Since the internet was created in 1983, new platforms and innovations have been made, playing a relevant role in the modernization of the world. Now, many people’s lives revolve around the internet and technology because of its many benefits of making life easier.
During the past two years, the internet has proven to be a valuable commodity that kept society functioning despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have found a new platform in the digital space, allowing them to continue their operations, while students still managed to learn new things through distance learning as they took their activities online.
An internet connection also helped keep many people well-informed and sane as the world was at a standstill. Through the various social media platforms, streaming websites, online news platforms, and entertainment apps, people found a way to stay up-to-date with the latest events without having to leave their homes.
Online games and messaging apps also kept people occupied, fostering connections, both new and already established.
But even though many people enjoy the benefits of the internet and technology, there are still some problems that need to be addressed for users to enjoy their full potential.
In the Philippines, the common struggle when it comes to the internet is its speed and connection strength. There are only a few network providers in the country, with each having limitations to their services.
Internet users have already voiced their concerns about not having access to a particular network provider in their area or experiencing frequent technical problems that keep them from finishing their tasks or finding a quick way to be informed or entertained. Such occurrences have been constant among various areas for years, thus adding to the users’ frustration.
The country’s current status
According to data from the government, as of January 2021, there are roughly 74 million internet users in the country. But 33 percent or a third of the country doesn’t have an internet connection, thus depriving people in these areas of any vital digital information and services from the government or private sectors.
This presses the need for the national government to start investing in information and communications technology infrastructure, especially now that the internet has become an integral part of the new normal.
Compared to other Asian countries, the Philippines falls behind when it comes to having the digital infrastructure needed to sustain an internet connection for the many Filipinos who need it for their daily needs.
Digital infrastructures refer to digital technologies that provide the foundation for an organization’s information technology and operations. This includes internet backbone, broadband, mobile telecom, and digital communication suites, including apps.
With only 17,850 telecommunication towers in the country, there’s still a long way to go before it matches up to the more than 50,000 telecommunication towers of Thailand and the 90,000 in Vietnam, respectively.
The development in digital infrastructures could greatly help people in far-flung areas to gain access to an internet connection. Aside from that, having more telecommunication towers can also address the biggest problem that internet users have: connectivity.
Unknown to many, the basic reason why internet connections in many parts of the country are limited is that there are around 4,000 users per tower, congesting the available service that should have been accessible to more. In comparison to Vietnam and Thailand, which have 756 and 991 users per tower, respectively, the Philippines still has a long way to go before it meets the demands of its internet users through the establishment of more digital infrastructures.
Some ways to build better digital infrastructures
There are several ways to improve digital infrastructures in the Philippines. While building more telecommunication towers is one viable way to get started, there are some other approaches to consider.
One is to establish the proper regulatory and industry policies to encourage investment. Having fragmented regulatory regimes add unnecessary costs for infrastructure operators. But standardized regulations and policies can help reduce the cost of research and development, network deployment, and operation.
Policies and regulations need to encourage growth and create a healthy market environment to enable stakeholders to invest in the digital infrastructures of a country.
Another way is to find approaches to reduce the cost of network infrastructures. This includes making decisions such as providing wireless services than fixed ones because these are cheaper and faster for operators to deploy.
Infrastructure sharing is also necessary to reduce costs. Site acquisition and civil engineering are significant deployment costs, but sharing of civil engineerings such as ducts, towers, and power lines can reduce costs significantly.
Lastly, the Philippines must enhance collaborations with those in the information and communication technology industry. Having such a collaboration among players in the industry to harmonize technology requires cooperation among vendors, operators, and the entire ecosystem to maximize synergy.
Why is having digital infrastructures important?
Many people consider the stability of an internet connection to be the top concern that digital infrastructures should address. But there’s more to them than just keeping users online and connected.
In many rural areas, having improved internet services through digital infrastructures helps support innovations in various industries that keep a country afloat. This includes farming, construction, and mining.
As for urban areas, improved services can help people access platforms and services that address their daily needs or more. Examples of these are delivery services, food, retail, news agencies, government agencies, and medical care.
Improved connectivity and accessibility is only the direct benefit of having digital infrastructure developments. If given proper attention, digital infrastructures can increase economic growth because it helps build new businesses and create new jobs, improves the sustainability of cities by solving complex problems, and adopting new technologies.
With the world continuously evolving and moving towards modernization, digital infrastructures play a key role in keeping economies alive, helping people stay connected and active, and allowing different industries to function more efficiently and sustainably.