Last month I spent four days seeing, listening and thinking about people living in the Philippines.
I’ve found it quite hard to gather my thoughts into a coherent blog, as much of what I saw and thought seemed to contradict each other. Much was shocking and surprising, other things inspiring and familiar.
Yes, I saw abject poverty – young children filthy and weeping by the side of an over-congested road, shanty make-shift homes made of cardboard and scraps. And I heard about poverty, 37% of the population living on less than $3.10 a day. 10 million Filipinos work overseas and send money home, I met a woman on the plane leaving Cebu, she works in Dubai as a Medical Technician and had just had her annual trip home to see her children (aged 7 and 11) – I can’t imagine the pressures on a parent to have to choose to work overseas so her children have a better chance at life. The woman said she lived in one room in a flat with 3 or 4 others (Filipino couples, and families), sharing a home to maximise how much is sent back to the children and elderly parents.
But on the other hand the Philippine Government are well-organised and ambitious for their country. There is a growth in tech hubs and a vision that digital will help their emerging nation grow faster and compete. Part of their goal is more, better paid employment in-country so people don’t have to leave their families behind if they want a decent wage. The Government, with the ITU (the technology arm of the UN), and others signed a pledge for the eFilipino at the event I was at in Cebu. Their plan is that a more successful nation is going to be a digital nation.
So, why was I there?
I was there to talk about digital inclusion of course. To discuss the impact that gaining basic digital skills has on individual lives and on a society, and to see with my own eyes the excellent Tech4ED centres they are developing. That’s ED for Economic Development. They have 300 centres already and more are being established all the time. It was great going to one of their Tech4ED centres in Mandaue – it was really familiar to me. Lots of different people of all ages doing the thing that they wanted or needed – from learning English to applying for a birth certificate.
The Philippine Government are already on the same page as us. They have embedded digital literacy into the curriculum offer they have available in Tech4ED centres which target older people, unemployed people, people needing to do a few basic Government services (such as order a birth certificate), as well as ‘out of school youths’ – that’s children who don’t go to school as they need to work or move around a lot – they can graduate from high school by completing online materials.
Imagining the world in 2030, let alone in 2020, it’s hard to imagine that the Philippines won’t be there competing with us in digital, creating their own digital businesses as well as no doubt supplying other global digital needs. I met a man from Boston via Silicon Valley and Nairobi who has chosen Cebu, Philippines, as the place to establish his social business due to the combination of great need (poverty) and a pool of local digital talent.
Digital literacy in the Philippines is about making sure people don’t leave people behind as the nation accelerate to greater economic development – and they get that. They already have programmes but they think Learn My Way is better than what they currently use and so they will run a pilot to see if and how it’s useful. At the start of this week we made ph.learnmyway.com available for use in the Philippines. Facebook is massive in the Philippines.
Key stats Philippines:
- Population: 100m+
- 44m use the internet
- 30m use Facebook
Key stats UK:
- Population: 60m+
- 53m use the internet
- 33m use Facebook
So we’ve introduced a Facebook login to Learn My Way, so that people don’t have to register again if they don’t want to. It’s a trial, and we’ll see how it goes.
Next steps – hard work to making this happen and then learning the lessons. But this is a real partnership with talented, focussed and ambitious people. I look forward to working with them.