Women’s digital inclusion in Philippines takes spotlight in US-led forum

July 22, 2022 - 5:23 PM
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Internet user on a laptop, in Reuters file photo.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) late last month conducted a virtual seminar tackling the access of women and underserved communities to digital technology in the Philippines.  

Over 300 participants attended the online dialogue last June 27, where they discussed topics related to digital inclusion, such as the gender mobile internet adoption and usage gap, key ICT policy changes and opportunities to increase women’s mobile internet use, among others. 

USAID Philippines Regional Office of Acquisition and Assistance Director Jennifer Crow affirmed how important internet and mobile devices are in this day and age. 

“USAID remains committed to supporting the Philippine government in building a future where digital technology promotes inclusive growth, fosters resilient and democratic societies, and empowers all, including the most vulnerable,” Crow added.

A report from Global Systems of Mobile Communications Association shows that 52 million Filipinos do not have access to mobile Internet despite living in areas covered by mobile broadband.

A significant number of them are women who struggle with issues such as handset and data cost, limited access to networks and electricity and safety and security concerns that include online harassment and fraud. 

Department of Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Maria Victoria Castro said that the agency is actively working with its partners to guarantee the access of every Filipino to internet connectivity.

“Through our efforts, we can surely accelerate progress in advancing ICT and deliver on the promise of digital inclusion,” said Castro.

During the dialogue, the speakers provided policy examples and innovations implemented in other countries such as increasing digital literacy, cutting back on consumer taxes and import duties on handsets, offering flexible payment terms for customers in need and providing internet service and smartphone subsidies to businesswomen and female-headed households. 

They also discussed the existing policies and programs in the country that support digital inclusion which include the updated Philippine Development Plan, the updated gender equality and women’s empowerment Plan, the National Broadband Plan, the free wi-fi for all program, and the Tech4ED Project. 

One of USAID’s projects, the Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project helps improve the country’s ICT and logistics infrastructure, strengthen the regulatory, business, and innovation environment and bolster cybersecurity. 

To further expand their automation and digitization efforts to bridge the digital divide, the U.S. government, through USAID, also helps individuals and communities by supporting their networks and expanding low-cost internet access for underserved people.