The Philippine Community eCenter (PhilCeC) Program is a national digital inclusion growth and management program overseen by the Philippines’ Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO).
Initiated in 2007, it was to answer the need and challenge of providing all citizens access to ICT goods and services through community eCenters, thereby opening up new opportunities for isolated populations and communities. It was a response to the widening gap between urban cities and underserved rural communities in terms of access to ICT goods, vital government services, information, knowledge and opportunities for national participation and development.
The program, in its 1st generation (2008-2010), envisioned a Community eCenter in each of the country's more than 1,500 municipalities. With more than 1,400 up by 2011, a new roadmap (2011-2016) set its sights on deeper rural penetration- the barangay level-to create more self-reliant communities empowered by access to ICT-driven services.
The program also works to provide local content relevant to user needs, build up CeC-specific skills and competencies, and harmonize all sectors under the program. This allows CeC growth and management in a supportive environment, helping their continued relevance and sustainability.
The program's results have been groundbreaking. It reshaped the Philippine ICT landscape, provided digital opportunities to millions of rural residents, a capability previously available only to urban countrymen. It redefined rural economy dynamics and parameters as farmers, artisans, tradesmen, entrepreneurs, businessmen and service workers went online and engaged in business, market, technology, employment and learning exchanges - discovering ICT's edge in reducing travel, time, communication and other costs in favor of their margins.
It transformed traditional rural education experience as millions of students and teachers previously severely limited by little or no access to knowledge resources discovered the waelth of learning available on the web and instantaneous access to it they now had. Some CeCs are tailored to serve as eSkwela (School) Centers and prioritize education.
Moreover, it revolutionized rural Filipino awareness and perception of the world and technology as rural families communicated more frequently free or at little cost with overseas working kin and strengthened the social fibers of many Filipino family relationships long strained by absence and separation anxieties.
It likewise expanded and redesigned government approaches to service delivery as agencies retooled their systems to accommodate online applications for basic requirements such as birth documents, agency clearances, passport applications, database services, employment forms and webcam interviews, online healthcare, among others.
Finally, it brought together under one umbrella network all individual and distinct telecenter initiatives for the first time, from which was born PhilCECNet – the 500-member Philippine Community eCenter Network – which is now government’s partner in carrying out key telecenter development thrusts. From a disparate and incongruent telecenter landscape wilting from isolation to a focused one-vision interacting and developing telecenter network, guided by a national roadmap, bonded by a common and industry-recognized web portal with a fast-growing online community, and professionally honed by a CeC Academy, the Program was the turning point in the Philippine march to bridge the digital divide.