Survivor Philippines: The digital drama

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WHEN the enhanced community quarantine was imposed in March 2020, almost everyone was forced to move to the world wide web as part of the “new normal.”

Businesses, education, and practically everything else became more dependent on the services provided by the internet and digital technology

Sadly, the Philippines is not yet ready for this transition.

Statistical data from the Inclusive Internet Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit in March 2020 showed the Philippines ranking 63rd out of 100 countries when it came to overall internet service, and 82nd in terms of affordability. In the Asian rankings, we are ranked 19th out of 26 countries.

Speedtest Global Index’s June 2020 report revealed that the Philippines’ average mobile download speed was 16.17 Megabits per second (Mbps), a huge gap when compared with the 34.67 Mbps global average. The country’s 23.74 Mbps fixed broadband download speed fared no better against the 78.26 global average.

Internet service in this country is expensive but slow.

On May 28, the official twitter account of PLDT, one of the biggest telecommunications providers in the country, was hacked by an anonymous group that wanted to air its grievances over poor internet service.

“As the pandemic arises, Filipinos need fast internet to communicate with their loved ones,” the tweet posted by the hackers said. “Do your job. The corrupt fear us, the honest support us, the heroic join us. We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

This PLDT Twitter hacking incident is not only an indication of the frustrations of the citizens as regards internet connection in the country, but also a peek into the increasingly concerning problem of poor cybersecurity and data breaches occurring in the country

The most notable of these data breaches was the emergence of duplicate Facebook accounts bearing the names of students, journalists and professors. This came after several universities released notices that their student portals were hacked.

Another big problem in the online transition is the poor service of Meralco, the biggest electricity provider in the country that seems to have been taking advantage of Filipinos stuck in quarantine.

Electricity bills during the quarantine triggered a wave of confusion across the country as bills were either overestimated or underestimated.

Without any clear explanation as to why the spikes happened, rotational brown-outs and black-outs occurred.

While the company vowed to refrain from sending out disconnection notices until September, where do they expect the people to get the money to pay ridiculously high bills at a time of uncertainty and depression brought upon by the quarantine and the pandemic?

After getting called out by the government just recently, Meralco issued an apology and promised adjustments and refunds.

Their adjustment involved the removal of online convenience fees. The refund was only P0.0286 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or about 6 pesos for households consuming 200 kWh a month.

Is this something we should be thankful for? This barely makes a scratch, especially for people with no jobs during the quarantine but are forced to pay sky-high electricity bills.

Why are we forced to play some twisted game of survival with the same people that should be helping us continue our lives at a time like this? These grievances can be fixed by proper management and assistance from the government.

The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over yet, but it seems we won’t be ready to take a step further toward the socalled “new normal.” These businesses, which thrived because of Filipino consumers, should return the favor and help citizens in this time of crisis. Otherwise, we are headed toward a disaster worse than what we already have right now.

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