MANILA, Philippines — Free Wi-Fi everywhere in the city? As the successful campaign propaganda of its former mayor — and now the country’s vice president — said, “Ganito kami sa Makati.”
The City Government of Makati announced on Thursday an ambitious initiative to blanket the entire city with Wi-Fi Internet connection — the first in the country — as part of a triumvirate of technology projects aiming to bring better public service to citizens of the country’s financial capital.
The rollout began at the seat of government in Makati, the city hall, which now offers free wireless Internet connection to residents and companies transacting with the local government powered by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.’s (PLDT) Wi-Fi Zone offering.
The project, unveiled in time for Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay’s 35th birthday on Thursday, will see 33 other barangays connected to the Web wirelessly thanks to the city’s partnership with PLDT and other telecom companies.
But before you go and pack your stuff to move to another city, Binay clarified that the IT initiative is still at its most nascent stages, with the local government eyeing pilot tests in two barangays to see how the rollout of Wi-Fi would pan out.
“Of course, there are cost considerations,” Binay told InterAksyon. “Medyo malaki ang gagastusin. At hindi pa rin naman namin nakikita kung ano ang magiging epekto nito, so gusto muna naming i-pilot sa ilang barangay (The cost is relatively large. And we also have to see what the effect will be, so first we want to pilot the project in some barangay) and we’ll pick it up from there.”
Currently existing, the young mayor said, is a fiber loop infrastructure within the city that would eventually be used as a backbone should the eventual city-wide rollout of the wireless Internet project takes place.
The fast Internet connection will also be used in monitoring certain government processes, such as business registration within the city. Right now, Binay said they are looking into implementing a tracking system for the application of business permits, so that they can pinpoint where in the entire process bottlenecks — and often, corruption — occur.
“One key reason for that is to ease the conduct of business within our city,” the Makati mayor said, admitting that they have not fared well in this area in recent years. “Though we have about 40,000 business establishments here, we hope to increase that by making it easy for them to file their business permits.”
Initially, the wireless Internet access will be used in ensuring that government transactions are done smoothly and conveniently, but Binay said he is eyeing distribution of prepaid cards to students of Makati so they can log on to the Internet to help in their studies.
In conjunction with the wireless connectivity project launch, the Makati City government likewise unveiled its own Twitter account, @MakatiTraffic, which will give commuters and motorists updates about the traffic situation in Makati.
Notorious for its traffic jams especially during rush hours, Makati’s first foray into social media aims to provide “real-time information and advisories” to road users, particularly in major road arteries that cut through the city.
Also presented during Thursday’s event was the revitalized Makati website (http://www.makati.gov.ph), which makes finding information about the city’s services and attractions easier with just a click of a button.
Binay, who claimed to be a firm believer in the use of technology in furthering public service, said such initiatives “will make governance more efficient” and would reduce the proverbial red-tape as well as incidents of corruption within the city government.
“We recognize that embracing modern technology is the fastest way to achieve inclusive progress and equitable growth in this age of globalization,” he added.