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ADB International Women Committee (IWC) Keynote Speaker Series

Knowledge Hub, ADB Headquarters, Mandaluyong City

May 31, 2023

ADB International Women Committee (IWC) Keynote Speaker Series

My current portfolio in DICT includes foreign relations, public private partnerships and foreign assisted projects. Our goal is to bring in as many game-changing technology in the country. For instance, Starlink of Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) is now live in the Philippines. We are the first country in Southeast Asia to enjoy Starlink’s services that is expected to provide download speeds of up to 200Mbps.


One of the challenges in ensuring universal connectivity is the Philippines’ archipelagic nature. This is the reason why the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) welcomes new technologies, such as SpaceX’s constellation of satellites, to reach areas of the country where existing telco providers cannot get to because laying fiber cables or establishing cell towers prove to be challenging.

In my capacity as Spokesperson of DICT, I always take every opportunity to emphasize that in the fight to bridge the digital gender gap, we need both men and women to be part of the conversation. The Philippines have missed out on $1 trillion USD in GDP as a result of women’s exclusion from the digital world. It is imperative to make sure that in this shift to a “new normal”, no one is left behind. We need to equip Filipinos with the tools and skills they need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the 4IR.

Embracing digital transformation is now inescapable. The pivot towards digitalization is now a necessity. I believe government agencies and policymakers are already aware of this, it’s just a matter of making sure we prioritize it. If we want to get things done, we really have to put twice the effort. For instance, the DICT is pushing for the immediate approval of the proposed E-Governance bills that were filed before the two Houses of Congress. The E-Governance bill will be crucial in transforming governance to one that is digital, anti-red tape, and bureaucratic efficient. We provide the necessary support to Congress to ensure that the E-Governance measure will soon be passed and enacted into law.


E-Governance is also crucial in promoting digital inclusion because through this we can make public transactions more efficient through digitalization, streamline and reduce red tape, minimize the need to fall in line in various government offices, and reduce the need to skip work in order to get certification or clearances. It also promotes the use of ICT in improving access to high quality government information and services across multiple channels.


65% of the country is still not connected to the internet. Whenever we go to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, we meet women, children, indigenous people who have never accessed the internet. Some have never seen a smart phone or a tablet. This motivates us to go further, to connect every barangay in the country to the cyberspace. Access to the internet means access to opportunities. We want to make sure that no Filipino is left behind in the transition to the digital age.

Several studies have shown that women and girls, especially in the rural areas, still lack access to ICT services.


Gender stereotypes still exist in some parts of the country. For instance, there are traditional families, particularly those in the countryside, who still think that ICT, and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields in general are more appropriate fields for male members of the family.


Moreover, while many women in the Philippines engage in entrepreneurship, barriers such as limited access to mobile devices and internet connectivity; lack of awareness, technical know-how, and skills; and low access to digital financing products, hinder them from fully prospering.


In 2022, the Philippines saw its ranking slide by two notches in the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), but it remains among the leading countries in terms of gender equality in the East Asia and Pacific region (it placed 19th out of 146 countries, down from 17th place in 2021). From the perspective of your department where are the good practices that promote gender equality? What are the challenges?

Philippine laws such as the Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Discrimination Against Women Act, Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Law, and Safe Spaces Act, among others, create an enabling environment where women’s and girls’ rights and safety are promoted and protected to allow them to achieve their full potential. 


These policies shape the programs that the Philippine government invests in to ensure digital inclusion and gender equality. The DICT has been implementing programs aimed at bridging the digital divide and digital gender gap. Foremost is the provision of free Wi-Fi, particularly in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. In 2022, there are more than 4,000 live sites in different parts of the country. We aim to have more than 15,000 sites in 2023, and 100,000 sites by 2025. 


Our Tech4ED Project and DigitalJobsPH Program are both focused on improving ICT services in rural areas. These programs have helped improve the country’s IT-BPM sector, which saw an increase of 8.4% or 121,000 full-time employees in the Philippines in 2022. The industry also saw a growth of 10.3% in revenues to reach a total of $32.5 billion in 2022, surpassing the 2021 earnings of 29.5 billion.


We want to increase the Philippines’ stance as the top investment destination for global services in the world. We will do this through the Digital Cities 2025 Program, which aims to expand the IT-BPM sector and bridge industry progress in the countryside to strengthen local economies.

We realize that, while our country boasts of being a leader in bridging the gender gap, particularly in the Asian region, the gender digital divide has become apparent with our inevitable pivot to digital transformation. It exposed issues faced by women in the use and access of ICTs.


For women micro-entrepreneurs, slow or no internet connectivity, especially in the rural areas; lack of awareness, technical know-how, and skills in ICT; and low access to digital financing products, such as e-wallets and other banking services, have become barriers to further growth.


A Digital Readiness Study showed that while most have started their digital journey through social media sites, women entrepreneurs need more knowledge and skills to optimize the digital platform and convert engagement to sales.


Women entrepreneurs could better compete if they have the necessary digital selling skills as well as access to credit, according to a study by the International Finance Corp. (IFC). But 61% of Filipino women still do not own a bank account and were not part of the formal economy. 

We need to improve women’s use of and access to ICTs, while also creating safe online spaces. We must design digital products and services that are attuned to the needs of women and girls. But in order to do so, women and girls should be engaged in developing digital solutions.


In order to have a better understanding of how women and girls use and access ICT, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in collaboration with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) conducted the Women and ICT Development Index (WIDI) Survey. This is the first-ever national survey that aims to generate indicators on how women are able to access and use ICTs. 


The survey revealed that 86% of Filipino women have access to internet and 76% use smartphones. Those who have smartphones, the most common information they searched online is relating to entertainment at 65%, followed by news (47%), health information (45%) and then communication (43%). Only 26% used it to search on education and government services, while less than 20% used it to search for employment and business opportunities.


In the area of digital economy, 55% of women purchased goods or services online, while 6% sold goods or services online. Purchasing of goods and services online is more common via mobile applications of e-commerce sites, while those who are engaged in selling goods and services online use social media as their platform.


In terms of cybersecurity and online safety, 54% of women have experienced text scams, 6% of whom were victimized; of the 7% who received hacking attempts, 32% were victimized; and of the 3% who experienced phishing attempts, 8% were victimized.


These data provide a comprehensive evidence base for more gender responsive ICT policies, plans, and programs. It will help our government identify interventions towards improving women’s ICT access and use, and craft policies to ensure cybersecurity and data privacy. Moreover, it will help us identify gaps that must be filled.

I wish to emphasize that bridging the digital gender divide is a requisite of gender equality. The existing laws and policies on women will help us forward this cause. But we cannot do this alone. When we talk about women’s rights, we also have to open the dialogue about how men can play a role in this cause; men need to be engaged in the fight for gender equality. We can achieve this by showing the value of providing equal opportunity for women, that women’s participation is critical in our society and in the overall welfare of our nation.












Anna Mae "Anime" Yu Lamentillo Logo
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