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[B-SIDE Podcast] Broadband for a better future

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Digital infrastructure may not be a campaign talking point but it will be important for the next administration and the Philippines’ post-pandemic future.

“Whether you’re talking about agriculture or housing, all these will ultimately be driven by a broadband connection,” said Mario R. Domingo, founder of deep learning solutions company Neural Mechanics, Inc. and director of the Ateneo Institute for the Digital Enterprise. “In no uncertain terms, I want to make it clear that a national broadband network is the project of the national government because the moment you privatize it, it becomes a profitability play.”

In this B-Side episode, Mr. Domingo tells BusinessWorld reporter Patricia B. Mirasol about the relationship between the internet and nation-building.


The Philippines can take a page or two from its neighbors. 

Ambition-wise, the Philippines can take a page or two from neighboring countries such as China, which has a national policy that outlines leading the world in 10 high-end technology sectors, and Vietnam, which aims to make 30% of its GDP come from the digital sector by 2030

These goals, if reached, will benefit individuals, Mr. Domingo said. “You need to provide entrepreneurs the infrastructure. A guy from a sitio in Albay may have a mobile app idea, but not the connectivity to [test] it. If they have to rent an office in Bonifacio Global City to get good connectivity, you’re killing them already, because of how expensive it is there.” 

A policy has no teeth without implementation.

The Innovative Startup Act (RA 11337), which aims to strengthen, promote, and develop the Philippine startup ecosystem, is “best in class,” said Mr. Domingo.

However, policies — no matter how excellent — atrophy when not executed in a timely manner. “What’s the point of giving an entrepreneur a grant if… the procurement process to buy a P1 million server takes eight to ten months?” Mr. Domingo asked. “By the time you install your high-tech equipment, it’s already obsolete.” 

Virtual connections can follow the physical.

If a high-speed northern Luzon to southern Mindanao railway network is built, it can act as the spine of a national broadband network.

“The reason why it’s missing is because it’s daunting,” he said, adding that several administrations will have to commit to connecting the Philippine archipelago. “Infrastructure-building is a core scalable and sustainable activity for the Philippines as a sovereign nation.” 

Recorded remotely on Dec. 15, 2021. Produced by Paolo L. Lopez, Jino D. Nicolas and Sam L. Marcelo.

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