Senator Sonny Angara. (Picture credits to Sonny Angara's Facebook)
Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara has urged the Philippine government to prioritise the improvement of Internet services in the country to boost the local e-commerce sector and help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) reach the global market.
"I think e-commerce is one sector beaming with potential which we have yet to tap. We are known to be big users of social media and given the amount of time we spend on the web, Filipinos will no doubt embrace online shopping," said Angara in a press statement released on December 6, 2015.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), online buy and sell transactions in the country valued $1 billion in 2014, and it is expected to double this year.
"We were recently dubbed as one of the hottest e-commerce markets in the region. We should take advantage of this momentum and improve our technology and digital infrastructure to better facilitate the ease of doing online business and cashless payment in the country," said Angara.
At the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit last November, e-commerce was considered by economic leaders as a key strategy that will empower MSMEs to penetrate the global market.
Angara cited Alibaba founder Jack Ma's statement on the rapid growth of China's e-commerce sector: "When I talked to venture capitalists before, they said 'no, e-commerce won't work for China because infrastructure is too bad.' But when Internet came, we made the infrastructure really work and sophisticated. For many, e-commerce is just a dessert. In China, it is the main course."
However, Philippines is lagging behind other countries when it comes to Internet service.
According to a 2015 report by Internet performance data provider Ookla, Philippines ranked second-slowest in terms of download speed in Asia, next to Afghanistan. The Philippines has an average broadband speed of 3.64 Mbps, which is way below the average of 23.3 Mbps. Globally, Philippines was ranked 176th out of 202 countries.
Internet service in the Philippines is also considered as one of the most expensive (ranking 61st) with an average cost of $18.19 per Mbps, higher than the average global cost of $5.21.
Government's effort to improve the Internet
The National Telecommunications Commission signed a memorandum this year, setting the minimum broadband speed at 256 Kbps and mandating the service providers to disclose their average data rates at each location to the public.
"According to several tech groups, this minimum requirement is still low if we want to catch up with the rest of the world in this fast-paced digital age," said Angara. "It is high time for us to create a separate body that would focus, provide adequate support and ensure that innovations in information and communications technology (ICT) would contribute to global competitiveness."
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