ICT as catalyst for agriculture, rural communication tackled in APEC Boracay forum

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A symposium on the Internet Economy hosted by the Philippines during the recently concluded APEC Second Senior Officials? Meeting (SOM 2) in Boracay island highlighted the role of ICT in reducing the digital divide while developing the agriculture sector and rural communication at the same time.

ICT Office deputy executive director Bettina Quimson speaks during the forum
ICT Office deputy executive director Bettina Quimson speaks during the forum

Bettina Quimson, deputy executive director for e-Society at the ICT Office of the Department of Science and Technology, said in her presentation that improving Internet connectivity nationwide would enable government services to be delivered directly to the people and contribute to better disaster mitigation and response management.

Quimson said the government has initiated different programs and steps for the use ICT-enabled applications in the delivery of services in areas such as education and employment, among others.

The Philippine government, she said, is pushing for free Wi-Fi access in the rural areas to address the digital divide, and to open new markets beyond the local communities.

She explained that the government if undertaking the project since telecommunications companies tend to shy away from rural areas because of the improbability of profit and return of investment.

According to Quimson, only 8% of Filipinos from rural areas who enter school at the elementary level go on to finish their studies and acquire university degrees. Because of the labor-intensive nature of agriculture in the countryside, parents would rather have their children work in the field with them. The children are thus to be unable to attend some school days. Eventually, they opt out of school altogether.

To address this concern, she said ICT-enabled applications will be central elements under different programs to improve the delivery of education to students, alternative learning systems, upgrading the skills of teachers, and online distance learning.

ICT will also be the main platform for skills development and specialized training leading to industry specific careers and high-income jobs, and to allow SMEs to improve their operations and use the Internet as a tool for expansion, according to Quimson.

The official said promotion of entrepreneurship in agriculture will also be aided by ICT-enabled applications through a database of relevant and useful information ranging from soil profiles and crop information, to pest information and harvest forecasting.

?This is part of the overall strategy being undertaken to promote inclusive growth and through the Internet Economy,? she said.

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