Philippine internet access remains slow, expensive

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Sep 07 2012 12:12 AM | Updated as of Sep 07 2012 08:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Despite having a poor communications infrastructure, the Philippines got good marks on the Internet's social impact on Filipinos' lives, a new study led by the inventor of the World Wide Web reveals.

The Philippines placed 32nd overall among 61 countries on the first ever Web Index spearheaded by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee.

The country, which is classified as middle income, also ranked 7th in the Asia Pacific region that includes Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The country scored 58.95 points in the index's social impact category, placing 26th among 61 nations.

The social impact category includes impact of the Internet on access to basic services, social networking sites, teacher training via the Web, the use of virtual social networks, and Web use for public health.

The Philippines had 7 points, the same score as Australia's, on the issue on what extent information and technology enable access for citizens to basic services such as health, education, financial services in the country.

Canada took the top spot worldwide in the social impact category, with Sweden, New Zealand, Norway and Australia making the top 5.

The Philippines, however, only scored 47.41 and ranked 39th in terms of communications infrastructure.

The communications infrastructure category refers to the following standards:

  • Accessibility of digital content
  • Affordability of Web access
  • Electrification rate
  • Firm-level technology absorption
  • Fixed broadband internet monthly subscription as percentage of monthly GDP per capita
  • Fixed Broadband Internet subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
  • ICT Price basket- average price for mobile & fixed telephony, as well as fixed broadband internet services ( % of average income)
  • International Bandwidth (Mbits/second) per internet user
  • Mobile phone subscriptions per 100 population
  • Percentage of households with computer
  • Percentage of population covered by a mobile cellular network
  • Reliability of electricity supply
  • Secure internet servers per 1 million people

Only minority of Filipinos online

The Web Index data showed that online access in the Philippines is less affordable than in Japan, Australia, and Vietnam.

Filipino also have less access to digital content compared to people in Sweden, Australia, and Vietnam, which also have more fixed broadband internet subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

As of 2010, only 25% Filipinos were using the Internet.

The Philippines only has 123,690.5 Mbits per second of international bandwidth per internet user, which refers to the capacity of all Internet exchanges that backbone operators in the country provide to carry traffic.

At 547,064 Mbits per second, Singapore has the world's fastest Internet and ranks in 11th place on the global list.

The index showed that only 15.1% of Filipino households in 2011 have a computer.

However, 99% of the entire Philippine population are covered by mobile cellular networks, the study said.

Economic impact

Despite having a poor communications infrastructure, the Philippines had good marks on the economic impact of the internet on Filipinos' lives.

The country had a scored of 48.98 and placed 27th in the category, which refers to the following: business development around the Web, use of the Web for criminal activities, extent of business internet use, ICT service exports as a percentage of GDP, impact of ICT on new services and products, impact of ICT on organizational models, trust in the Web for commerce, and Web use for agriculture.

The Philippines placed 33rd in readiness (48.26 points), 30th in institutional infrastructure (51.12),  32nd in Web use    (34.64), 35th in Web content    (39.61), and 37th in political impact (33.56).

Sweden topped the global index, beating the US and the United Kingdom, according to the study conducted by the World Wide Web Foundation in cooperation with Oxford Economics.

The others on the top 10 are Canada, Finland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, and Ireland. Yemen was at the bottom of the list.

High broadband prices, censorship

The index said the World Wide Web now has has at least one trillion estimated public pages and roughly 3.4 billion users.

"However, the Web remains a largely untapped resource in much of the world, the study shows, with only 1 in 3 people using it globally," the World Wide Web Foundation said in a press statement.

"The Index reveals that high broadband prices and trends toward censorship are major barriers to making the Web useful to all," it added.

"Growing suppression of free speech, both online and offline, is possibly the single biggest challenge to the future of the Web," Berners-Lee said.

The Web Foundation said internet access remains a luxury good in most countries, with broadband connections still costing almost half of monthly income per capita in the 61 countries surveyed.

"The high price of connectivity is stopping billions of people from achieving their rights to knowledge and participation. Costs have got to come down dramatically," Berners-Lee said.

"The growth of successful Web-based businesses remains surprisingly poor outside the OECD, showing that the Web’s economic potential is also going untapped in many countries," the foundation said.

However, it found hope in government data and services being made available to people online, as well as initiatives to encourage online participation in decision-making.