In preparation for online learning this school year, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it has opened six Tech4ED Centers in San Fabian, Pangasinan and activated three Wi-Fi sites in Baguio City.
The new Tech4ED (Technology for Education, Employment, Entrepreneurs and Economic Development) centers are located in Ambalangan National High School, Anonang National High School, Binday National High School, Mabilao National High School, San Fabian National High School, and San Fabian Integrated School SPED Center.
Students, teachers, and the general public can use the computers in the facility to connect to the Internet for free. The computers also are equipped with the “Tech4ED Platform”, which houses resources such as “eEduSkills” which contains e-learning modules, and “Starbooks” which contain digitized science and technology learning materials in various formats such as text, audio, and video.
The DICT said Tech4ED centers will be used in accordance to health protocols imposed both by the national government and the local government units (LGU).
“Amid Covid-19 circumstances, ICT is very vital in education’s new normal. But in many areas in the country, the digital divide still prevails. Many households do not have access to the Internet, gadgets, or both,” said Leo Ugto, DICT Luzon Cluster 1 director. “Through this program, we want to do our best to bridge the digital divide to support the opening of classes.”
The DICT said it collaborated with the LGU of San Fabian, Pangasinan and with the Department of Education (DepEd) Division of Pangasinan in the establishment of the new Tech4ED centers in the province.
The DICT also donated computer packages to the municipalities of Balaoan and Naguilian in La Union during the quarantine period — two LGUs that are also set to launch their Tech4ED centers soon.
Since 2016, Tech4ED has launched a total of 233 centers in Region 1 — 44 of which are in Ilocos Norte, 46 in Ilocos Sur, 11 in La Union, and 132 in Pangasinan.
The DICT said the Tech4ED program is a vital component of its Digital Philippines Vision under the Digital Classrooms component. The initiative provides a venue for studying, work, and availing of online government services in digitally underserved and unserved areas of the country.
In a related development, the DICT said it also activated three new free Wi-Fi sites in the remote barangay of Happy Hallow in Baguio City.
“One of the primary goals of our intensified Free Wi-Fi for All Program is to connect educators and learners and enable them continued access to quality education,” DICT secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.
The DICT partnered with the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) to launch the Wi-Fi sites in Happy Hallow Elementary School, Happy Hallow National High School, and the Happy Hallow Barangay Hall.
DepEd Baguio Schools Division superintendent Marie Carolyn Verano said the Internet installation is vital because the barangay has been selected as a pilot area in Baguio under the new modalities of the educational system by the DepEd. “Without Wi-Fi, students will not be able to experience blended learning,” Verano said.
The launch of the hotspots is a welcome development for the community, who had long been connectivity-deprived as a low-lying area surrounded by mountains, making telecommunications services elusive.
“Ang Happy Hallow ay masyadong malayo sa sentro. So, sa lahat ng development ay talagang nahuhuli kami. Lalo na yung high school namin. For you to go there, you have to hike. We are so happy that in a short period of time, nagawa ito purposely para makaabot tayo sa bagong sistema ng education,” said Punong Barangay Joseph Sacley said.
Under the arrangement, the DICT is providing the bandwidth for connectivity while Beneco is taking care of manpower and facilities. The cooperative’s fiber-optic network was also utilized as digital transmission lines.
“This is only our first step in bridging the digital divide in the barangay. Rest assured that we will implement more projects here. We will set the establishment of a Tech4ED Center so the public can also enjoy free computer usage,” Ugto said.