It is not an understatement to say that the world has changed drastically in the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic, more than being a threat to health and safety, also revealed massive inadequacies and vulnerabilities in the social systems all over the world.
As a silver lining, however, it has also revealed ways on how to move forward. Digital connectivity, for instance, has become a boon for governments, businesses, and even individuals seeking to navigate life during the pandemic, with both the public and private sectors of society practically undergoing digital transformation overnight.
PLDT, Inc., the country’s largest telecommunications, internet, and digital service providers, knows the importance of connectivity in the new normal and has committed to use its network and expertise to support the government’s COVID-19 response.
For instance, along with Smart Communications, Inc., PLDT has turned over Smart Bro pocket WiFi and PLDT prepaid home WiFi units for use of frontliners and volunteers at the Office of the Vice President’s drive-thru vaccination site in Harbor Square in Manila, following up on the previous roll out of Smart WiFi connectivity in isolation sites set-up by the Office in Malabon City.
Additionally, the Philippines’ first integrated health app, mWell, was launched in partnership with PLDT Home. As a service that provides digital services that enable families to do things better at home via broadband connectivity, PLDT Home is enabling connected families to get free online check-up and consultations with mWell doctors in the areas of primary care, pediatrics, internal medicine, ob-gyn, cardiology, gastroenterology, dermatology, and COVID-19.
The goal is for Filipinos to have an avenue for convenient bookings and safer consultations for health problems. Soon to be launched by Metro Pacific Health Tech Corporation (MPHTC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), mWell is an all-in-one app set to offer telehealth to Filipinos during this pandemic through online doctor consultations, health education, wellness programs, online pharmacy services, and more.
Simple and accessible in just a few clicks, mWell app users can not only do video consultation but also buy medicines, access personalized fitness and nutrition programs including COVID-19 assessment, pregnancy trackers, and buy wellness products at the shop by Adobomall with the use of PayMaya for fast, secure, and hassle-free transactions.
PLDT and Smart’s support to the country’s fight against the pandemic has also included the rollout of fiber-powered WiFi connectivity to government-run quarantine, swabbing, isolation and vaccination sites, as well as other COVID-19 facilities.
Since last year, PLDT and Smart have been providing connectivity and communications support to frontline agencies and their personnel in different parts of the country to help front liners and patients stay connected despite the challenges of the pandemic.
From the beginning, PLDT and Smart have played a critical part in keeping the public informed of government announcements and COVID-19-related news. To ensure that the public has access to right and up-to-date information, PLDT has provided free access to government and news websites for PLDT Home WiFi and PLDT Home Volume based plans, as well as supporting the Department of Health (DoH) and the 911 National Emergency Hotline of the Department of Interior and Local Government for the launch of a hotline for COVID-19 concerns.
The access numbers for the DoH COVID-19 emergency hotline are 02894-COVID or 02-894-26843, and, 1555. The hotline number 02894-COVID or 02-894-26843 is open to all callers nationwide. The hotline number 1555 is initially accessible only to PLDT, Smart, Sun, and TNT subscribers.
To aid in creating a more efficient communication system among government agencies, PLDT provided free WiFi Internet and landline calls in critical areas including command centers, transportation systems, and health centers in Batangas City, Lucena, Zamboanga, General Santos City, and Davao.
PLDT and Smart’s connectivity solutions have also been integral to keeping the education system running despite the health and safety precautions during the community quarantine.
Most recently, PLDT Enterprises has extended fiber connectivity and internet solutions to Piddig, Ilocos Norte to support online learning, providing digital services to all 23 barangays to improve municipal governance.
Another initiative is the mobile truck called “Vertext on Wheels”, the mobile internet truck deployed in the capital city of Ilocos Norte by PLDT and Smart, in partnership with their provincial distributor in Ilocos Norte Vertext Handyphones under their Learning Access Online (LAO) project.
LAO also provides entrepreneurial training for students for business opportunities as retailers of Smart Load, freelance agents for PLDT Home and installers for Cignal TV. Initially rolled out as a Vertext Handyphones barangay caravan throughout Ilocos Norte, Vertext on Wheels provided free Internet, free use of LTE gadgets, free document printing and discounted load offers to students, among others.
The PLDT-Smart Foundation (PSF) has also been busy supporting communities during the pandemic, as it recently turned over one million pesos in donations to the Philippine National Police (PNP) as part of its 13-year PSF-PNP educational program.
Over the years, PSF has been supporting the dependents of PNP uniformed personnel who were killed in actual performance of duty, complete disability, discharged, wounded or incapacitated in their line of duty, and those dependents who graduated with honors through the PSF-PNP Educational Assistance Program.
Aside from the donation, the PSF also turned over Smart LTE Pocket WiFi units for the scholars. Since 2008, the PSF has supported 639 college scholars.
“COVID-19 has set our agenda for the foreseeable future. At the outset, our task was clearly to keep people connected as the country went into lockdown. Moving forward, we will grow our business by helping our customers – and the country – rebuild their lives and livelihoods with powerful connectivity like fiber, 4G and now 5G, combined with innovative digital solutions,” said Manuel V Pangilinan, chairman of PLDT, Inc. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran