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Digital inclusion


When my sister and I were much younger, mom would remind us we could be anything we wanted to be. There was nothing that was beyond our reach.


I remember, during our toddler days, we were made to wear a petticoat (almost) every day (even for Jolly spaghetti). My mom would also comb our hair 100 strokes a night. But when we were mature enough to decide, she allowed us to choose our own identity and style. It didn’t matter if people perceived it as a bit odd or eccentric or aggressive. Identity was an important aspect of growing up and she respected it.


I was fortunate to grow up in an environment that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion. Not everyone is as lucky.


Today, in this highly digital era, we face several challenges such as the digital divide, digital gender gap, and digital exclusion.


Not everyone has access to the internet and electronic devices; and even if they have, access to digital literacy education and trainings is another concern.


In 2021, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and World Wide Web Foundation released the report, The Costs of Exclusion: Economic Consequences of the Digital Gender Gap, which estimates the economic impact of women’s digital exclusion and economic opportunity in closing gender gap.


It found out that, across the world, women are disproportionately excluded when it comes to access to the internet and online participation. Men are 21 percent more likely to be online than women globally. In least developed countries, this number rises to 52 percent.


Moreover, the report said that governments are missing out on hundreds of billions of dollars because of the digital gender gap. In 2020, the loss to GDP as a result of women’s exclusion from the digital world was US$126 billion.


According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), a nonprofit organization in the US, digital inclusion refers to the “activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).” The three vital components of digital inclusion are: Access to affordable and robust internet access; computer devices that meet the needs of the user; and access to digital literacy.


Meanwhile, digital equity, as defined by NDIA, “is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.”


Our aim for the Philippines is to fully harness the benefits of ICT and protect our citizens from the risks and threats. In order to do this, we must also ensure that as we address the digital divide, we also ensure digital equity.


The marching orders of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. is to guarantee universal connectivity so that no citizen is left behind. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) under Secretary Ivan John Uy is committed to this goal. For instance, the Free Wi-Fi program has already provided free Wi-Fi sites in 17 regions, 75 provinces and Metro Manila, and 606 cities and municipalities nationwide, including those at the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs), such as Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan Group of Islands.


To complement the broadband connection, the DICT also provides additional support, including providing tablets to public schools, and conducting trainings on internet literacy. In areas with limited or no access to power, the project includes the installation of solar and gas-powered generators.


The DICT’s commitment is to provide fast and reliable free internet connectivity throughout the country, especially in hard-to-reach areas, to bridge the digital divide, close the digital gender gap, and ensure digital inclusion, to bring into fruition President Marcos’ vision of universal connectivity and a truly digital Philippines.



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