Free WiFi in 5 far-flung Palawan towns made possible through DICT, UNDP partnership

By Roy Mabasa

At least five far-flung municipalities in Palawan will soon have free Internet connection following the roll-out of the Free Wi-Fi for All Program, a joint project of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines.

In support of the program, Palawan Governor Jose CH Alvarez issued a memorandum directing all municipal mayors of the province to assist in the swift facilitation of the project’s implementation in their respective areas.

The Free Wi-Fi for All Program is a flagship project of the DICT that aims to provide free internet to almost 105,000 sites across the Philippines by 2022.

Since the program's implementation in 2017, the DICT has faced the challenge of extending their efforts outside populated areas with already existing telecommunication infrastructure.

Alvarez acknowledged the benefits of having internet access in his province, citing the opportunities it could provide for the people, especially those living in far-flung areas and communities.

“Free internet access in public places will enable Palaweños to harness its vast potentials and the benefits of internet connectivity to improve their lives and assist in bringing the country towards progress,” Governor Alvarez said in a statement released by the UNDP office in Manila.

Initially, the DICT tapped the support of UNDP in expediting project delivery for the program and in getting to 6,000 of the most remote and disadvantaged areas in the country, where connectivity is most needed.

By January of 2020 or within merely 9 months of the partnership, the UNDP said it aims to have 4,500 of far-flung, at-risk and vulnerable sites, under implementation.

Of the 6,000 total sites targeted under the DICT-UNDP partnership, 700 are last-mile and disadvantaged areas in Palawan that the UNDP aims to be under deployment by November 2019.

The UNDP said the beneficiaries of the free wi-fi program in Palawan are the 5th class municipalities of Agutaya, Kalayaan, Linapacan and Magsaysay, and the 6th class municipality of Cagayancillo.

With at least 358 schools and 65 health centers as its recipients in the province, UNDP Resident Representative Titon Mitra noted that the free wi-fi program will change the lives of Palawenos by giving them access to the digital world, including digital literacy programs, better education, disaster risk reduction information, and access to online government services.

Furthermore, free wi-fi will significantly increase public access to the Palawan government’s implementation of an e-governance platform.

“The roll-out of the project in Palawan is both timely and critical and we look forward to working with the Governor of Palawan and the LGUs on this important initiative,” the UNDP official added.

The UNDP also emphasized the important role and support of governors and mayors across the Philippines in facilitating the successful and rapid implementation of the program especially in places where access to the internet will be critical in improving livelihood, access to information and better education, and improved delivery of social services through digital platforms.