Manila-The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Philippine partners recently gathered more than 750 representatives from government, the private sector, and civil society to highlight the role of local governments in ensuring internet access for marginalized and remote communities across the country.

On September 28, USAID’s Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) and Cities for Enhanced Governance and Engagement (CHANGE) projects, in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the League of Cities of the Philippines, organized the “Improving Broadband Internet Connectivity in Cities and LGUs” conference where participants were able to share best practices in addressing internet connectivity issues and strengthening policies on ICT governance, financing, and investment.

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled cities to quickly adopt ICT approaches to mitigate impacts, improve accessibility to public services, promote transparency in government, and enhance citizens’ participation in governance. Cities are also finding ways to improve their business environment for ICT services to spur economic activity and create more jobs.

However, reliable internet connectivity remains a challenge in many cities and municipalities across the country. A 2021 survey by Pulse Asia found that about 63 percent of adult Filipinos had access to the internet, with internet access and usage lowest in Mindanao at 47 percent.

“With affordable and secure internet connectivity, the government can deliver basic services to more people, create avenues for collective action and stronger partnerships, and improve transparency and accountability in governance,” USAID Mission Director Ryan Washburn said. “As a friend, partner, and ally, the U.S. government, through USAID, will continue to support the Philippine government in building a future where digital technology promotes inclusive growth, fosters resilient and democratic societies, and empowers all, including the most vulnerable.”

“Our vision is to promote an inclusive and sustainable digitally empowered Philippines for all Filipinos where the specific needs of each city and municipality, even those in hard-to-reach islands, can be addressed in order to help them thrive and grow in the digital economy,” said DICT Assistant Secretary Maria Teresa Camba.

USAID supports the Philippine government in improving internet connectivity by sharing potential solutions and supporting the development of implementable policies. This assistance is in line with the U.S. government’s commitment to foster economic growth through improved digital connectivity.

Through its Cities Development Initiative, USAID has been working with nine secondary cities across the country to boost the cities’ economic competitiveness, resilience, and responsive governance, with most of the cities becoming trailblazers in providing e-services to citizens, such as online processes for payments and applications for business and construction permitting, and online payment systems for water services. (PR)