Government plans to spend P1.76 billion next year for free Wi-Fi in public areas, which, if approved, would bring to P4.81 billion the amount allocated for the project since 2015, Sen. Ralph Recto said on Saturday, Sept. 3.
Under the 2017 proposed budget of the newly-created Department of Science and Technology (DICT), Recto said funding for what is officially known as the “Free Internet Wi-Fi Connectivity in Public Places” will go up by P107 million, from P1.65 billion this year.
“With the proposed funding, the project, which aims to provide free broadband Internet access to 1,462 towns and 44 key cities nationwide, is sustained,” Recto said.
The first phase of free WiFi project covered selected schools, hospitals, government offices, and transportation terminals in 2015. It has a maiden funding of P1.4 billion.
For this year, a progress report sent to Recto by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) officials in May said work on the following areas with the corresponding number of sites will commence in June:
National Capital Region (186 sites), Region 1 (257), Region 2 (13), Region 3 (96), Region 4A (135), Region 4B (29), Region 5 (60), Region 6 (31), Region 7 (83), Region 8 (66), Region 9 (29) and Region 11 (64).
Under the original plan, no-charge Wi-Fi access will be set up in selected airports, hospitals, public schools, plazas, seaports, government offices and other public places.
The idea, Recto explained, is to choose installation areas which will yield the greatest public benefit. “We would like these Wi-Fi hotspots to create value, promote education, help trade and travel, cut red tape in public offices, and be a lifeline to those who are in distress,” he said.
Recto said free Wi-Fi access in major government hospitals is important so that the sick and those who take care or treat them “can have a lifeline they can use to call a friend.”
“In schools, its benefits are obvious — to help students and teachers with their research,” he said.
Providing internet access in airports, seaports, and terminals “will be a big help to tourists and travelers,” Recto added.
But in the “age of Duterte”, Wi-Fi is a major tool in cutting red tape and in making “papers and processes” move faster in government offices.
It should be installed in frontline government offices which “draw the longest queues and the largest crowds,” he said.
“If you’re at the NSO at may problema ka sa birth certificate mo, kung may access doon, pwede mong i-Viber ang kailangan pang dokumento,” Recto said.
“Pwede siguro lagyan yung mga itinatayong one-stop-shop for OFWs. Maliit lang na gastos ito kumpara sa malaking ambag nila sa ating ekonomiya,” the senator said.
“Or kung nasa Civil Registrar’s office ka at may problema ka sa marriage certificate mo, doon mismo pwede kang tumawag sa sino mang makakatulong sa ‘yo,” he added.