By Mario Casayuran
Senator Imee R. Marcos called on the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Wednesday to “step up to the call of the times” and ensure that digital infrastructure gains the same priority as public works and transportation projects in the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, decried the seeming lack of urgency in improving the slow Internet speed in the Philippines amid a clear global shift to digital solutions that could keep life going as the government works to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Let’s level up, DICT! The Philippines is Asia’s laggard when it comes to Internet speed, at only 3.5 mbps. Upgrading the country’s digital capacity is urgent and long overdue,” she said.
“Whatever happened to the entry of a third telco (telecommunication corporation) player? The public eagerly awaits an update on the timelines of DICT’s programs,” Marcos added.
Internet speed in smaller neighboring economies like Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia is faster than in the Philippines, with highly developed states like Singapore and Hong Kong 19 to 22 times faster, according to the Ookla Net Index, known worldwide for its tests on Internet performance.
“A robust digital economy is our hope for a post-COVID future! Slow Internet speed plus limited online access equals a sluggish economy and a sorry standard of living, more so for local government units in more remote areas of the country,” Marcos said.
Marcos emphasized that the government’s success in contact tracing, online education, e-commerce and e-jobs, and even crime-busting and future elections will depend greatly on reliable digital infrastructure.
“The reception to proposed taxes on online businesses could have also been warmer if entrepreneurs were already assured of digital support,” she added.