A total of 83 priority sites in South Cotabato was identified as designated areas for the free wi-fi services in the province after it was identified as one of the priority areas under the Phase II of the “Free Wi-fi for all Program” implemented under the Department of Information and Communications (DICT) in partnership with the United National Development Programme (UNDP).
The provincial government of South Cotabato has created a Project Coordinating Team (PCT) to fast track the implementation of the program which will be situated at the municipal halls, barangay halls, schools, plazas, and other public places across the province.
This year out of the total 200,0000 public sites across the country is targeted to avail of the said free connectivity to ease the gap of poor access to the internet, especially in this challenging time.
In an Executive Order, No.50 series of 2020 signed earlier by Governor Reynaldo S. Tamayo Jr., it called on all the members of the PCT headed by the governor himself and vice-chaired by the Provincial Administrator; and representatives from the DILG, UNDP, DICT, provincial Budget Office, Provincial Engineering Office, Provincial Accounting Office, Provincial Treasurer’s Office, Provincial Information Office, PGO-Barangay Affairs, City/Municipal LGU-Project Focal persons (one Focal from each city/municipal LGUs and Civil Society/Non-Government Organization Representatives to assist in the implementation of the program based on its Program Concept Note.
Based on its concept note, the”Free Wi-fi for all Program” is mandated under the Republic Act No. 10929 of 2017 which aims to provide free broadband internet access across the country to accelerate economic, social, and educational opportunities; and, reduce the digital divide under the National Connectivity Program of the government.
The DICT started its implementation as early as June 2016 but experienced slow-paced due to some challenges on the procurement and installation process of wi-fi connections.
UNDP Institutional Devt. Officer Pam Galenzoga, said, for the Phase II deployment, there were a total of 2,197 target sites covered out of the 28 LGUs covered composed of 25 provinces and three highly urbanized cities within the eight regions.
Galenzoga said, for Region 12, there are at least 344 target sites for the 5 LGUS covered.
Aside from South Cotabato, other priority sites within Region 12 include North Cotabato with 116; Sarangani, 70; Sultan Kudarat, 65; and General Santos City, 10.
Galenzoga added that out of 83 sites in South Cotabato, 60 are to be located at the LGU offices.
These are set to be located in 17 sites in Banga; 7 at the City of Koronadal; 8 in Lake Sebu; 10 in Norala; 3 in Sto. Niñ0; 4 in Surallah; 12 in Tboli; 14 in Tampakan ; 6 in Tampakan and; 2 in Tupi.
The 10 host LGUs were chosen since they have a high poverty incidence estimated between 22.41 to 64.00 which is higher than the national average of 21.6.
Galenzoga also stressed that these areas are located in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA), thus one of the criteria for helping the disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.