Digital insights from a 12-year-old

"Demand for digital services and technologies is unstoppable and digital transformation is inevitable."


While taking a work-from-home break, I had a short conversation with my 12-year-old son to pry him away from his computer. The conversation turned out to be the inspiration for these thoughts.

Question #1: What is the most important thing you have? He confidently said, “My computer!” A predictable answer to which I am sure most will agree.

Question #2: What is the second most important?... He said, “My phone.” Again, quite expected like most of us who can’t be more than touching distance from our precious smart phones, our indispensable tool.

Question #3: Why is your computer most important? “Ahmmm” as he bowed his head, then with a little prod, he said, “Because I learn some things.” Ah yes, ICT is an engaging learning tool.

I followed up and asked, why? Visibly uncomfortable he said, “It makes me happy… most of the time.” This reminded me how entertainment value and immersive content actually drives the success of mass communications innovators. An irresistible candy in the social media toolbox which unfortunately, like all technologies, is agnostic of good values and motives of its sponsors.

I asked when he is not happy with the computer. He answered, “When it loads too long.” Well, everybody hates slow internet service.

Question #4: What do you do when you are not using your computer? Hesitantly he said, “I daydream about sci-fi stuff … I imagine what it would be like to have superpowers.” Concerned, I paused for a fractional moment but recovered by rationalizing the remark as simply an expression of content that he liked.

Thinking about it, the “daydreaming about sci-fi” part actually demonstrated the powerful influence and the transformative impact of digitalization. I interpreted the “having superpowers” part as a primordial fascination to have extraordinary abilities to do great things limited only by imagination. I am a baby boomer, and back in the late 80s, today’s smartphones and cloud technology were just sci-fi movie props and cinematic illusions.

Question #5: What will you do if there is no internet signal? My son said in a shy voice, “Go to sleep … can’t think of anything else.” Wow! He’s absolutely right. If all our connectivity goes down this second, everything stops. You won’t even finish reading this article.

I can imagine terrifying visions of global chaos that will force every human back to manual mode to survive. That’s how critical our digital and power infrastructure is and more so in this theater of global pandemic.

Experts and enlightened policy leaders have been telling the government to invest money and physical assets to accelerate digitization of the country. Sadly, as many governments of neighboring countries have been driving their telecommunications builds, the five-year-old National Broadband Plan envisioned to boost internet speeds and extensively expand reach can’t take off because the government did not invest in it.

The aggressive capital spending of the private sector is not enough for the tens of thousands lag in telecommunications towers and millions of kilometers of fiber optic networks to link millions of workplaces and households. A low bearing but fiscally unreachable fruit is the 6,154 kilometer, still unused fiber optic lines of the National Grid Corporation spanning Luzon to Mindanao waiting since 2018.

A welcome development is the statement of DICT Undersecretary for Digital Philippines, Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic that, “DICT wishes to invest in common towers for missionary sites, complete with radio access network and Internet Protocol back haul.”

Usec Caintic said they are working with Congress on legislation allowing DICT to utilize untapped funds from the Spectrum Users Fee reserved for the FREE WIFI program. Re-allocated funds will build and operationalize common towers in places hungry for cellular signals. Also, a new Joint Memorandum Circular to streamline permitting of fiber optic projects will soon be out.

Though streamlined permitting for telco tower builds has gained some momentum, telcos are still flagging some local governments who still cause suspicious delays obstructing the development of their own communities. These shameful LGUs should be exposed to their constituents and punished by authorities.

Globe Telecom in a statement counted 318 new cell towers all over the country and completed the expansion of at least 4,210 sites and laying 274,000 high-speed lines. Timeline is on track to expand by 1,383 sites in NCR, Bacolod, Boracay, Cebu, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao.

We in Telecom Tower Watch also monitored SMART PLDT’s update, totaling 64,436 base stations up by 5,200 from December 2020. SMART’s LTE presence increased to 10,327 sites January to April 2021.

So, the last question: What do you want for your birthday? Quickly my son said, “I want more disk space… and a gaming mouse.” Wow again! A sign that demand for digital services and technologies is unstoppable and digital transformation is inevitable.

Topics: Orlando Oxales , Digital technologies , computer , DICT , Digital Philippines , Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic , Globe Telecom , SMART , PLDT
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