ADRi vTHD: “Building Digital Infrastructure for a Digital Philippines”

It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated and re-prioritized digital transformation in all sectors of society. Financial services, healthcare, education, and almost all forms of enterprises have digitized their operations and made work-from-home arrangements to adapt to the changing landscape to ensure business continuity. The public sector too has turned to technology and digital tools to deliver public services, highlighting the cross-cutting importance of digital services in our transformation to the new normal.

The increased dependence in digital tools is reflected in the “Digital In 2021” study of We Are Social and Hootsuite. In the report, the Philippines tops social media and internet usage globally with an average of 4 hours and 15 minutes daily on social media and an average of 10 hours and 56 minutes daily on internet usage emphasizing the urgency to build faster and accessible broadband connectivity towards a digitized society.

Essential to digital transformation is the continued development of telecommunications and Internet Service Providers in the country. In recent years, major telecom players have marked progress in their services. As reported by Open Signal, a global analytics company, in their February 2021 report, the Philippines ranked second globally in terms of 5G versus 4G download speed ratio with an average 5G download speeds of 117.2 Mbps during the last quarter of 2020.

Additionally, the international internet speed testing company Ookla reported in January 2021 that the Philippines improved its year-on-year global ranking to 86th among 140 countries in mobile internet speed, while retaining its 100th rank for fixed broadband. Internet speed continued to improve in the Ookla February report, with fixed broadband speed increasing to 38.46 Mbps from 32.73Mbps, while mobile internet speeds are at 26.24 Mbps from 25.77 Mbps, when compared to the previous month.

The improvements can be, in part, be attributed to the continuous development of the country’s digital infrastructure led by the major telecom players. According to the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Rankings 2020, the Philippines ranked as the 10th nation in the world with the highest investments in telecommunications. While the efforts of government to remove red-tape and bureaucratic barriers that have long delayed the construction of necessary cell towers also contribute to recent developments, its initiatives such as the National Broadband Plan and the Free Wi-Fi For All Program have yet to reach its maximum potential. Unlike in countries such as South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, the Philippine government needs to start investing on the development of strategic digital infrastructure.

It is clear that this is a challenge that needs the collective efforts of the public and private sectors to overcome. For this reason, this event will feature a multi-sectoral initiative to keep watch and push the accelerated development of digital infrastructure in the Philippines.

In this light, the Stratbase ADR Institute in partnership with the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, organized virtual town hall discussion (vTHD) entitled, “Building Digital Infrastructure for a Digital Philippines”. This program aims to gather various experts from public and private institutions to discuss both low hanging fruit and long-term plans that can lead to improvements in our country’s digital infrastructure and broadband service. Furthermore, the virtual town hall discussion aims to facilitate a progressive discourse on how we, through a whole-of-society approach, can achieve a digitized and competitive Philippines fortified to prosper in a post-pandemic world.

Program

Introduction
Mr. Francesco “Paco” A. Pangalangan
Executive Director, Stratbase ADR Institute

Opening Remarks
Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit
President, Stratbase ADR Institute

Perspective from the Government

Usec. Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic
Undersecretary for Digital Philippines,
Department of Information and Communications Technology

Telecom Tower Watch Advocacy
Mr. Orlando O. Oxales
Convenor, CitizenWatch Philippines

Perspectives from the Telecommunications Industry

Mr. Vince Tempongko
Vice President for Site Acquisition and Management,
Globe Telecom

Atty. Roy Cecil D. Ibay
Vice President and Head of Regulatory Affairs,
Smart Communications

Perspectives from the Civil Society

Mr. Ashutosh Bhargava
Business Head Subsea Telecom,
Prysmian Group

Atty. James Mark Terry L. Ridon
Non-Resident Fellow, Stratbase ADR Institute;
Convenor, InfraWatch PH

Closing Remarks
Mr. Francesco “Paco” A. Pangalangan
Executive Director, Stratbase ADR Institute

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