Years ago, people proposed that one Laptop per child can bridge the digital divide. Then with the advent of cheap internet enabled smartphones, mobile devices were proposed as solutions. Lately institutions ventured towards tablet/e-book projects for poor schoolchildren in far-flung areas. Now it seems devices do not matter but rather being connected does.Expensive and slow internet connections especially here in the Philippines are not easily accessible to poorer and rural school children where basic school hardware are more of a necessity.
Do you think free internet is the answer for the bridging of the digital divide?
Give your reasons for and against.
Through the advancement of manufacturing processes of technology – digital devices like laptops, tablets and phones are now feature rich and can be cheap. More people from different social status now have access to gadgets.
Providing gadgets to schools in far-flung areas is necessary. These devices should be installed with encyclopedias, dictionary applications and educational e-books for it will be very beneficial for their education and research needs. In comparison, urban school children have more access to vast amounts of information with the use of internet, the rural schoolchildren will still be limited to the pre-installed apps and information in the device.
People with internet access have more access to information especially on news and current events. The range of topics they could explore and learn is vast. Also, more services are now available online like bills payment, online shopping and even government transactions like appointment scheduling and document requests. This will put people without access to the internet at a great disadvantage not only with information availability but also with modern conveniences.
Internet.org – a project started by Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has already been launched in multiple countries including the Philippines. This projectprovides basic access to the internet for free and even offers help to NGOs and the government in creating websites that adhere to the technical specifications of the platform. This free service being provided in our country is a big leap in solving the problem for the digital divide. There are a lot of people who are in need of information but cannot afford to pay for premium monthly or daily mobile internet subscription, specially that the price of our internet services are expensive yet of poor in quality when compared to what other countries can provide.
Free Internet alone is not enough to completely eradicate the digital divide that is very apparent in our country. It only gives free internet access to the areas that are accessible by Internet Service Providers. Places with internet access are usually in the main or commercial areas of the the provinces. The further the school is located from the center of the province the less chances of having internet availability. Despite having multiple ISPs, their level of competition still leaves the rural areas out of reach of their service, thus creating a bigger digital gap between the ones who have access to the internet to those who have not.
Furthermore, far-flung rural towns are partially electrified and their schools don’t have electricity and digital devices. However, despite these challenges there hasbeen a successful case study conducted to Marilog Central Elementary School (MCES) in Davao. Intel provided Solar Powered ICT classroom, microserver, training for the teachers and digital devices. Having an ICT classroom increased the overall attendance and graduation rates of pupils of MCES, proving that technology provides a different and more interactive method of learning that greatly enhances student productivity specially with children.
Every little step counts, with every new cell tower built in more rural areas, more schools electrified and given access to digital devices, more lives are improved. The government should put more priority in solving high illiteracy rates in the people of rural areas especially school children. Major private organizations like ISPs should give back service to the people by building more cell towers and infrastructures to provide services to the far-flung areas of the country who are truly in need of connectivity.
The youth is our future – and some of them are out of reach. Through free internet, better education and infrastructures, I believe we can bridge the widening information gap that is endemic to our country. If this is achieved, this will be truly beneficial to our technologically ailing country.
business/2013/11/25/1260424/ 16-m-pinoys-do-not-have- access-electricity-study
dam/www/public/us/en/ documents/case-studies/ transform-education- philippines-case-study.pdf