Statistically Speaking by Dr. Romulo A. Virola1
ICT Statistics: Show me the data!2
Information. Communications. Technology. Three common words when used together mean more than when used individually – a simple example of synergy.
In the last few decades, information has progressively become an essential good in daily living, communications has enabled many to reach far-flung places and technology has helped us perform our tasks faster and easier. Thanks to information, communications and technology or ICT, Lucky can now blow kisses via video call to Ate Vi in Lipa City while cooking his favorite pancit canton and watching his favorite TV show starring Toni.
The role of ICT in development has been recognized by the Philippine government through such landmark measures as the e-Commerce Act3, National Information Technology Plan 2000 which evolved into the National Information Technology Plan 2000 for the 21st century, Government Information System Plan (GISP), and the creation of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT)4. These measures are instituted not only to promote ICT consciousness and capacity building but more importantly to provide for a conducive ICT environment for business, public administration and services delivery, education, and communications.
With these development plans and programs, one may ask, do we and how much do we utilize ICT? How has ICT affected our lives?
As of 2005, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) reports that there were 6.5 million installed fixed telephone lines of which 3.4 million are subscribed. This translates to a fixed telephone density of 7.8 per 100 population and a fixed subscribed telephone density of 4.0 per 100 population. The Philippines has the fourth lowest fixed telephone lines per 100 population among ASEAN countries, only higher than Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. Compared to 2004, installed fixed lines increased by 1.0% while subscribed lines decreased by 2.0% due to disconnections.
In the same year, a total of 34.8 million cellular mobile telephone subscribers (CMTS) was registered, translating to a CMTS density of 41.3 per 100 population, higher by 5.6% and 1.5 percentage points, respectively compared to 2004 figures. In the ASEAN region, the Philippines has the third highest CMTS density per 100 population after Singapore and Malaysia in 2005. Obviously, Pinoys have shifted from land to cell.
The NTC estimates that an average of 250 million SMS (text, as we Filipinos say) messages was sent per day in 2005. This means that Lucky could be “texting” Toni at least seven times a day and at P1.00 per text message, he must be spending around P7.00 daily. Aha, anybody can now estimate how much our telcos earn, and that is for text messaging alone. Including BIR.
According to a 2002 Philippine Case Study done by the International Telecommunications Unit (ITU) using 2000 data, we were “the world leader in per capita SMS usage, accounting for some ten percent of all SMS messages sent around the world.” No word yet as of 2005, but with the 5.6% increase in the number of CMTS and with the ubiquitous SMS hotline numbers of almost every TV contest, product promos, restaurants, and even government public services, rest assured we will remain as the King and Queen of thumb-typing.
The higher number of cellular mobile telephone subscribers than fixed telephone subscribers can actually be a result of various reasons. The ITU said that one reason is the large number of full service operators which kept mobile tariffs low in the country. Second, mobile phones are easier to acquire and serve even those areas with no fixed line installations. For Lucky, all he needs is to go to Greenhills and buy a cellphone so he could start texting Toni right there and then. And he only needs P210 or so per month to stay connected with her.
PC penetration rate in the Philippines was estimated by the ITU at 3.5 per 100 population in 2003 and 4.5 per 100 population in 2004. Meanwhile, based on unpublished data from the 2003 Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), around 4.4% of the total number of families own at least one personal computer. This is much lower compared to the number of households which own a TV (52.7%), radio (75.2%) and telephone/cellular phone (14.1%). In 2004, we ranked 5th in the ASEAN region in terms of PC penetration rate, after Singapore (62.2 per 100 population), Malaysia (19.16), Brunei Darussalam (8.47) and Thailand (6.00).
When it comes to the Internet, the NTC estimated that there were 1.44 million internet subscribers of NTC-registered internet service providers (ISPs) in 2005, 20% more than the 2004 figure. Further, an additional 33 ISPs were registered bringing the total number of NTC-registered ISPs to 177. The ITU meanwhile, estimated that in 2004, there were 4.4 million Internet users or 5.32 users per 100 population in the country, disappointingly lower than Iran (7.88 per 100 population) and even Zimbabwe (6.90 per 100 population)!
The country’s two largest telcos reported that their DSL/wire-lined broadband5 internet subscribers totaled more than 110 thousand as of end 2005. While one major telco reported a subscriber base of around 90,000, the other claimed around 22,000. Both telcos project that these numbers will increase as network coverage expands, new promo/bundling schemes introduced, prices drop and speed improves. Good news then. Indeed, both telcos are offering DSL download speed of 512kbps at only P995.00 per month. But more importantly, the telcos should consider quality and efficient customer support and service!
Data on the usage patterns of the Internet among individuals/households in the Philippines is scarce as I have found only few and incidentally all from the NSO’s Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS). The results of the survey showed that for 2003, the Internet is a source of knowledge and information for 20% of the country’s population 6 years old and over or 13.8 million Pinoys. However, only 7.4% of them access the Internet for information every day. It would indeed be useful if there is information on what we use the internet for, be it for: research, e-mail, purchasing goods and services, online gaming (oops), text, voice, or video chat (ooops) or peer-to-peer file sharing (oooooooppps).
The proliferation of Internet cafes on which no government statistics are available even though one can see them everywhere looking like air-conditioned sari-sari stores) is an indicator of the absence of PCs and/or internet access among households. As such, people tend to go to Internet cafes or to coffee houses with Internet access and go online while meeting friends and sipping hot coffee. Lucky for some people whose offices are “wired” where they can go online where internet access might be unlimited and most of all free. One day, Lucky might get reprimanded by Direk for spending more time “blogging” and sending “Chikka” text messages to Toni than reading his script.
As ICT has changed, is changing and will change many facets of our daily life, it is imperative for us to know how much it affects us and the society we live in. ICT has evolved into an entirely new sector but unfortunately at present, it can hardly be seen statistically apart from the other sectors. How can we describe comprehensively our state of ICT development if statistical data on ICT are insufficient or do not exist at all?
In 2000, the NSCB created a Task Force on the Measurement of e-Commerce to enable the development of a framework and identify methodologies and strategies for the generation of data and other indicators on electronic commerce. The data assessment done by the Task Force found out that while majority of statistics on e-Readiness6 are available, there is a dearth of government-produced statistics in the usage of ICT. Core e-Usage7 statistics like number of Internet users, number of broadband internet subscribers, population covered by mobile cellular telephony, proportion of individuals using the internet by activity, location of individual use of computers and internet, household expenditures on Internet, number of websites, number of internet hosts are not available. Of course, some of these statistics are available from the private sector but international organizations use government data in their computation of ICT indexes8 and when data are not available, they resort to their own estimates and imputations.
Meanwhile, in 2002, the NSO in collaboration with the then ITECC9 conducted the Survey on Information and Communication Technology (SICT) of Philippine Business and Industry to collect and generate benchmark information on the availability, distribution and utilization of ICT among business establishments in the country. The survey was the first attempt of collecting ICT indicators on business and industries and it seems to be also the last as funding sources for its succeeding conduct remain uncertain. Meanwhile, the National Computer Center (NCC) continues to conduct the various studies and surveys among government agencies and local government units to know the state of government computerization for ICT planning, policy formulation and decision-making in the Government and for the establishment of baseline ICT statistics database.
Indeed, it is imperative for government offices to take that important plunge to the world of ICT. As they do this, they need to give importance to statistical activities that will arm them with tools so they can be the best! But government offices of course need resources! Thus, the DBM and Congress must stand firm on its constitutional commitment to “the right of the people to information”. They must provide funds to support government statistical activities and an ICT-friendly environment.
While we pride ourselves to be the “text capital” of the world and dream to be the “IT Hub” of Asia or “Asia’s Knowledge Center” or “e-Services Hub of Asia”, we need to follow this up with concrete actions to be able to pursue our dreams and to maintain our competitive advantage. We need to invest on ICT. We need to invest on statistics. Otherwise, we’ll keep on hearing the words “SHOW ME THE DATA!!!”
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1 Secretary General of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and Chairman of the Statistical Research and Training Center (SRTC). He holds a Ph. D. in Statistics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA and has taught mathematics and statistics at the University of the Philippines. He is also a past president of the Philippine Statistical Association.
2 This article was written by Candido J. Astrologo, Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org), OIC-Director of the National Statistical Information Center (NSIC) and the Subnational Statistics Office (concurrent) of the National Statistical Coordination Board. Mr. Astrologo is also the Vice Chair of the NSCB Task Force on the Measurement of e-Commerce.
3 e-Commerce Act or Republic Act R.A. 8792 - An Act Providing for the Recognition and Use of Electronic Commercial and Non-Commercial Transactions and Documents, Penalties for Unlawful Use Thereof and for Other Purposes.
4 The CICT was created under Executive Order 269 dated January 12, 2004 as the "primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, regulating, and administrative entity of the executive branch of Government that will promote, develop, and regulate integrated and strategic ICT systems and reliable and cost-efficient communication facilities and services."
9 The Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council (ITECC) was created through Executive Order No. 264 in 2000 to, among others, oversee the implementation and conduct periodic reviews and updating of the National Information Technology Action Agenda for the 21st Century (IT21), the Government Information Systems Plan (GISP), and their successor plans.
Posted 14 August 2006.