Locals of Itbayat, Batanes can now avail of free ICT-enabled services and content as Department of Information and Communications Technology – Luzon Cluster 1 (DICT-LC1) launched a Technology for Education, Employment, Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (Tech4ED) Center at the Rural Health Unit in Barangay San Rafael, November 20, 2020.

Itbayat Mayor Raul de Sagon and Vice Mayor Ronald Gutierrez officially opened the Center. Batanes Congressman Ciriaco Gato, Jr. and DICT Batanes Provincial Officer Mina Flor Villafuerte also graced the launching ceremony through virtual conferencing.

This is the first Tech4ED or e-learning center established in the farthest Local Government Unit (LGU) in northern Philippines.

A Tech4ED Center is a community ICT hub that provides access to learning, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to rural communities. This is done through a special database system called Tech4ED platform that features segments, such as “eAgri”, which provides contents and services on agriculture technologies for farmers and fisher folks; “eEduSkills”, where users can avail of e-learning through digital modules; and “eMarketPlace”, which enables greater market reach for local entrepreneurs.

“The establishment of the Tech4ED Center in Itbayat—the northernmost municipality of our country—is indeed a welcome development. It underscores the government’s determined effort to provide easy accessibility to every municipality and barangay in our country. This project will no doubt benefit everybody,” Batanes Congressman Ciriaco Gato, Jr. said.

This move is seen to bridge the digital gap by addressing the scarcity of ICT resources in the municipality that has hampered digital growth among locals.

“We already have connectivity in Itbayat but what is still lacking are ICT skills and equipment so locals can truly maximize digital opportunities. It’s very strategic to put up an e-learning center so we can train people on ICT,” DICT Batanes Provincial Officer Mina Flor Villafuerte said.

DICT will be lining up digital trainings and other programs to ensure that the municipality will truly be empowered digitally.

This is one of DICT’s move to assist Itbayat to recover and rise from the impact of earthquakes with magnitude 5.4 and 5.9 that struck the Batanes islands in July 2019. Itbayat’s municipal hall including existing ICT equipment were destroyed during the earthquake.

“ICT connects us to each other, just as much as it connects us to opportunities no matter how far these opportunities may be from our physical location. This is the essence of Tech4ED. It provides access to ICT and digital learning—access that then transform into empowerment—empowerment that reaches every corner of the country,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

Tech4Ed is one of components of the DICT’s flagship Digital Philippines Program.