• Better Internet urged to boost MSMEs

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    The government should prioritize the improvement of local Internet services, a legislator said, in a bid to develop the e-commerce industry and help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) penetrate the global market.

    “I think e-commerce is one sector beaming with potential which we have yet to tap. We are known to be big users of social media and given the amount of time we spend on the Web, Filipinos will no doubt embrace online shopping,” Sen. Sonny Angara said over the weekend.

    Filipinos, he noted, remain saddled with poor Internet connections, citing a 2015 study by Ookla that ranked the Philippines the second-slowest in Asia, next only to Afghanistan, in terms of download speeds.

    The Philippines, with an average broadband speed of 3.64 megabits per second (mbps), was ranked 176th out of 202 countries in the world. Accessing the Internet in the Philippines was also said to be expensive, with an average value of $18.19/mbps compared to the global average of $5.21.

    E-commerce has been identified by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economic leaders as one of the key strategies that will empower and help MSMEs participate in global commerce.

    To improve the country’s Internet services, the National Telecommunications Commission this year issued a memorandum setting the minimum broadband speed at 256 kbps and mandating service providers to disclose average data rates per location.

    Angara, however, said: “According to several tech groups, this minimum requirement is still low if we want to catch up with the rest of the world in this fast-paced digital age. It is high time for us to create a separate body that would focus, provide adequate support and ensure that innovations in information and communications technology (ICT) would contribute to global competitiveness.”

    The lawmaker has filed a bill that seeks to create the Department of Information and Communications Technology, which will be mandated to promote wider use and development of ICT and its applications to enhance the competitiveness of Filipino workers, firms and MSMEs.

    “We were recently dubbed as one of the hottest e-commerce markets in the region. We should take advantage of this momentum and improve our technology and digital infrastructure to better facilitate the ease of doing online business and cashless payment in the country,” Angara said.

    Given the potential of e-commerce, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has committed to launch an E-Commerce 2020 Roadmap, which will contain targets and key strategies to help the industry make up a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product by 2020.

    “If we were able to boost our Internet connectivity to up to 8.5 gigabits per second in select venues during the APEC Summit, I hope we can do the same for the development of our e-commerce industry. The DTI said its roadmap aims to engage at least 100,000 MSMEs and 30 percent of our population in online businesses. This would not be possible without a reliable Internet service,” Angara said.

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