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DICT vows to boost Pinoys’ digital access to news

MANILA, Philippines — By yearend, there will be some 11,000 sites all over the country with free Wi-Fi access, transforming the lives of millions of Filipinos through digital access to information and driving socioeconomic growth, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy, in a keynote speech during the 2023 MOPC (Manila Overseas Press Club) Journalism Awards at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati City yesterday, said that the effort to provide free Wi-Fi was a priority of the department under its Broadband ng Masa Program.

Uy said that internet connectivity throughout the country will aid in keeping Filipinos informed, especially as they have increasingly relied on online news media as well as social media for news and information.

He noted that the Reuters Digital News Report 2023 found that online and social media have become the most popular sources of news worldwide.

“In the Philippines, 86 percent of the urban population is using online and social media sources for news. In fact, 16 percent of those using online and social media for news are actually paying subscription fees to access online news articles,” Uy said.

“TikTok has also grown the fastest among the social media platforms and is now accessed for news by 21 percent of the urban population compared to only two percent in 2020. Further, since the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipino trust in news and media has remained stable at 38 percent,” he said.

Uy said the DICT wanted to be a strategic partner of the country’s media industry, to innovate and survive the shift of news consumers to social media “by implementing initiatives that will allow more Filipinos to access online news and content and to prepare them to adopt emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence.”

He said he understood the challenges AI can pose to journalism, which include automated content creation, information manipulation, as well as ethical considerations.

Through the Broadband ng Masa Program, Uy said DICT seeks to providing reliable connectivity “to unserved and underserved areas across the archipelago, allowing beneficiaries to access information, resources, and