UN E-Government Survey in Media
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Internet speed is now considered part and parcel of a company’s decision to relocate to a foreign investment site. Like tax incentives, cheap labor and power rates, and a stable economic environment, faster internet speed is a major consideration that can seal an investment decision.
The Philippines until recently had one of the slowest internet speeds in this part of the region. But with a new government backing reforms in the telecommunications sector, the Philippines has slowly moved up in the information and communications technology world rankings. Out of 167 countries, the Philippines rose 7 ranks from 105th in 2010 to 98th in the International Telecommunication Union-ICT Development Index (IDI) of 2015. Within the 32 countries listed in the Asia & Pacific region, the Philippines ranked 15th. The Philippines ranked 5th out of 10 among Asean nations, outpacing Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
The United Nations E-Government Survey 2016 on E-Government Development Index, meanwhile, showed that out of 193 countries, the Philippines’ rank improved to 71st from 95th the previous year, or a 24-notch leap. The Philippines ranked an impressive 3rd out of the 10 Asean countries—higher than Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
The Global Connectivity Index separately ranked the country 38th out of the 50 countries in its list. Edging Indonesia and Vietnam in its cluster, the 38th spot represents an improvement of four notches from 2015.
The Philippine ICT sector is clearly getting better in the global stage. The government of President Rodrigo Duterte is on the right track as reflected in the improving rank of the Philippines in the ICT sector.
Local telecommunications companies have accelerated the rollout of more cell sites in the Philippines. Local government units, thus, must seriously look into reducing sharply the number of permits required in installing the equipment. Going through as much as 25 to 30 permits from LGUs for one cellsite (with only one permit required from the National Telecommunications Commission) simply deprives consumers of getting a service that may actually be readily available.
Globe Telecom Inc. recently claimed in a public hearing with Senator Bam Aquino that out of the 1,000 additional cell sites it was ready to fire up, only less than 500 had been completed since the permits for rest were still pending with the LGUs.
President Duterte’s proposal to build a National Broadband Network and widen the coverage of free wi-fi are perfect complement to what has been accomplished so far in the sector. The NBN will have far-reaching effects and contribute a great deal to connectivity, thereby, pushing our global rankings even higher. The collective effort of the government, the private sector, and a highly critical public is necessary to ensure the current ICT gains are capitalized on even further.
Dengue’s economic cost
Dengue is fast becoming a major global health issue, with the International Dengue Initiative estimating the economic burden of dengue at about $8.9 billion worldwide.
The initiative groups about 40 experts from different disciplines, infectious disease specialists, health specialists, epidemiologists and virologists, with extensive experience in dengue and vaccines, along with the Latin American Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
According to the study of Coudeville Shepard in 2011, the cost of an outpatient case can be as high as $486 in Mexico and $1,336 in Panama. The economic impact far exceeds those of cholera, infection by the human papillomavirus, rotavirus and canine rabies. Overall, the disease is associated with 1.1 million disability-adjusted life year, a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.
Health Secretary Paulyn Rosell-Ubial knows well dengue’s deadly cost to the Philippine economy. Ubial, during the pre-plenary conference on the proposed 2017 budget plans and programs of the Department of Health on September 27, 2016, said the DoH anti-dengue vaccination program would continue on its second phase for the three pilot areas where it was first applied—the National Capitol Region, Calabar (Region IV-A) and Central Luzon (Region III).
Responding to Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia (3rd District Cebu) who cited the urgent need to expand the vaccination program to Regions 6 and 7 which are also dengue “hotspots,” Ubial promised the inclusion of the two regions to the second panel of experts who will review the next phase of the program.
As of June 2016, dengue cases increased to 5,891, with 47 deaths in Region 7, or up 158 percent from the same period last year. On a national perspective, Central Visayas ranked third in the list of regions with the most number of reported dengue cases in the entire country. Iloilo province in Region 6, aside from being a dengue hotspot, is also emerging as a focal area for zika infestation, which like dengue has no known cure and no vaccine yet.
The dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, has been approved by Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil and El Salvador, and other countries are also moving toward mass or public immunization programs like what the Philippines started in April 2016.