The Department of Science and Technology, through its Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO), will embark in providing Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places across the Philippines. The Project, under the overarching e-Filipino Program of the DOST-ICTO, aims to accelerate the government’s efforts in enhancing Internet accessibility for Filipinos so that, in turn, economic, social, and educational opportunities will be bolstered, and the growing Digital Divide can be bridged. The Free Wi-Fi Project is directly in line with the “Internet For All” thrust identified in the Philippine Digital Strategy of 2011-2016.
The budget for this Project, as authorized in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), is ₱1.408 billion, a vast leap from the originally-proposed ₱339 million in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).
Following the increase in the budget, the scope of the Project has been consequently expanded. In addition to the initial 748 plazas in Class 4, 5, and 6 municipalities intended to be covered, public schools, libraries, government hospitals and rural heath units, among other public spaces in municipalities Classes 3 and lower were now incorporated in the roster of beneficiaries. Sites in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao, as well as other cities that will serve as distribution points or Points of Presences (PoP) were also included in the Project’s reach.
The Project shall provide Wi-Fi Internet access at no charge in selected public places. Implementation shall be done in three (3) phases, and it is expected that the Project will be operational in all Metropolitan areas by the 6th month of the Project’s execution, upon awarding. Coverage of all served areas, meanwhile, is targeted by the 11th month, also upon awarding.
Once fully deployed, the Free Wi-Fi Project will serve 112,000 concurrent users with 256 kbps each, as this is the lowest prevailing speed requirement for a “broadband” service. A data volume-based Fair Usage Policy shall also be implemented to ensure an equitable distribution of the public service.
The concept of managed services shall be leveraged all throughout the Project not only to guarantee rapid rollout and a responsive service, as well as to allow economies and other aggregation-derived benefits, but to create commercial opportunities for private sector participants, which would redound to greater economic benefit through expanded services for all.
The Project by design shall be implemented by the DOST-ICTO. Led by the Project Management Team, all vertical services and field operations/provincial offices shall have a role in bringing the Project to fruition.
The DOST-ICTO is mandated to formulate and to recommend ICT policies that will help accelerate and develop the ICT Sector, to promote the use of ICT to improve delivery of critical functions of government services, and to provide efficient and effective ICT infrastructure and information systems to the public. It shall be towards the fulfillment of its mandate that the DOST-ICTO will embark on this Project.
The Free Wi-Fi Project is a component of the Philippine Digital Strategy of 2011-2016, a multi-sectoral approach seeking to digitally empower the Filipino people.
World Bank studies show that every 10 percent increase in broadband connectivity results in a 1.38 percent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Availability of free internet connectivity by way of the Project can jumpstart socio-economic development by giving access to e-Commerce, e-Learning, and e-Government tools to beneficiary sites, which would then increase their incomes and, in time, push their economic status upwards across the nation.
The primary purpose of the Free Wi-Fi Project is to, again, accelerate the government’s efforts in enhancing Internet accessibility for Filipinos so that, in turn, economic, social, and educational opportunities will be bolstered, and the growing Digital Divide can be bridged. As many as 14,000 sites in over 1400 municipalities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are estimated to benefit from the service upon the Project’s completion.
By developing relevant systems and enhancing and maximizing existing ones, the Free Wi-Fi Project aims to:
- provide Wi-Fi Internet access at no charge in selected public places;
- provide efficient and effective ICT infrastructure and information systems to the public;
- promote the use of ICT to improve delivery of critical functions of government services;
- provide a lower entry barrier for users, as well as improve accessibility;
- through public-private partnerships, provide commercial services, but with direct government intervention – in the form of investments – only as a method of last resort; and
- acquire a secured official electronic communications and collaboration system
Given the deep, cross-cutting nature of the Project, and the potential increase of its efficacy to spur national development, a Steering Committee has been formed to formulate general policy and coordinate interventions among its members and their various stakeholders. The DOST-ICTO shall serve as the Secretariat of the Steering Committee, composed of the following:
- Department of Science &Technology (DOST),Chairman
- Department of Tourism(DOT)
- Department of Trade and Industry(DTI)
- Department of Transportation and Communications(DOTC)
- Department of Health(DOH)
- Department of Budget and Management(DBM)
- Department of Social Welfare and Development(DSWD)
- Department of Education(DepEd)
- Commission on Higher Education(CHED)
- Technical Education and Skills Development Authority(TESDA)
- National Telecommunications Commission(NTC)
- Metro Manila Development Authority(MMDA)
- League of Cities(advisor)
- League of Municipalities(advisor)
To ensure the Project’s effectiveness and feasibility, meanwhile, an Advisory Committee has also been formed, composed of various non-government stakeholders, including industry and civil society. The DOST-ICTO shall serve as the Secretariat of the Advisory Committee. Members shall include, but is not necessarily limited to:
- Federation of the International Cable TV and Telecommunications Association of the Philippines (FICTAP)
- InfoComm Technology Association of the Philippines(ITAP)
- Internet Society (ISoc), Philippines Chapter
- National ICT Council Confederation of the Philippines(NICP)
- Philippine Association of Private Telephone Companies(PAPTELCO)
- Philippine Cable Television Association(PCTA)
- Philippine Electronics and Telecommunications Federation (PETEF)
Accomplishment Report 2015
Since its official launch on the opening day of the 2015 National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) last July 24, 2015, the Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Project has been steadily gaining ground towards making its vision of internet access for all a reality. In the months that followed, infrastructure has been procured and set up, system integration planned, memorandums of agreement discussed and signed with partner agencies and other stakeholders, and Project staff and agency users trained.
Below are the highlights of these Project accomplishments, sorted into their respective components:
Component 1: Governance
Provided general policies; Conducted three (3) Steering and Advisory Committee meetings, and; Signed and notarized Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between DOST-ICTO, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP)
Component 2: Project Management
Hired three (3) managerial staff, twelve (12) technical staff, eight (8) administrative staff and three (3) drivers; Engagement with LGUs for Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) delivery and signing; Conducted the “Free Wi-Fi Planning Workshop” in Bayfront Hotel, Subic and “Oplan 1” in First Pacific Leadership Academy; Completed 70% of construction of three (3) Area Project Management (APM) Offices; Inspected thirty-two (32) Telecommunications Offices (TELOF) in Visayas and Mindanao; Verified the actual municipality coordinates; Designed Plan of Office and NOC Build-Up, and; Conducted coordination, testing, monitoring, and implementation of Proof of Concept sites in Metro Manila – four (4) non-governmental agencies (NGA), two (2) hospitals, one (1) Local Government Unit (LGU), and two (2) parks
Component 3: Management Supervision and Administration
Facilities/office of Point of Presence (PoP) Sites 30% refurbished; Notices to Proceed (NTP) awarded for the procurement of three (3) lots of International Internet Protocol Transport (IPTD); Procurement of 100 lots of Internet Protocol Transport Municipal (IPTM) Services; Twenty-four (24) lots of Internet Protocol Transport Services – Cities (IPTS-C); 115 lots for Internet Protocol Transport Services – Municipal Centers (IPTS-MC); procurement of one (1) lot of System Management Access; Participated in the National Science and Technology Week 2015, and; Conducted the National ICT Summit
Component 4: Social Marketing & Stakeholders Engagement
Secured cinema advertisement placement; Produced pop-up display for the 6th meeting of the Policy Partnership on Science, Technology, and Innovation (PPSTI); Prepared and purchased 500 brochures, 500 pieces of foldcote paper, 30 units of press kits, 50 tarpaulins, and 50 posters used as promotional materials, and; Participated in the DOST Regional Cluster Fair
Component 5: Capacity Building
Prepared terms of references (TOR) for the procurement of services for the Capacity Building Component of the Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project in clusters; Hired five (5) contractual staff; conducted the ICT Month Tech Talk