Koko urges government agencies to maximize free wifi law

Now that the public can access the internet for free in several public places, Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III is urging government agencies to maximize the internet as a way to reach out, educate the public, and obtain feedback regarding their programs and projects.

"The internet and social media are powerful tools, and we in government should make the most out of it--especially since it appears that we have to make people better understand how government agencies work, the dynamics between the different branches of government, our specific roles, and the part citizens play in governance," said Pimentel.

The Mindanao-born legislator said on Wednesday that the Senate, in particular, would be producing a series of short videos that would explain how a bill is crafted and becomes law, the budget process, and the role of congressional inquiries.

"While there are subjects in high school and college that provide a cursory understanding of Philippine government, I don't think these have been really successful in educating our people about how government works," lamented Pimentel.

Pimentel said, for example, that there have been studies and polls that show that Filipinos expect legislators to provide projects rather than pass laws.

"This basic misappreciation of the role of the Legislative Branch is indicative of the necessity for us in the Senate to help educate the public about what we in the Senate do and how we do it," explained the lawyer.

"We hope other government agencies follow suit and produce their own information materials to maximize the reach of social media and the internet."

The President signed Republic Act (RA) 10929, or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, last week. The Senate passed its version of the measure in March this year.

RA 10929 establishes a Free Internet Access Program that will provide free internet services in public areas such as national and local government offices; public basic education institutions; public hospitals, health centers, and rural health units; public parks, plazas, libraries, and barangay reading centers; public airports and seaports; and public transport terminals.

The law tasks the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) with implementing the law and ensuring that each user experiences a minimum internet speed of 2 Mbps. The DICT is also authorized to partner with the private sector to implement the Free Internet Access Program. Data regarding the country's connectivity reveal that the Internet is the Philippines' fastest-growing medium of information.

Out of the Philippine population, 44.2 million Filipinos are active Internet users, while 42 million Filipinos are active on social media; active mobile social media users grew by 50% from 2014 to 2015. A total of 32 million Filipinos, on the other hand, are able to access the internet via their mobile phones.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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