THE DEPARTMENT of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Tuesday said it aims to provide free internet access in 8,701 public areas nationwide by yearend.

DICT Undersecretary Jocelle Batapa-Sigue noted that as of Aug. 20, free internet access was available in 4,681 public sites.

“President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has ordered the DICT to deploy digital connectivity and vital infrastructure to reach underserved areas of the country,”  DICT Secretary Ivan John E. Uy told a Senate hearing.

“The DICT was tasked to provide more opportunities to Filipinos to create wealth and to help steer the country towards economic recovery,” he said.

Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares asked why many expert workers at the DICT were hired as contractors.

“You are handling delicate information and employees handling these should be permanent to avoid data leakage of sensitive information,” she said.

DICT Undersecretary David L. Almirol, Jr. noted that IT experts at the agency often resign due to low salaries. 

Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said the Senate committee would release a report on deliberations on the agency’s budget at a later date.

The Philippines’ ranking in an index measuring digital well-being went down seven places amid lower scores in internet connection affordability, quality and stability, as well as in cyber-security.

The country ranked 55th out of 117 countries in the Digital Quality of Life Index 2022 by virtual private network service provider Surfshark from 48th last year.

This year’s index included seven countries more than in 2021. In Asia, the Philippines placed 14th out of 34 countries. — John Victor D. Ordoñez