Five years after the enactment of the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act (Republic Act No. 10929), only 1.8% of public schools nationwide have access to free public Wi-Fi.
Senator Win Gatchalian flagged this during his interpellation of the proposed 2023 budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). He also urged the department to ensure that it would hit its target in rolling out internet connection in public places, including educational institutions.
“Our learners are the ones who will greatly benefit from this because it will improve the flow of information, especially for our poorest constituents,” said Gatchalian.
Based on the Free Public Wi-Fi Dashboard, only 860 public schools or 1.8% of the country’s 47,421 public schools have free public Wi-Fi as of September 2, 2022.
The Free Public Wi-Fi Dashboard further reveals that the number of public schools has been dwindling since October 2021 when there were only 1,190 (2.5%) public schools with free public Wi-Fi. This further decreased to 945 (2%) by January of this year.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education pointed out how the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the country’s digital divide, especially as the shift to distance learning pointed to the need for accessible and reliable internet connection.
According to a 2021 survey by the World Bank on low-income households, only 40% have access to the internet. The same survey also revealed that 95.5% of these households used paper-based learning modules and materials.
Under the proposed 2023 national budget, P2.5 billion was earmarked for the implementation of Republic Act No. 10929.
Earlier this year, Gatchalian filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 59, which seeks a Senate review on the implementation of the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act and the Open Distance Learning Act (Republic Act No. 10650).
Republic Act No. 10929 was enacted to provide free internet access to internet service in public places nationwide. It also aims to provide free Wi-Fi internet access in public basic education institutions, alternative learning system centers, State universities and colleges, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) technology institutions, among others.