Establishing a multifaceted approach involving market reforms, policy support, public investment, and proactive strategy will enhance broadband infrastructure and universal internet access in the Philippines.

This recommendation was made by experts during a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) to celebrate the National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Month.

The event featured the study “Making Broadband Universal: A Review of Philippine Policies and Strategies” authored by PIDS Research Fellows Ramonette B. Serafica and Kris A. Francisco and Research Specialist Queen Cel A. Oren.

Broadband adoption crucial

The study highlighted the crucial role of broadband adoption and access in advancing digitalization in the Philippines.

World Bank Group Senior Digital Development Specialist Naoto Kanehira, and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Infostructure Management Assistant Secretary Engr. Philip Varilla served as discussants.

In his discussion, Kanehira highlighted the growing digital divide in the Philippines, underscoring the widening gap in internet access between different income groups.

He referenced data from the World Bank’s recent policy note, revealing that while households in higher income quintiles have seen significant improvements in broadband access, lower-income households continue to struggle with limited connectivity.

Widening disparity

This disparity has widened substantially from a 26 percent gap in 2019 to an alarming 42 percent in 2022. “Digital divide must not grow into broader development divides,” he warned.

Kanehira emphasized the crucial role of government intervention in ensuring universal internet access, akin to the provision of electricity and safe drinking water.

He called for comprehensive market reforms and strategic public-private partnerships to enhance competition within the telecommunications sector.

Currently, the market is dominated by just two major operators, leading to high prices and low service quality.

Kanehira advocated for removing barriers to market entry and investing in infrastructure to support widespread internet access.

“The digital divide in the Philippines is a pressing issue that requires immediate and coordinated action,” he stressed.

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