‘People should have access to publicly funded data, utilities’ — AGHAM for the People

‘Open data as defined is not what’s happening now.’

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MANILA — Mac Yanto, coordinator for the Computer Professionals Union (CPU), shared the nagging concerns of information and communications technology (ICT) sector which he and other science and technology advocates wish the electoral candidates would attend to.

Speaking at the forum of AGHAM (Advocates for Science & Technology for the People), he said “ICT is composed of infrastructure and services. In the Philippines, however, ICT professionals only provide the services. Whatever infrastructure we have is imported from abroad and is under the control of a few telecommunications companies, who are given free rein to milk these vital services for profit.”

He reiterated that the United Nations recognizes access to internet as a right, yet many Filipinos are deprived access to it as these are now too expensive.

Much of the Philippines’ telecommunications infrastructure trace its beginnings to government and public funding. The biggest telecom company in the Philippines used to be publicly owned in its early years of laying out cables and installing satellites, and later, when it expanded, it required subscribers to pay also for shares in stocks when they applied for installation.

When the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. was privatized later, the cost of its services started rising, and the benefits from the part of profit that it used to finance its further expansion and upgrading did not come back to subscribers and the public in the form of more affordable services.

Kelvin Rodolfo picture
Dr Kelvin Rodolfo (at the center, with Narod Eco to his left and JM Ayuste to his right) raises with AGHAM the need for candidates to define platform in science and technology

The same thing is happening in other largely publicly funded projects, and Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo from the Manila Observatory provided some examples at the forum of AGHAM (Advocates for Science & Technology for the People. “Then as now, there is no transparency in our government,” Rodolfo found out.

“Open data as defined is not what’s happening now,” Rodolfo said.

For example, he pointed out that the government paid a lot for LiDAR technology (radar info on the Philippines), to produce detailed maps.

“Since it’s the people’s money, the information should be free. When you request for a copy of a map, however, you are asked a fee. In other words, whoever holds the data sells and makes a profit out of it,” he explained.

He emphasized that that shouldn’t be the case, as the taxpayers had paid for it. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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