The “digital divide,” that gap between the Internet’s haves and have-nots, is more profound than ever despite growing web and mobile web usage, according to the chief executive officer of one of the country’s most influential applications developers.
“There is still a gaping digital divide. Despite more than 30% Internet penetration among Filipinos, over 90% of whom are on facebook, and one out of two of whom have web-capable mobile phones, the Divide is more profound now that the Internet serves as the main channel for the exchange of information,” said Chito Bustamante, chief executive officer of Chikka Philippines.
“I am saying that the extent of the disenfranchisement of Filipinos who have limited or no access to the Net is greater now. The online class is a new privileged class. They have priority access in interacting with any organization, performing their duties, and obtaining many benefits – from submitting homework to getting discounts, from landing jobs to publishing social commentaries.”
He said that those who have “always on” Internet on demand, primarily get news, information and entertainment via web-enabled devices and are able to act in real-time on this information. Social networks and social media like Facebook and Twitter allow people to navigate this information with ease; and mobile devices like smartphones and iPads allow that social media to just follow them wherever they go.
Bustamante was speaking at the sidelines of the recently concluded Digital Filipino E-Commerce Summit held in Makati City where he also said that Chikka Philippines is at work on new solutions that help bridge this divide.
Around the world, the prognosis proffered by many analysts is that as consumers turn more and more to the web, traditional “over-the-air” (OTA) voice and text will eventually become obsolete; deposed by OTT or “over-the-top” alternatives such as Facebook, Skype, BBM, and iMessage.
But in the Philippines, mobile network operators report that a great majority of Filipinos still depend on traditional OTA text and voice.
He said that even the Android or iPhone versions of Chikka are designed to connect fashionably to legacy mobile phones in the Philippines, making Chikka a unique OTT and OTA hybrid. It also supports bucket and unlimited reply plans from mobile to web for many Filipinos who are now accustomed to such.
“The digital divide is a socio-economic divide. The real challenge is providing always on access to a majority of Filipinos. In this larger scheme of things, Chikka is now developing platforms that will simulate “always-on” Internet, that will allow Filipino mobile subscribers access to all that they need and want from the web “on-demand” and in the most efficient ways,” said Bustamante.
INFOCHAT: ‘Great digital divide remains’ – Chikka