Efforts in the Philippines to Provide Access to telecommunications for Poor Communities
The Last Mile Initiative is the brainchild of the USAID or United States Agency for International Development, which is an entity that is responsible for providing civilian foreign aid to various countries. This project aims to expand rural poor communities’ access to telecommunications and information communications technology by utilizing scalable and sustainable initiatives to bridge the digital divide; this will help improve the rural communities’ livelihood and other developmental opportunities. With varying levels of poverty identified in the Philippines, whether in the rural or urban area, this initiative will be a big help to those poor communities seeking an introduction to technology enabled services like computers and e-learning opportunities. This will be a big help to families and especially their children who need to have an additional program in their schools. On the whole community level itself it will deliver services and create participation of all individuals in electronic commerce, distance learning, e-learning and other online applications.
In the past years from the late September 2005 to October 2006 these technological improvements have been introuced and applied to various poor communities in the Philippines. And the project yielded rich results, data, and lessons for the communities. During the onset of October 2006, there were thirteen programs administered to 13 communities: 4 are located in Luzon, 4 in rural Cebu, and 5 in Mindanao. There was also two other earlier programs supported by the Last Mile Initiatve program which is the schools Web Board and Free and Open Source Software which further bolstered the program’s efforts. Notably 18 public schools were trained in this program to bring about capacity building for those in poor communities and even other local government agencies joined in to help.
In light of this, it was crucial to have a public and private agency partnership from the Last Mile Initiative itself and the private entities like Microsoft, Intel, Smart, Globe, and other technology related entities. They helped in providing the necessary software and hardware for the equipment and set up in various communities within schools and community buildings. There are also development and non-government agencies that provided significant support in term of development strategies and community organizing methods.
Budgetary Allocation of the Last Mile Initiave
Like all funded programs, the Last Mile Initiatve had a total budget of Php 5.3 million which was purposefully allocated from the equipment itself down to the salaray and office space of the staff invovled. It is good to note that every peso that was spent effectively matched the different undertakings of the program.
Impact and Evaluation of the Last Mile Initiative
As with all programs dealing with helping the community, an evaluation and impact analysis was made to assess how effective the program helped those rural and urban communities. The evaluation targeted stakeholders, managers, partners, and other invovled entities including the communities themselves to see how much change and improvement that has been brought about by the Last Mile Initiative. This required relevant information like structured interviews and exit surveys about every aspect of the program. The best result was that the communities had a mix array of services provided by technology and information telecommunication devices that answered all their needs like internet surfing, office applications, research, printing, copying, telephony, and many others.These helped in the local businesses that the communites have and also the further education of their children in public schools. Other relevant findings on impact are stated below:
- Internet services are top revenue streams for community, although it is dependent on availability due to varying connectivity options.
- The use of office applications like word processors, spreadsheets, and presentations is the second highest form of revenue.
- Having and maintaining websites acts as an informational tool for many users, a good promotional tool for visibility of the community’s tourism as well.
- An excellent venue for promoting products and services for what the community markets.