WSIS Prizes Contest 2022 Nominee

Free Wifi for All in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas in Western Mindanao


Free Internet Access Program for isolated island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi in the Philippines

Description

The Philippines implements #FreeWifi4All program to provide localities with free internet. However, connecting far-flung villages in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi (BASULTA) islands with almost 2,000,000 residents pose a challenge due to geographic constraints.

This gap has birthed the Zamboanga-Basilan Broadband Network which maximizes existing systems to connect communities with no access to full-blown ICT infrastructure like Basilan. To establish access points in the island, a backhaul link from its neighboring town Zamboanga City of 14-17 nautical miles distance was installed. Meanwhile, very small aperture terminals were used to connect Tawi-tawi and Sulu.

The Project successfully achieved these:
1. Establish cost-efficient ICT infrastructure. The government spends approximately P200,000.00 (USD$ 4205.05) per Free Wifi site, while in this initiative the per-site cost was only P50,000.00 (USD$ 1040.42).
2. Empower communities with ICT. 100% of villages in BASULTA now enjoy Free internet service from 275 hotspots. Prior to this project, Basilan and Sulu were the last 2 provinces in the country left with no free internet provided by the Government, while Tawi-tawi has only 1 location connected.
3. Encourage the use of ICT. Due to mandated physical distancing, the free internet was utilized for education, crisis communications, hospitals, COVID19 isolation centers, among others.

Project website

https://www.facebook.com/dict.mc1


Action lines related to this project
  • AL C1. The role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development
  • AL C2. Information and communication infrastructure 2022
  • AL C3. Access to information and knowledge
Sustainable development goals related to this project
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Coverage
  • Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi provinces, Philippines

Status

Completed

Start date

2020

End date

2021


Target beneficiary group(s)
  • Youth
  • Older persons
  • Women
  • Indigenous and nomadic peoples
  • People with disabilities
  • The unemployed
  • The poor
  • Remote and rural communities

Replicability

Connecting these far-flung island communities were already a milestone for our country. However, the 246 hotspots only cover 7.6% of the public places that have yet to be granted free internet in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi provinces. The Basilan Island Broadband Network was also proposed to replicate the project in remaining 11 municipalities of the province, thus enabling digitalization in the entire island. Zamboanga-Sulu Broadband Network will also be established this year 2022 to activate more free internet access points in island of Sulu.

Moreover, Philippines, being an archipelagic country, is composed of 7,640 islands. Of its 81 provinces, 16 are island provinces. This broadband network initiative can be replicated in other parts of the country where there are still no, if not minimal, access to internet due to geographic constraints.

While there are already 11,475 Free Wifi sites in the Philippines, these are located in 82% of the cities and municipalities in the country as of date. Many more locations are yet to be given Free Wifi for all to be empowered with ICT. The installation of broadband network may fast track establishment of cost-efficient ICT infrastructure.


Sustainability

The Free Wifi in Public Places is mandated by Philippines Law thru the Republic Act 10929 (Free Wifi in Public Places Act), hence funding for the project goes beyond change of administration ensuring sustainability of implementation even for years to come.


WSIS values promotion

This project is one with WSIS’ vision of Information Society for all. ICT offers multifaceted opportunities to the public, and as the government arm charged to shape an ICT-enabled community, it is our duty to promote the public’s access and utilization of ICT. With connectivity as nucleus of power for the information society, establishing broadband network in remote island provinces is key to its transformation and transition towards digitalization. Through the project, thousands of people have not only been made aware of the need for the internet but have also appreciated and utilized technology for various reasons ranging from health to education, crisis communication, employment, social connection, among others. This has helped us create an environment of collaborative and resourceful digital literate individuals which leverage ICT to improve their quality of life, regardless of gender, education, or background.


Entity name

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)

Entity country—type

Philippines Government

Entity website

https://www.dict.gov.ph

Partners

Philippine Coast Guard, Western Mindanao Command, Philippine Ports Authority