Connecting the major parts of the country was a vision shared by all the sectors involved. In the education sector, the government-run National Computer Centre which used to cater to military needs, opened its doors to the public and private sectors to offer computer training. The year 1983 saw the launching of ‘Pilot Training the Trainers Course’ which involved more than thirty colleges and universities in Metro Manila. Likewise, private companies like NCR, I/ACT, and MFI offered training for business applications and systems development, with some of them integrating apprenticeship in their programme. Among the state-owned institutions of learning, Rizal Technological University pioneered in offering Computer Engineering in 1978; its computer facilities improved in 1983 when it was granted funding support by UNDP/UNESCO to also begin the Instrumentation and Control Technology Course which had computing as part of its curriculum.
However, political changes and the lack of support from financial, educational, legal, and telecommunication infrastructure slowed down its progress. One major setback was the lack of hardware. At one time, the import of hardware was controlled and high taxes were imposed, impeding the progress of the Plan’s implementation. Later, Government deregulation on imports accelerated the growth of IT, and the number of IT businesses in the country proliferated at a fast rate. More and more Government and private colleges and universities, as well as training centres started offering IT courses, regulated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Philippines soon became a major source of IT manpower in the United States and other parts of the world. Software development companies or software houses increased, and the IT industry has, since then, helped to improve the country’s economy, not only in terms of software development, but in terms of IT manpower working overseas as well.
The Education and Technical Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Education (DEPED) both have a significant share in the development of IT education throughout the country. Today, ICT courses are integrated in the curriculum at all levels in many schools, but hardware and telecommunication infrastructure remain a obstacle to ICT progress despite the efforts of private organizations and civil society (NGOs) to lend support by way of donations and grants solicited from local and foreign sources. Collaborations among private and Government sectors, and foreign grants and aid strove to push through with the ‘fast-tracking’ of ICT development resulting in the formation of the National Information Technology Plan which laid the framework for adopting ICT to promote national competitiveness. This was strengthened by the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan 2001-2004, which underscored the use of ICT as an important instrument to reduce poverty and bridge the digital divide in the country. When the e-commerce Law was enacted on June 14, 2000, the Information Technology and e-commerce Council was formed, under the leadership of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.
The ITECC deals with five major sectors that need to be developed to realize the Philippine ICT vision and goals i.e. e-government, human resource development, business development, information infrastructure, and legal and regulatory mechanisms.
The Internet became a phenomenon in the Philippines around the mid 1990s when the cellular phones were becoming a fad. The progress, however, was so slow that it was overtaken by mobile technology which has now reached many parts of the country.
Please list the major initiatives which have influenced and spurred the development of e-content in your country.
Though e-commerce Law took effect in 2000, implementing guidelines continue to be developed and studied. There are many efforts that are being made in the five major sectors identified by ITECC.
E-government: Many government agencies now have their own web sites jointly supported by the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Trade and Industry. E-government was started in the G2P platform, with the National Statistics Office in the lead with its online processing of birth certificates. Other ongoing Government projects include computerized elections and tax collection.
Human Resource Development: E-Learning is generally in its infancy stage, with only very few people, mostly in the business sector and well established colleges and universities making use of it for training or re-training. Some colleges and universities (with branches and satellite schools) have established networks allowing for e-Learning programmes to be conducted for their faculty and staff. Classroom-based learning remains the more preferred mode of learning, but some universities have implemented blended solutions or mixed modes, so that some course modules may be taken online. The ITECC Education / HRD group has been conducting the annual National Conference on e-Learning since 2002 in co-operation with CHED, TESDA, DEPED, the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), PSITE and other IT organizations.
The higher education ICT curricula are being regulated by CHED’s Technical Panel for IT Education, assisted by the Philippine Society of IT Educators (PSITE). Many schools have put up their own web sites and there are many collaborative efforts in progress with regard to the sharing of library and other resources among the universities and with libraries such as the Filipinas Heritage Library (www.filipinaslibrary.org ), which has successfully linked up with many schools nationwide.
Business Development: The first to join the ICT wave, Philippine business has been greatly utilizing ICT technology in such areas as e-banking, e-commerce (B2C), e-business (B2B), supply chain management, e-auctions, e-payment, and other e-services. There is hardly a business firm without a web site for it is considered a basic necessity.
The mass media group (i.e. press, TV and radio) are among those that use ICT. National dailies, such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer (www.inq7.net ) and local newspapers, such as Bohol Time (www.boholtimes.com) have an online edition to reach as many Filipinos abroad as possible. Television networks, such as ABS-CBN (www.abs-cbn.com) and Isla Advocacy Channel (www.isla.ph) extends their programming and other activities through the Web. The same is true with radio stations such as www.rx931.com.
Information Infrastructure: New technologies such a WiFi, WAP and GPRS have also benefited from Philippine Internet users. Information such as current news, commodity prices, currency rates, as well as services like EFT, e-payment, e-mail exchange, location tracking, and ringtone selection are now available via mobile phone. Collaboration between the IT industry and telecommunication companies has made it possible for text messaging to be done through the Internet via facilities provided by such service providers as www.chikka.com. Telecom industries are now providing services to attend to inquiries, applications, etc. via online services such as www.e-pldt.com. Connecting the country through ICT. The creation of the RPWEB to connect all government agencies and educational institutions has been a major concern of the NITP. A major breakthrough was realized with the National Telecommunication Commission’s (NTC) liberalization of the telecommunication market in 1995. The first Internet service provider that was able to realize the nationwide hook-up was Mosaic Communications (www.mozcom.com) owned by Dr. William Torres who helped draft the NITP while he was Managing Director of NCC and who is now considered the Father of IT in the Philippines.
Legal and Regulatory Mechanisms: The legal arm is slowly catching up with ICT development. The e-commerce Law of 2000 was enacted after years of lobbying by concerned Government and private individuals and groups, such as Ms. Janette Toral, the founder-owner of www.digitalfilipino.com, who is also considered the mother of Internet commerce in the country. The implementation guidelines pertaining to the Law, such as legal sanctions that would ensure security, punish hackers, and honour digital signatures are still being refined and deliberated on.
Also, the establishment of a department of ICT is still being studied in the Philippine Congress.
What have been the major bottlenecks in the development of e-content in your country?
I see no major bottlenecks on the path of e-content development, but the e-commerce Law requires strict observance of intellectual property rights and copyright of e-products. Red tape in Government is normal here. Much of the problem lies in the seeming lack of wide information dissemination, especially regarding the standard procedures and forms and the availability of signatories when needed. My personal experience with some government agencies include ‘passing the buck’ and the need for formal communications which normally take time for follow-ups, particularly if the people concerned are not in the office.
In developed countries ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily left to the initiatives of individuals or organizations. On the other hand, in less developed countries, the development of e-content is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure. Please give a detailed analysis of the situation in your country.
Where technology is available, e-content development is possible. Most of the e-content development is initiated by:
» individual Internet enthusiasts for both personal and business use;
» well funded or sponsored organizations for the members’ development and information dissemination and sharing;
» local government agencies linked together by the national Government for various purposes such as providing information services and resource sharing;
» private corporations using the Internet for B2C and B2B transactions, and
» NGOs promoting community-industry-government linkages.
There are many parts of the country that have no access to the Internet, telephone, and computer services. There are still parts of the country without electricity or paved roads/highways. There is so much to be done, that a Herculean effort has to be exerted to link the 7,100+ islands of the Philippines which, though rich in natural resources and cultural heritage, is economically poor, has few employment opportunities and is densely populated.
How would you describe the ICT scenario in your country? Please describe it in terms of infrastructure, penetration, acceptance and policies.
In most cities in the Philippines, where Internet use has become a part of people’s lives, more time is spent on communications via e-mail, discussion rooms, and chat; online gaming; and, of course, research. However, there are many places in the country that have not been connected to the information highway. Although mobile technology has spread rapidly all over the country, computer and Internet technologies have not grown as fast. There are many places where the computer is unheard of as is the Internet. For those who have access to these technologies, wide acceptance is observed among the youth, but not as much among the senior citizens who prefer to do things by conventional methods.
There is slow development of computer-related policies due to low ICT literacy even among those working in government, particularly the senior functionaries, from whom recommendatory and / or decision-making actions emanate.
In terms of infrastructure and penetration, personal computers (microcomputers, laptops, notebooks) are important. International Data Corporation’s 2002 data showed that about 1.37 million PCs were installed in the country (which is barely 2% of the total population). Of this number 69% are found in private businesses, 13% in households, 10% in government offices, and only 6% in schools. Internet penetration is recorded only at 3.7%. The NTC’s 2001 figures cited a total of 204 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating in the country, with about 900,000 subscribers equivalent to 4M users.
AC Nielsen’s 2000 market research report revealed that the Philippine Internet population numbered around 4K subscribers who were mainly in the urban areas of the country.
In terms of acceptance, Internet use is very low compared to the use of cellular phones.
How do you see the future of e-content development in your country?
There is a bright future for e-content development in the Philippines since it is Filipino nature to be sociable and generous in sharing ideas. Filipino creativity and ingenuity, if challenged, works at its best.
The producers will just have to know the rules and should abide by them. Web site development and multimedia technology courses will need to be enhanced and should not be just elective or cognate courses.
As an expert in your country, what would be the five most important pillars of e-content development?
» Originality, comprehensiveness, and depth;
» Strategic Importance to Globalization, Creativity and Interactivity;
» Good craftsmanship or technical realization including ease of use and modification;
» Navigation, and value-added features like language options;
» Positive Values (no violence, profanity, pornography, gender or race bias).
Please explain which is the most preferred medium for e-content development: Print, TV, the Internet, Radio, Mobile/Wireless or a combination of some of these?
Print as one-way medium is here to stay. I usually print copies of documents I find on the Web for future reference, especially when Internet access is not possible e.g. when I go to remote areas in the country. However, printed materials occupy space, are bulky and are not good for editing or revising.
TV is a one-way, audio-visual medium for one-time viewing and cannot store information. It needs the use of another recording device for a copy of a show to be stored for re-viewing. Original content may be captured by digital camera to be edited later on.
Internet/Web is two-way medium allowing for interaction online and is much better than the first two if the technology to support is available. So far, it has a very wide coverage around the globe.
Web TV, a combination of the two, seems better than either TV or the Internet/Web. One has a choice between the two and therefore, it is more flexible.
Radio is a one-way audio device only, it is the cheapest and most affordable medium. Content may be recorded on tape/CD/DVD for future use, but it has a limited accessibility of multiple data.
Mobile/wireless technology is a two-way medium which is very handy and convenient but also more expensive. This technology needs to be perfected; its quality is affected by distance.
I think a combination of these media would be the best for e-content, if it is available.