The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is set to fast-track its Free Wi-Fi for All Program to address the connectivity needs of public educational institutions under the “new normal”.

The DICT, through a memorandum from Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II, directed its Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Team, Regional Operations Coordination Service Directors, and Regional Cluster Offices, to coordinate and collaborate with the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), their respective regional offices, State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and other educational institutions, for the prompt installation and deployment of Free Wi-Fi Internet Access that are relevant to the education sector, including the provision of technical assistance when necessary.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte expressed his support for the Department of Education (DepED)’s push for blended and distance learning so that education will continue in the midst of the COVID-19 health emergency,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said. “A key factor for this is fast, reliable and secure Internet—we are focusing on speeding up infrastructure buildup to address the expected surge in demand for connectivity in the education sector,” he added.

In accordance with Republic Act 10929, otherwise known as the “Free Internet Access in Public Places Act”, the DICT covers the installation of free internet access in public places and aims to accelerate the government’s efforts in enhancing Internet accessibility to bridge the growing Digital Divide. Public places include plazas, schools, Rural Health Units (RHUs), transport terminals, airports, seaports, hospitals, and community quarantine sites among others.

Around 50 government designated quarantine facilities nationwide have been connected to the Internet through the DICT’s Free Wi-Fi for All Program during this COVID-19 health crisis.

Among the said facilities include the Dagupan City Astrodome in Pangasinan; Southern Isabela Medical Center at Santiago City, Isabela; Athlete’s Village in Capas, Tarlac; Philippine Arena in Sta. Maria, Bulacan; Lipa City Isolation Facility at Batangas; Camarines Sur Provincial Medical Center at Bula, Camarines Sur; Panay Multipurpose Gym (Quarantine Center) at Panay, Capiz; Sacred Heart School for Boys (Old Campus) in Cebu City, Cebu; Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Hospital at Mahayag, Zamboanga Sibugay; Sto. Niño Medical Center in Baguio City, Benguet; and Philippine Arena’s 300-bed mega treatment facility in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Apart from enhancing connectivity, the DICT also provides continuous support to ICT capacity development through the conduct of ICT capacity and skills building for the education sector. The Department’s ICT Literacy and Competency Development Bureau (ILCDB), Cybersecurity Bureau, and the DICT Regional Offices are currently facilitating the conduct of webinars aimed at upskilling the ICT competencies of teachers, administrators, educators, and students in preparation for the adoption of blended learning systems.

Improving connectivity similarly aligns with the National ICT Month 2020 theme of “Maximizing ICT in the New Normal” that covers the digital education component.

The Department will be holding various online activities and webinars this June focusing on key topics such as digital government, digital cities and provinces, digital medicine and social assistance, digital education and workforce, cybersecurity, and emergency communications.

For a complete rundown of these events, visit the DICT’s social media accounts. You may visit freepublicwifi.gov.ph or the Free Wi-Fi for All Facebook page for updates on Free Wifi live sites.