Dr. William “Bill” Torres, also known unofficially as the “Father of the Philippine Internet”, reminisced about the history and evolution of Internet in the country during the third episode of new podcast IN BETWEEN presented by Tech Sabado and Newsbytes.PH.
Torres recounted how he stumbled across the idea of commercializing the Internet that was being circulated in the research community from the United States between 1992 and 1993. By the following year, the country’s initial Internet speeds were reaching 64 Kbps at the maximum.
“At the time, it was in the hands of the government and research institutions, and a few universities. It was a closed ecosystem and I was with a group of Filipinos who went to Washington to discuss certain programs for the Philippines,” he mused.
Torres was the first Filipino to obtain a Ph.D. in computer science under a Fulbright Hays scholarship program in the US. During the Corazon Aquino administration, he served as the managing director for the National Computer Center (NCC) and was the first civilian to hold the position as his predecessors all came from the military.
In an age when the concept of the Internet was deemed too complicated or even unheard of, Torres worked to convince the government in providing funds for the project after informal negotiations with the US National Science Foundation.
In 1994, together with Dr. Willy Gan, Torres founded Mosaic Communications (MosCom), the country’s first commercial Internet service provider. Before it became public, the country’s Internet was limited to nine interconnected institutions that included the University of the Philippines (UP), the NCC, and a few other universities across the country.
“There were nine, connected to a 64 Kbps link to the US. That was the concept, but already we were saying we needed to make this available to the public,” Torres explained on what motivated him to co-found MosCom.
Torres attributes the leaps in country’s Internet development to the government-private sector partnership under Aquino, represented by the acronym TIGER which stands for telecommunications, industry, government, education, and research.
Torres also recently made an appearance during the launch of the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines’ Engineering Science and Technology Division webinar series where he discussed the importance of digital transformation and digital ecosystems.