The internet has changed our lives so much. The world became “smaller” because of constant and immediate access to information and connectivity.
The internet has transformed how we do business, work, banking, and connecting with people. With the pandemic and the mobility limitations it has imposed, our reliance on the internet has increased.
Developing countries have used the internet to access global information sources to improve their social and economic situation. Connectivity allows them to access critical information, helps their business by connecting them with their customers, and allows continuous learning from home. For others, the internet is a way for them to participate in global trade and markets.
An article on Vice says that the Philippines have been struggling with a slow internet connection and high data costs. With an average download speed of 32.37 Mbps, their internet speed lags behind their Southeast Asian neighbours like Thailand and Singapore with 220 Mbps and 247 Mbps, respectively.
A slow internet connection affects many businesses depending on it for sales resulting in significant losses that are otherwise avoidable with a more stable and fast connection. The high cost of connectivity affects poor households with children who need it to attend online classes.
Some homes will sacrifice a significant portion of their food budget to purchase internet data so that their children can participate in their online classes.
Many factors are contributing to the Philippine’s slow and expensive internet infrastructure. According to the article, these factors are:
- A lack of competition means only two powerful conglomerates own and control the country’s telecommunications and internet infrastructure. So, even if they don’t expand their capacity and infrastructure to improve their customers’ service, their business continues to thrive.
- Second, an old telecommunications law that sets back new investors while giving wealthy conglomerates an advantage.
- Third, the internet is considered a value-added service and not a basic service, but if the government changes it to basic service, it will give them the power to regulate the industry.
- Fourth, the government’s “notorious bureaucratic red tape”. For instance, according to one of the two telecommunications provider, they have to secure 29 to 35 permits to build a single cell tower.
- Fifth, the Philippines’ internet and telecommunications infrastructure is inadequate and would need to expand.
Currently, the country has around 18 thousand telecom towers and would need 50 thousand more to meet the data and bandwidth required for optimal service.
Online connectivity has become an essential part of our lives. In some developing countries, internet access allows them to receive emergency alerts or public warnings through their phones, which could help them prepare for any disasters or protect their livelihoods from extreme weather conditions preventing significant losses.
With the pandemic changing normal activities and significantly limiting mobility, affordable and reliable internet access can make a big difference.
Businesses can maximise the use of the internet to connect with their customers, and students, especially in low-income families, can continue participating in online classes.
Affordable and reliable internet infrastructure will give developing countries, like the Philippines, the advantage they need to improve their economic and social situations and help them recover their losses from the pandemic.
The provision of internet infrastructure is part of the ongoing need for countries to sustain investment in infrastructure – transportation, telecommunications, electricity, water services, housing, hospitals, schools, and community buildings.
Often, service standards for infrastructure and societal expectations are changing rapidly, increasing infrastructure planning and provision complexity.
BACKGROUND PHOTO CREDIT: Dennes Abing via Flickr Creative Commons.