MOBILITY had been the exclusive privilege and prerogative of the nobility from the early and Middle Ages, where being born into one class—for example the peasantry—chained an individual to a lifetime of servitude.
Kings, earls, dukes and the knights traveled by carriages and horses.
In the seas, admirals, commodores, captains and navigators funded by the nobility plied the seas in search of more land and riches. The rest of the folks were immobilized and moored in life by their ranks in society.
Then the Middle Ages reluctantly gave way to the dawn of communications and information epoch, courtesy of Johannes Gutenberg, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, who electrified the world.
Samuel F.B. Morse telegraphed the birth of telecommunications followed by Alexander Graham Bell, who gave the words a ringing sensation in a contraption called the telephone.
British mathematician Charles Babbage is credited for rendering human number crunchers with his Difference and Analytical Engine machines “which worked on the principle of finite differences, or making complex mathematical calculations by repeated addition without using multiplication or division.”
As fate would have it, the paths of Augusta Ada Byron, or Ada Lovelace and Babbage crossed. Ada, known to be a publicist, is now commonly referred to as the very first computer programmer.
When ARPANET came into the scene with packet networking, the World Wide Web was born with apps and downloads: mobility was no longer the exclusive domain of the nobility.
What has this got to do with migrants and migration?
The working class for one—with easy access to affordable mobile phones—can get the information one needs to find a job across town or continents without paying for a first-class plane ticket.
Affordable computers, data storage shrinking in size as higher and bigger memory chips relegate the older ones to the dustbin of history in shorter and shortening cycles (anywhere from six months to one year), allowing a high-school graduate to compete with college graduates for jobs that do not require a degree.
One can search for jobs overseas: <www.poea.gov.ph>, for example, would present approved job orders by licensed recruitment agencies of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. Then you have the work-abroad portal, jobstreet.com, and the seek.com portal of Australia and New Zealand. Canada has the workopolis.com.
Marshall McLuhan’s global village is now the entire planet, courtesy of the World Wide Web.
However, there is no escaping the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The nobles have the means of getting the appropriate means of communication in this age and expropriate the widest bandwidth—“a range of radio frequencies which is occupied by a modulated carrier wave, which is assigned to a service, or over which a device can operate.”
Without signals via frequencies, a poor man’s phone is no better than a doorstopper or a paperweight.
Hence, while the rest of the masses compete for the bandwidth crumbs, the nobility expropriate bandwidths for assignment to those who can afford the fastest frequencies. Why else do Philippine telcos offer prepaid and post-paid plans, quite a few titled premium or platinum services?
Because they can. At what cost?
Like its physical counterpart, the Philippine travel arteries, especially EDSA and surrounding side-streets turn into huge parking lots daily.
Stuck in neutral, Philippine motorists and the riding public suffer, creating a daily gridlock that costs the Philippine economy at least P3 billion ($64 million) daily, then-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balicasan admitted, citing a Japanese study in 2012. With half a million more vehicles projected to use Philippine roads, the additional cost would be staggering.
The same gridlock stymies the ordinary Filipino telecommuters.
Globally, the Philippines holds the record of having the second-slowest average download speed among 22 Asian countries, according to internet metrics provider Ookla.
GMA Network elaborated that “in its household download index, Ookla found the Philippines averaged a speed of just 3.64 megabits per second (Mbps), which ranked 176th out of 202 countries worldwide.
Only one other Asian country, the war-torn Afghanistan, had slower speeds compared to the Philippines, Ookla’s report concluded.
So the Philippine nobility lord it over the telecommunication spectrum, limiting the mobility of the ordinary phone and web users.
Even as San Miguel Corp. decided to sell its P70-billion telecommunication assets to Globe and PLDT, the prospect of having faster and more affordable access to information crucial to enhance the people’s mobility (through viable and appropriate career and migration options) remains in the wish-list realm.
In the meantime, the nobles who can afford the fastest services through direct cable links or satellite feeds get the first crack of the best news to maintain their upward mobility.
No wonder more than 6,000 Filipinos leave the country every day to get to where they need—and want—to go, faster. With careers stuck in neutral, subjected to the six-year cycle of administration change and same old, same old governance, countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas become the destination of choice.
Overseas, Filipinos discover level playing fields, enhancing their mobility. The rules of the road are enforced and observed regardless of class ranking.
Back home, the nobles aggrandize the physical and information highways with platinum plans and diamond-encrusted mobile phones.
The rest of us would have to be content to a throwback to the animal-drawn transport system plodding along unpaved trails, while the information superhighway teems with the supersonic carriers of the nobility.
Are the taipans and nobility fearful of the Genghis Khan from the South warning the telecom emperors of Imperial Manila to shape up or be run over by foreign competition?
Beware the ‘666’
June is the 6th month. Six months after assuming office in a year ending in “6,” incoming Philippine President Rody Duterte promised to clean up the Philippine landscape of criminals—hopefully, not just the small-time thieves but more so of career politicians who consider elective office an heirloom that has to be passed on to the succeeding generations.
Such a miscarriage of justice thrived even in a promised straight and narrow path of the soon-to-be previous administration.
Hopefully, the dreaded curse—“when things go south”—will not hold true.