The Department of Information and Communications Technology-Mindanao Cluster 1 (DICT-MC1) launched Free Wi-Fi sites and Tech4ED centers in several provinces in Mindanao on September 13 to 15, 2021.

“Naniniwala kami na ang pag-unlad ay parang riles ng tren: kailangangang konektado ang lahat ng lokasyon, hanggang sa pinakamalayong destinasyon upang tuloy-tuloy ang biyahe at malayo ang marating ng tren. Kaya naman kapag naikonek natin ang poorest and farthest na mga lokasyon sa bansa, diyan magsisimula ang economic activity na magbibigay daan sa kaunlaran ng bayan,” ICT Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II said.

With the Free Wi-Fi launching in 39 locations in Basilan on September 13, all municipalities and cities in the province are now Free Wi-Fi connected.

“Connecting Basilan was a challenge at the start due to a series of failed biddings, but with teamwork and sheer persistence, our team of Engineers together with our partners, established this Broadband Network maximizing existing systems to connect communities with no access to full-blown ICT infrastructure. With this, we were only able to connect 2 LGUs, Lamitan and Isabela. The only way to reach the other 11 LGUs is to use VSAT- Very Small Aperture Terminal. I’m pleased to share that all the municipalities now have at least one VSAT installed. DICT’s Free internet initiative is now live in 100% of municipalities and cities in the province of Basilan” Regional Director Maria Teresa Camba said.

On the same day, the DICT-MC1 also simultaneously launched the Digital Transformation Centers (DTCs) in Isabela City, Basilan and Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Norte. The DTC is an initiative to strengthen digital capacities of citizens, particularly in the underserved communities. It serves as an incubation hub for start-up businesses, co-working space for freelancers and workers, and training center.

Likewise, the DICT-MC1 also launched Free Wi-Fi sites in 28 locations and 9 Tech4ED Centers in Sulu, as well as Free Wi-Fi sites in 34 locations and 7 Tech4ED Centers in Tawi-Tawi on September 14 and 15, respectively.

Testimonials

Beneficiaries of the Free Wi-Fi for All Program and Tech4ED Program from the three provinces expressed their gratitude to the DICT for the government-provisioned Internet connectivity and ICT facility.

“Nagpapasalamat kami dahil malaki ang naitulong ng DICT dito sa Basilan. Maraming dead spots dito kaya kung kailangan, pumupunta kami ng DICT para makigamit ng facility. Dahil sa DICT nakakaattend na kami ng webinars and nakaka-submit ng reports and emails,” Professor Alejandro Jalil of Basilan State College said.

“We cannot deny the importance of internet especially in these trying times where classes are online and meetings are virtual. We are so thankful for DICT for their services especially for putting up Free Wifi for All, Tech4ED Centers and for training our graduate students on Digital Jobs. DICT has amplified our services as it provided connectivity for our faculty, students and community,” Sulu State College President Charisma Ututalum added.

Likewise, Tawi-Tawi Provincial Administrator Mobin Gampal also stated: “Salamat at nandito ang DICT upang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng Tawi-tawi. Sa ngalan ng Provincial Government, nagpapasalamat kami dahil nacover po ang buong municipalities ng Tawi-tawi sa Free Wifi at Tech4ED.”

Mandated by Republic Act 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, the DICT’s Free Wi-Fi for All program aims to accelerate the government’s efforts in enhancing Internet accessibility for Filipinos by putting up Free Wi-Fi sites in public places across the country.

As of August 12 this year, there are 10,661 Free Wi-Fi sites nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Tech4Ed Program targets to establish community e-centers in areas with minimal to no access to information and government services. It endeavors to promote grassroot development, inclusive growth and poverty reduction by providing Filipinos both the ICT tools and skills training needed to advance in the digital world.