Highlights Of 2009 In The Philippine I-Café Scenes

highlights_of_2009Happy New Year to all and may this year and the coming ones be better not only for the i-café industry but for the whole of mankind. May we unleash the tigers in us to combat any bad thing that the evil doers may try to do to you and the industry. Before we can even hope for a better new year, let us first reflect on what happened in the past year so we can go ahead and plan for a more prosperous 2010 and the years ahead. Let me now jot down what I have observed in the Philippine i-café industry in the year that passed. I may miss some significant events that happened to the industry in 2009 so I request that you supplement this article by coming out with your comments on it.

The past year was basically the same as the previous ones before it.  There were i-cafés that closed shops but there were also those which opened during 2009. My observation is that the number of new i-cafés that opened during 2009 are just equal if not lesser than those that closed. This is my basis in saying that the industry may have bottomed out. It is on the same observation that I predicted better income for those who have endured the struggle and stayed open. Again, I say, better income will come not from higher rates but from more demand for i-café services because of lesser number of competitors in the area.

In my personal observation, here are the highlights  of 2009 on what happened in the Philippine i-café industry:

A) Anti-Software Piracy Raids by PAPT – Despite the much-hyped “Legalize Your Software Now – Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late” , the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT) did not do much raids in 2009. Some people said it was because they did not get much support from private entities to finance such activity. Be that as it was, the best thing that i-café owners can do to avoid such raids is to legalize their software.

B) Tussles with the LGUs – Next to anti-software piracy raids by the national agencies, apprehensions by the agents of local government units (LGUs) on violations of existing ordinances in their localities are what many i-café owners confronted in the conduct of their business. Issues ranging from violation of local ordinance banning students from entering i-cafés to play games to assessment of high local tax based on predictive income level were posted in many forums frequented by i-café owners themselves.

C) Voice at National Level – While the existing Internet café associations (ICAs) are doing their jobs of fighting their stands on various issues at local levels, the need to have a national advocacy body that would voice out the concerns of the i-café owners gained strength and I-Café Pilipinas was born in the last quarter of 2009.  Starting with the holding of the First Internet Café National Summit in October of last year, the momentum is on for I-Café Pilipinas to gather more support on its advocacy for the industry.

D) Web Filtering by ISPs – It did not happen yet in 2009 but it was almost a year-round battle that I fought to have this provision taken out of the otherwise much-worthy Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.  You can find many article here about my opinion on this subject but, yes, it’s coming and we have yet to see its degrading effect on the speed of internet connections we now have.

As I said above, there could be more highlights of 2009 in the i-café scenes that I failed to capture here. I request that you add them here by way of your comments. Again, Happy New Year to all!

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