On 20 March 2016, Liza Garcia and Christina Lopez from the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) held a discussion with residents, mostly women, from Barangay 180, Caloocan City. It is the same barangay (village) where we conducted a year ago, on 19 March 2015, the pilot survey. A few of those who took the survey last year attended the activity and they were appreciative of being apprised on the findings of the survey.

We coursed the invitation for the activity through one of the women leaders in the community. We targeted 25-30 women participants for the focus group discussion but ended up with fifty-one (51) participants – 48 women and 3 men (See attachment for list of participants). The participants, aged 18-65 years old, were mostly housewives, working women, elderly, and a few students. Two of the men said they were representing their wives in the activity.

The activity was held at the office of the senior citizen’s organization of the barangay.

Description of the community

The activity was conducted in Barangay 180, Miramonte Heights, District 1, Caloocan City. It is one of the 188 barangays of Caloocan City. It is located in the northernmost part of Metro Manila, specifically north of Quezon City and south of San Jose del Monte City. It also belongs to Zone 16, one of the biggest zones in North District of Caloocan City. The area has three (3) developed subdivisions – Miramonte Heights, Soldiers Hills and Victory Heights. Surrounding these subdivisions are small shanty houses where the participants of our activity live.

The community is known to be a favored entry and transit site for migrants. Many families have settled there because of its strategic location and proximity to their places of work. A number of families living in informal settlement comes from various provinces of the Philippines and migrate to the community to look for better living and income opportunities.

The urban poor families in the community consist mainly of variety store and food vendors, home-based workers, tricycle drivers and construction workers. The small stores are often located in front of their houses. Home-based workers produce certain products like plastic pouch, embroidered slippers and snacks, e.g., refreshments and caramelized banana. There are also those who work under subcontracting arrangements. Men, on the other hand, are mostly into construction work. Majority of the income earners for the family are both husband and wife, but husbands are considered as breadwinners while women do home-based activities, while at the same time looking after their children.

The community has its elected set of barangay officers. There are also homeowners associations that have their own management.

There are two day-care centers, as well as public elementary and high schools in the barangay.

Public transportation available in the area are jeepneys and tricycles. Some of the urban poor families own motorcycles.

A public market is located few blocks away from the community. There is also a sports facility that is jointly maintained by the barangay and the homeowner’s association.

Civic, religious and people’s organizations extend help to the settlers in various forms such as decent housing facilities, potable water supply, trainings, and value formation activities to the different sectors like youth, women, elderly and children.

One of the active and progressive organizations in the community is the Nagkaisang Tinig at Hakbang ng Kababaihan (NTHK), who helped us organize the activity. The NTHK is a people’s organization that addresses poverty reduction through the social, political and economic empowerment of women in urban poor communities.

Objectives and method of the activity

The activity was organized to present the findings of the survey to a group that has similar attributes with the survey participants, i.e., those coming from urban poor communities in Metro Manila, and also to validate the findings of said survey. At the same time, we wanted to get the participants’ inputs and recommendations to government and other sectors to address the information and communications technology gender gap.

To realize our objectives, we wanted to have a focus group discussion (FGD) with about 25-30 participants from the selected community. We planned to split the group into two for more in-depth discussion. However, the number of participants ballooned to 51 and we did not turn away anybody who wanted to take part in the activity. With the big number of participants, we decided to have one community group discussion to get the inputs and recommendations of those present.

We started the activity by introducing who we are. We then explained to them the survey that we did last year and discussed the objectives of the activity. FMA then proceeded to present the major findings of the survey and validated them with the group.

The following were the main themes discussed:

  1. Women’s Use & Access to Mobile Phones
  2. Use and Access to Internet
  3. Reasons why they don’t use the internet
  4. (1) Seeking information about certain issues online – common illness, drug and alcohol, sexual & reproductive health, legal rights on various issues and gender-based violence support services; (2) Where have they gone to report/express opinion on certain things – complaint about a government services, corruption and expression of views on important issues.
  1. Citizens’ participation
  2. Gender-based violence experiences
  3. Internet use to find a job

The activity lasted for three hours. Meals were provided to the participants after the activity.

Results of the Community Group Discussion

The following are the results of the discussion.

  1. Women’s Use & Access to Mobile Phones

Not all the participants have used a computer in the last six months. Six said they use a computer on a regular basis. Majority of the participants own mobile phones. Only nine of them claimed that they don’t own mobile phones but borrow other people’s mobile phones when necessary. Almost everyone use mobile phones every day. They use their mobile phones for voice call and text messaging. Others said they use their mobile phones for voice calls, text messaging and internet-based communication (video calls using Skype, Viber and FB Messenger). Majority of these are women and young people.

  1. Use and Access to the Internet

Most of the participants said they have used and have accessed the Internet, especially the students and the young participants. Majority of the participants who have accessed the Internet also have email addresses.

When asked how they use their e-mail, one of the participants who is a community leader said, “I use my email for work. I send my reports to my field supervisor through email.”

Other women said they use their email address to create social media accounts. Other participants used their mobile phone numbers instead.

“When I created my Facebook account using my smartphone there were two options on how to register – one is through an email address and the other is through mobile number. Since I don’t have an email address yet, I used my mobile phone number. It is more convenient for me as a new user of Facebook.”

The young participants shared that they use their email to submit assignments in school.

One working woman said “Some online government services usually ask for an email address. A notification is usually sent directly to your email address for confirmation that you have applied for something online.”

“An e-mail address nowadays is important. We are in the age of technology. Almost all transactions now are made through the Internet,” said another participant.

The participants were asked how often they use their mobile phones or other devices to access the Internet and majority said occasionally, but many said that they open their Facebook accounts almost daily.

For those who have used social media, they were asked the main reasons why they use social media, in particular Facebook. Majority responded that they want to stay connected with friends, family and other acquaintances. They were also able to find the other relatives whom they have not seen for a long time through Facebook.

Through Facebook messenger, you don’t have to pay for every message you send. It is free and unlimited as long as you have an Internet connection,” said one participant. Unlike text messages, one message is equivalent to one peso. For women who have Internet access Facebook messenger is more convenient. Aside from sending chat messages, they can also make video calls and see each other in real-time.

Others said that through social media, they were able to make new friends. One woman said, “Through FB, you can find love.”

Some participants said there are job postings in Facebook. Some companies post job opportunities for job seekers. For students, FB has a special service where you can attach a document and send to it to your friends. “Facebook Message is like an email. We can send our assignment through Facebook when necessary and it is also free. Smart and Globe have Free Facebook Promo when you load,” one student said.[1] Housewives also shared that through Facebook they can get showbiz updates.

When the participants were asked which social media they use, almost everyone said they have a Facebook account, but only few of them have Twitter, Youtube, Google+. They are also active users of Skype, Viber and Instagram accounts.

Among those who have used the Internet, most of them have communicated with people of the opposite gender online. But when they were asked about the number of friends they have on Facebook, majority said they do not know all their friends on Facebook. Some of them were just added as friends.

  1. Reasons why they do not use the Internet

The primary reason why some of them are not currently using Internet is because they don’t have time and some of them do not know how to use the Internet. Others claimed that they don’t have Internet connection at home. Some have no mobile phones and preferred to save money for their daily needs. Others claimed they have connection but are able to use Internet and Facebook only when the household chores and errands are done with.

When asked if the cost of the Internet is expensive or not, majority claimed that it is quite expensive. Telcos like Globe and Smart offer promos that fit their budget. For instance, a one-month Internet subscription is Php 1,000.00 (about USD22).

“The cost of internet connection for one month is quite expensive. You can use it without time-limit but the connection is very slow,” said one mother. “I subscribed to Globe for the convenience of my children who are studying in high school. They don’t have to go to Internet shops for their assignment where they are charged Php 20.00 for every hour,” she added.

The two high school student participants agreed with the statement of the mother.

Despite of the opportunities brought by the Internet to their lives, the participants also expressed their concerns and disappointment on the services that telecommunications companies offer. One participant said, “Despite the promo offered by Smart and Globe, Internet connection is really slow. Also, when we subscribe to a fixed data plan, let’s say on a daily basis, our regular load is still being deducted even if the allotted data plan is not consumed.”

  1. Seeking information about certain issues online

Although the Internet provides several information about certain issues such as common illness, drugs and alcohol, among others, majority still seek information from the experts. Only those who have Internet access seek information online. For example, when it comes to seeking information about health (common illness, sexual & reproductive health), majority get information from healthcare providers, designated health clinics/hospitals and community social workers.

Television and radio are still the most popular sources of information in the community. There are some television programs that tackle health issues and legal rights, and these are known to the community participants.

“At ABS-CBN (a local television station), there is a medical/public service program titled “Salamat Dok!”[2] Every week, they have different topics – cancer, obesity, diabetes, eye-problem, etc. Somehow, we get to know how to prevent such illnesses and how to treat them. They also provide tips, home-remedies and point us to expert institutions. It a great help for us!” one participant said.

For those who have access to the Internet, they sometimes look them up online. “We will just type the specific illness, cause or symptoms, what are my legal rights on Google search engine and the top answers will appear. From them we can get ideas,” said one participant.

When it comes to sexual and reproductive health, community development projects and gender-based violence, the participants get information from community leaders, local council, and community-based organizations. Majority of the participants are recipients of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, a conditional cash transfer program of the Philippine government under the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The 4Ps provide family development sessions, which include topics on responsible parenting, health and nutrition and gender-based violence. Recipients are required to attend these sessions

  1. Citizen participation

The participants confirmed that both men and women are not much active in reporting or expressing their opinions in various issues in the community, government service and corruption. When they were asked why they did not report such incidences or express their opinions, majority of them said those concerns are duties and responsibilities of the local council.

“Some community members are afraid to express their opinions and views, while others just shrug their shoulders because the responsible agency and its staff usually respond to them negatively. For example, in the case of pending infrastructures, usually the local council or local government will tell them that there is no sufficient budget to push through with the project and they will apologize for causing damage or inconvenience to the community. But for those who are members of progressive community-based organizations like Nagkaisang Tinig at Hakbang ng Kababaihan, they know what to do and where to report the incident. Part of the community organizing for the women members is to teach them to be more participative and to be able to express themselves and report issues and concerns, should it be necessary” explained one community leader.

It was also noted that people have their own styles in dealing with issues like filing a complaint against government officials or reporting cases of corruption and expressing views on a particular issue. Some report directly to the local barangay office and these may be settled at the barangay level. But for other cases, they refer them to law enforcers or specific government agencies.

With regards to attending community meetings, it is notable that among the participants, women are more active than men. “Most programs and services pertain to women and children. However, there are some programs that men should be involved with,” a community leader said.

When it comes to signing of petition about an important or controversial issue, men and women are active, especially when it comes to family and community welfare. For instance, the community initiated a petition in collaboration with the homeowner’s association with regards to garbage problem. The barangay local council did not act on the problem until they received a petition signed by the residents.

With regards to participation in the meetings and activities of political parties, most of the participants are actively involved but some of them cannot join due to limited resources and distance from the community. It is election campaign season in the Philippines (the national and local elections will be held on May 9) and some candidates have already made their presence felt and asked for support from the members of the NTHK.

When it comes to sharing views on controversial issues through online or social media, most of them do not do so. “An issue may be viral but later on, the community will forget about it and it won’t be discussed!” said one participant.

The female participants, especially the mothers, said that they are active in school activities of their children. In fact, they participate in the “Brigada Iskwela,” a nationwide voluntary effort of teachers, parents, students, community members, and other organizations to do minor repairs and clean-up drives in public schools in preparation for the start of the school year. Parents, particularly the female parents, and students participate in this initiative.

  1. Gender-based violence experiences

When the matter of online gender-based violence was brought up, the participants said that they have not experienced such. However, when further asked about similar incidences, one community leader shared that one time, during a community activity, somebody was taking her photo without her consent. The one who took the photo said she would post it online. The community leader told the one who took the photos that taking of her photo and posting it online without her consent is a violation of her privacy

Another participant shared having been stalked online. She said that someone has been sending her personal messages on Facebook, wanting to befriend her. The female participant blocked that person so she won’t receive any more messages from him. She also changed her privacy settings for security reasons.

The participants are also aware that nude photos and other pornographic materials are circulating online. But no one claimed that they have had such an experience or know somebody whose intimate photo or video has been shared online.

Based on the discussions, it is worth noting that the participants are eager to learn how to protect themselves online. FMA gladly shared with the participants some tools they can use for safety. These include the FMA-developed mobile application AksyonVAW, the reporting tools on Facebook and Twitter, and the Take Back the Tech website to document/report cases and/or seek help for such incidences.

  1. Use of Internet to find a job, to earn

Majority of those who have accessed the Internet claimed that they were able to find a job online. For those who do not have Internet access, they found that Internet could help them in other ways, such as securing requirements for an NBI clearance and/or setting up an appointment.

Other than jobs, there are those who shared that they have learned from watching videos on the Internet. One participant shared that she learned how to cook and realized that she can use this knowledge to earn a living.

Recommendations

Affordability and Quality of Service. The slow connectivity and high cost are concerns that were raised by the participants. One participant asked who controls Internet connectivity and load services. There are two main telecommunication companies that monopolize the industry in the country – Globe and PLDT/Smart.

According to the participants, the cost of connectivity does not meet the full satisfaction of Internet users. Connectivity is slow but the costs are high.[3] There were times the signal data doesn’t work whether at daytime or nighttime. Some Internet users said they are able to get a good connection mostly during the wee hours of the morning.

The private company providers, as well as the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the agency tasked to regulate and supervise the provision of public telecommunications services, should look into these matters and address them.

The participants, especially the younger ones, said that they would have liked to use Internet more often but access is a problem. Most are connected online using their mobile phones and they have limited budget for data (not to mention that majority of Filipinos are on pre-paid plans). There are a few areas, like malls, that provide free wi-fi and many take advantage of such services that do not take upset one’s budget. The participants said that they would appreciate it if government, in particular the local government, can provide the community with free wi-fi, or at least have a dedicated area in the community that provides free wi-fi.

Digital Skills and Education. During the discussion, some of the participants said not all of them know how to access and use the Internet using any device, including mobile phone. To address this concern, the community would like to have a basic hands-on training on how to use the Internet. Elderly people who are not tech-savvy but who would like to communicate with family and friends are interested in this. It was notable that the community has willingness to learn new skills. “If we know how to access the Internet using our mobile phones, we can do a lot of things,” said one participant.

One suggestion that emerged is to have a partnership among the barangay, a community-based organization and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)[4] for such training. Perhaps the local barangay can request assistance from the local government unit to support a basic internet training program and TESDA can be tapped as a training provider. Such a training program can be brought to the barangay so that the people do not have to shell out expenses for transportation and food to go to TESDA for the training. The community and the barangay officials can perhaps set a dialogue with TESDA if necessary to further discuss the details and set terms and conditions like schedules of training, where to get the resources and so on.

Aside from hands-on mobile phone training, others expressed their interest in computer maintenance and repair. TESDA offers training in computer hardware servicing for free, but again there are other costs that have to be considered, such as transportation, food and cost of materials.

“Through TESDA we can seek employment or maybe we can set-up a small business to augment our livelihood,” said one participant.

“Maybe we can enroll the short-courses in TESDA like basic cooking, basic entrepreneurial, call center course, or computer hardware repair and maintenance,” said one mother in FGD.

“We hope our barangay can help us on this,” added by another participant.

TESDA offers several technical-vocational courses in different fields of interest and specialization. They have online and offline courses. However, for online courses one would require a device to connect online. Again, we note the difficulties in connectivity.

Aside from TESDA training centers, there are also existing some public and private schools and training centers that cater to the needs of people who do not have the financial means to enroll in paid classes. They give out scholarships to deserving applicants. These vouchers are usually limited to a few slots per school or locality. The community leaders should just be abreast of such opportunities and share such information with their constituents.

In relation to computer training, FMA brought out the issue of the Computerization program of the Department of Education (DepEd). The computerization program of DepEd provides all public schools with appropriate technologies that would enhance the teaching-learning process of both teacher and students. This program shall also provide them with computer hardware and software, and training on simple trouble shooting. The participants said they are aware on this program but problems and concerns were surfaced during the discussion. DepEd should review and effectively implement its computerization program to make it useful for the students.

Many participants verbalized that most of public schools do not allow the students to use the computer. One of the participants, a mother of high school student said “there are available computers in my children’s school however, only the school administration and teachers are allowed to use them.” The female student participants also agreed to this.

“My son has a computer subject in school. One day, he told me that their teacher did not allow them to turn on the computer for them experience how it works. As a result, during his practical exam, my son together with his other classmates got low scores.” 

Active Citizenship

The participants believe that Internet plays an increasing role in times of emergencies and disasters. Social Media is one of the common sources to access emergency and disaster information aside from television and radio. They have been used by people to warn others of unsafe areas or situations, inform friends and loved-ones that one is safe.

Facebook is not just used to communicate to our family members and friends but gives relevant information. Facebook covers wide variety of contents including text, video and photos,” said one participant. “It enables communication to take place in real-time,” according to one community leader.

————-

[1] Smart and Globe are the main telecommunications companies and Internet providers in the Philippines. Smart is part of the PLDT group that controls about 70 percent of the market, while Globe controls about 28% share of the market.

[2] Salamat Dok is translated in English as Thank you Doctor. It is aired on Saturdays and Sundays over television station ABS-CBN.

[3] The community discussion findings corroborate reports of slow connectivity in the country. For instance, according to the Q4 2015 Akamai report, the Philippines has the second lowest average connection speed in the countries surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region at 3.2 Mbps, next to India with 2.8 Mbps.

[4] TESDA was established through Republic Act 7796 in 1994. It aims to encourage the full participation of and mobilize the industry, labor, local government units and technical vocational institutions in skills development of the country’s human resources. It provides training in various skills.

Categories: Gender & ICT

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