Are I-Cafés Part of ICT Infrastructure?
Recently, I happened to attend two (2) important events discussing the infrastructure for the information and communications technology (ICT) services in the country. I am referring to the workshop on Philippine Digital Strategy (PDS) and the Philippine Country Workshop on Rural ICT Development that were were held to plot the country’s plan for connectivity and digital inclusion of its citizens.
The PDS workshops, organized by CICT, are still ongoing and intended to draft the ICT roadmap of the country for 2011 to 2016 that will form part of the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for the same period. The two-day workshop on Rural ICT Development was sponsored by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and it tackled the issues and concerns about how the rural areas in the country could have their access to the Internet, be digitally empowered and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
Infrastructure as related to ICT refers to the fundamental facilities and systems serving the communication needs of a country, city or area. As such, it refers to the facilities of telephone companies (telcos) providing landline and mobile phone services and that of internet service providers (ISPs) serving the data communication needs of the public. ISPs in our country are the telcos themselves and a few others like cable TV companies and independent internet signal providers.
The technical working group (TWG) in the PDS workshops assigned to Infrastructure discusses issues and concerns of stakeholders with regards to universal access and digital inclusion. It aims to formulate plans that when fully implemented will provide Filipinos not only systems for voice communications but also Internet connectivity for everyone.
During the discussions in both events, I raised the question of whether our government considers i-cafés as part of the country’s ICT infrastructure. The workshop participants are aware of the survey results showing that around seventy (70%) percent of internet access by Filipinos are done in i-cafés so the industry matters when it comes to the connectivity and digital inclusion targets of the government. I did not receive a specific answer my question. May I ask you then your opinion on the matter and what kind of support should i-cafés get from the government if they are indeed part of the ICT infrastructure?