News Analysis Telecoms

The Philippines’ Web-less masses

Right now, there are 44,478,808 Filipinos who have access to the Internet – albeit, not exactly trouble-free given the dismal download speeds and the scant WiFi provision. Nevertheless, they represent 43.5% of the country’s 102,250,133 people, which at first glance looks impressive. It’s a lot of netizens in one place.

But the figures also show that a bigger proportion of the country is Internet absent – a whopping 56.5% of the population in fact. That means there are 57,771,325 non-netizen Filipinos at large. And that’s a lot more in one place. Let’s put it in perspective – it’s bigger than the combined populations of the whole of South Africa and the city of Chicago.

What they represent though, is a massive target market, but one which presently cannot be served. The Philippines is out of online capacity and the fact is it can’t adequately serve its present, ‘sometimes-networked’ clients.

But on a more positive note, what the non-netizens also represent is a potential second golden age of Internet growth in the Philippines.

The first golden age was from the dawn of the millennium to 2010. It was a decade of mass Web migration – from 1,544,814 pioneering users in 2000 (2% of that year’s population of 77,932,247), to 23,259,726 in 2010 (25% of the then population of 93,038,902).

Since that time, Internet penetration has trailed off: in the five years from 2012, when there were 34,791,973 users across the archipelago to today, it has risen by just 6.1%.

So what’s their reason for staying offline? It’s unlikely that they represent some passive Luddite reformation, given the demographics: around one third of the population falls within the mid-20s to mid-30s age group. This is the most tech-savvy constituency, and the one that is normally keen to be active in the digital world. Admittedly this is rough maths, but as an indication, 30% of the country’s non-netizen population represents 17,331,379 key-target individuals from this group alone.

Doubtless the frustrations experienced by their peers won’t have helped, but the most likely reason why they are staying away is the high cost of becoming a netizen. Internet in the Philippines, despite the system’s sluggishness, is expensive, with monthly costs averaging around US$18.19 per Mbps, compared to a global average of US$5.21. Subscription costs are also high – US$31.55.

Unemployment and underemployment is also high within this group (and the rest of the non-netizen population for that matter) and there will also be a sizeable proportion also that is on the minimum daily wage of between US$10.23 (non-agricultural) and US$9.45 (agricultural). That right there puts the Net out of their reach.

These statistics don’t just show up the scale of the Philippines’ connectivity woes, they provide a barometric reading of the state of the real economy where the majority of the country lives. If a second golden age is to happen, there’s going to have to be a golden age of higher disposable incomes first.

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  • let us add that there are more households in the Philippines that do not have toilets, no faucets for drinking water, if ever water service is available it is not enough or does not have pressure. and DENR should focus on garbage and plastic wastes being thrown along the streets and eventually will settle in drainages, that will cause flooding eventually. children needed reeducation on litters and cleanliness.

  • … it wouldn’t have been a heavy issue if these greedy service provider have done their job to give the right service to its netizens… their focus is more on the gains as there are not much competitors who can balance the actual cost… what is most appalling is they only started to upgrade the internet speed, alrhough still slow as of present, when our President Mayor declared he is going to allow other foreign investors to come in.
    … i’m still looking forward to ISPs promise that there will be positive changes in their services this year… if they can’t do it for the next 6 months i wish other new investors can provide us what we need.

  • over subscribed na mga broadband channels.dami na gumagamit ng bandwith kaya bumabagal na yung internet.yung latest acquisition ng 700 mhz band ng ating TELCOS from SMB,makatulong sana para madeclogged yung ibang bandwith sana kung workable din yung BPL(broadband over power line).eutilize yung ac line pra maging medium pra lahat ng bahay na may kuryente may option na makabitan ng internet,para sabay nrin yung billing ng koryente at internet. more in technical ksi yung problema at proper management ng broadbands.

  • One quick solution maybe the government should have its own no-nonsense broadband connection service na hindi sina-salbahe as in ZTE deal, at para ung malaking bandwidth load allocation ng government mapunta sa public. that may be possible now under Pres. Duterte. the local governments also could have their own uniformly thru the DILG.