(Courtesy of DICT)

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian wants to speed up the installation of free Wi-Fi in all public schools nationwide, noting that only 860 or 1.8 percent of the 47,421 state-funded institutions are connected five years after the signing of an enabling law.

Senate Bill No. 383 or the Digital Transformation in Basic Education Act will escalate the building of the national infrastructure for information and communications technology (ICT).

The measure will mandate the National Telecommunications Commission to identify locations for the construction of telecommunications tower sites. Missionary areas which remain unconnected, unserved, or underserved will be prioritized.

The Free Internet Access in Public Places Act (Republic Act No. 10929) was signed on August 2017.

Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte also called for free internet in all public schools after attending the launch of the Pinaglabanan Elementary School’s Free Fiber Optic Internet Connection and Free Wifi Program in San Juan City on Dec. 13.

She lauded the city “for the successful implementation of this project which seeks to advance the city’s public education system through greater accessibility to information technology.”

Gatchalian, chairperson of the Committee on Basic Education, said the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the digital divide, which mostly affected learners in poorer households.

Based on a 2021 survey by the World Bank on low-income households, only 40 percent have access to the internet while 95.5 percent of the same study subjects used paper-based learning modules and materials.

Under Gatchalian’s bill, the Department of Science and Technology will assist DepEd and the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

The measure also seeks to enhance the capacity of all schools to strengthen their ICT capacity to implement distance learning and to boost the basic education sector towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Bahagi ng ating pagpapatatag sa sektor ng edukasyon ang pagtiyak na bawat paaralan ay magkakaroon ng libreng internet para sa paghahatid ng dekalidad na edukasyon (Part of our efforts to improve the sector is by ensuring that schools have free internet connection that will help achieve quality education),” Gatchalian said in a news release on Saturday. (PNA)