"[Since we are just starting,] my department might set up [around] 1,300 [Wi-Fi sites this year]. We intend to reach [around] 18,000 sites by next year," Salalima stated. Around 100,000 sites across the country are expected to have Wi-Fi access by 2022.
Bridging the digital divide
By improving and expanding the internet access in the Philippines, Salalima hopes to bridge the digital divide, especially in the far-flung areas.
DICT is also implementing nationwide digital inclusion initiatives, such as the Technology for Education, Employment, Entrepreneurs, and Economic Development (Tech4ED) project.
The Tech4ED project aims to establish technology centres across the country to provide e-government and ICT-enabled services in communities with minimal or no access to information and government services.
According to the Tech4ED website, each centre is provided with access to the Tech4ED Platform and Learning Management System (LMS). The platforms will feature various contents and learning materials focused in five segments:
- e-EduSkills, which aims to deliver e-Learning on demand. It will offer: Learning English Application for Pinoys (LEAP), Skills Training, Values and Character Formation, and Alternative Learning System (ALS).
- e-Assist, which will deliver skills development opportunities for women, people with disabilities (PWDs), senior citizens, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) including their families and relatives, career shifters, and teachers. It will offer contents on ICT for Digital Literacy, ICT for Financial Literacy, ICT for Career Development, and ICT for Entrepreneurs.
- e-GovServe, which delivers direct government services to rural communities through Tech4ED Centres.
- e-Agri, which provides content and services on agriculture technologies for farmers and fisher folks. It thus offers eFarming, PhilRice MOET app, rice text centre, Pinoy rice, rice crop manager, rice data and information portal, rice doctor, and rice knowledge bank.
- eMarketplace, which provides greater market reach beyond the community.
Engineering smart cities
According to Salalima, all of DICT's projects and plans will contribute to the overall goal of building smart cities in the Philippines.
As part of the smart city initiative, the government has implemented the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) that aims to establish an e-government by connecting agencies, integrating networks, and through open data.
Under the iGovPhil project, DICT soft launched the NGP last December. The NGP is a one-stop shop for online government services and information that is designed to simplify transactions, avoid crowding in offices, and minimise the red tape.
Simultaneously, DICT also launched the Deduping and Matching Application (DMA) that will be used to create the person information registry, which is a streamlined database of people interacting with the Philippine government. Essentially, the application will remove duplicates in databases and merge them with the authenticated record.
"[The NGP and DMA that we launched] will serve as the backbone of an interoperable and interconnected e-Government that will improve not only inter-agency collaboration, but also the delivery of services to the citizens," said Villorente in a press release.
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