Pinoy Netizens: How do you value the internet?

The internet is a great invention that can be abused if not monitored.

That was the main message Bill Gates wanted to put across in his article entitled, “Shaping the Internet Age.” He talked about how the internet basically bridges the world by making communication easier, faster and more reliable. He argued that the internet has turned the world into a global community – a place where everyone can communicate regardless of the physical distance and even time.

However, he also emphasized the various hazards on abusing the internet. Among those he discussed were piracy of intellectual property, mishandling of global commerce, invasion of individual privacy, failure of internet security, misuse of children and widening of the digital divide. He proposed some solutions, but put more importance on challenging the masses to find ways to solve these problems. He specifically pointed out the roles of the government, of business people, of software and hardware developers, of parents and of individual persons – that these people, specially ones that hold significant power in the community, have the responsibility of making sure that the internet is used to make positive impact. It’s their jobs to realize the internet’s highest potential for good.

It’s clear from Gates’ article that the United States values the power of the internet very highly. He cited examples of the internet being used for work, for communication, for personal reasons, for information gathering, for commerce… for basically everything. I think that this is due to the widespread use of the internet in their country – majority of Americans own (or if not own, then have means to use) personal computers connected to the internet. In their country, it’s not a big deal if a person uses a MacBook and goes to Starbucks to use wifi. It’s actually an everyday occurrence, and to do otherwise would seem unusual. The internet, for them, is an everyday commodity.

However, in the Philippines, the internet has a different value. Majority of internet users are usually from the ages 40 and below, since these are the ones who have the ability and resource to avail of internet privileges. Unlike in the US, the internet is not a commodity for all. Only those who can subscribe to broadband, buy internet cards, or go to internet cafes are able to go online.

It follows that people from the said age group have different reasons for going online than the Americans. Most go online not to work or to do research, but to subscribe to the different social networking sites, such as Facebook, Friendster, and Multiply, among others. For these individuals, the internet is not a tool, but a luxury to be enjoyed. Therefore, the functions of the internet, for Filipinos, revolve around SNS, emailing, chatting, gaming and blogging.

This is not to say that there are no Filipinos using the internet as a tool for commerce. In fact, the internet has enabled the “Tiangge” or the micro and small enterprises to expand their businesses from just the sidewalk or the stalls they have in Quiapo or Baclaran. There is much evidence of this in the online stores proliferating in various SNS (particularly Multiply), and in the various auction sites native to the Philippines (Sulit.ph, Auction.ph, etc.).

However, it should be noted that majority of the bigger companies have not adopted this technology. There are only a handful of big fish playing in the internet commerce (or e-commerce) pond: McDonalds, Pizzahut, National Bookstore, Powerbooks, Ayala Shopping and BPI. There may still be others, but the fact stands that big names like Jollibee and SM are not making use of the power of the internet to expand further.

I suppose they have not realized that the internet provides a great channel for commerce. Not only is it easier for consumers (as they do not have to leave the comfort of their homes to avail of products and services), but it would also provide more job opportunities for call center agents and IT specialists. And the physical stores are not endangered at all, since people will still go to food establishments, to malls, to banks, etc. even if there are online versions. It’s like the case of landline and mobile phones – communication is made easier by mobile phones, but that does not make landline phones obsolete.

What I’m trying to say is basically this: there is no harm in expanding online. It’s just that people will first have to realize the potentials of the internet and adapt their traditional methods to include this new technology. Soon enough, the Philippines will also catch up to other countries in terms of the proliferation of e-commerce, and it says something if your company can claim that it was in the forefront of the revolution.

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    • slightlydillydallying
    • June 18th, 2010

    I agree with the point that establishes the absence of maximization of the use of internet by giant companies in the local arena.

    As far as I am aware of, SM has a website but does not cater to online shoppers yet. The concrete substantiations of your points rendered your post a very enjoyable read!

  1. Thanks, Diane! I find it disappointing that these big companies have yet to integrate the use of online shopping to their businesses. It’s such a waste of opportunity.

    I checked the SM website, and you’re right. They have pictures of some items they’re selling in the malls, but no online shopping service. Kind of makes me hope they’re considering putting up one in the future. :}

  2. Maybe the reason why SM hasn’t prioritized online shopping is because they don’t want to lose the presence of warm bodies going to their malls (yes, I borrowed ‘warm bodies’ from Sir John Ponsaran). Although it would definitely give them the upper hand on its retail rivals if they decided to tap into that…

    • I suppose that’s another fear we have to take into consideration. I don’t think that the warm bodies would disappear, but I’m not SM, so I can’t speak for them. Although you’re right about e-commerce giving them the upper hand on their rivals… :3

  3. My OJT supervisor and I discussed ecommerce once. She said that it’s not that they do not realize what a big impact it could have for the company; it is just that many companies here in the Philippines are still very much cautious about the integrity of the product delivered online. Given the weak internet laws that we have, it is harder for them to ensure quality check, customer privacy and the like. Costs would be incurred as well since they have to formalize their online ventures and have a separate position for monitoring esales. Black and white stuff. Hmmm…typical 🙂

    • So in the end, it’s the government! XDD I knew it, it had to end up with them somehow. But it’s true; the part about weak internet laws makes me think about the I Love You virus, and all the commotion it brought. So I guess Gates’ suggestions about involving the government would also benefit the Filipino e-commerce scene… but given our government today, I think it’d be a long way into the future until it’s given further thought. I’d love to say more, but that’s a blog post for another time.

      Let’s just hurry up and become lawyers already. That way, we get a better understanding of all the legal matters involved. XD

  4. I couldn’t agree more. My supervisor at World Vision made me create an official website for our department to increase visibility and support from sponsors but she also admitted that she’s quite skeptical about doing so. She had the idea that if the cause goes online (like the ones in Facebook), it will lose its true purpose.

    • I think I get it too – she fears that when the idea goes online, it will become all fanfare and no substance. I think I understand what she means, and there’s probably a ton of examples just floating around. I failed to tackle this angle, too. I might have to rethink this article a little, to cover things like values, meanings, culture, etc. headdesk

      Still wish they would, though. I think it would also serve to entice netizens to the cause, if only because there was an effort to speak their language.

  5. I don’t think people will stop going to SM even if it went online. In fact, I see more Filipinos coming over to SM over the next few years.
    With the way global warming is biting us. SM is one of the few sanctuaries ready to heal our weary soul.

    I believe the difference in the way Filipinos use the Internet as compared to Americans is just a manifestation of the difference in culture. They’re just that concerned with money making while we’re focused in maintaining relationships with our loved ones. In that sense, we’re not so far flung from the world after all. 🙂

    • XD I love that point. SM would be the Filipinos solutions, nay savior, to the threat of global warming.

      I honestly didn’t think of that angle. Good point. I can peacefully concede to that. :3 I’ll admit, I’m a little ashamed I didn’t even consider that point. : |

  6. I think that the pace of the maximization of Internet here in the Philippines is at par with the pace of acceptance of Filipinos’ use of the Internet. SNS, although most Filipinos use these, are mostly used only for socializing. Only a handful (mostly coming from our generation, with the rest being experts or strategists) see the potential of SNS for purposes other than socializing (like marketing). Basically, from how I see it, as the generation of Internet users get older (or mature enough for its use), the better maximization of Internet use becomes. At the same time though, as more ways of using the Internet are being introduced, the faster the acceptance of these new features become for our people.

    • I guess when you put it that way, the “market” so the speak, is not ready yet for e-commerce… I suppose that’s true; following your line of thought, it adds up that since there isn’t yet a demand for online shopping in our country (or at least for the bigger companies), then there isn’t a supply to fill the inexistent demand. But I think the existence and proliferation of SME in the online scene would beg to differ. (And won’t that reasoning beat the definition of revolutionary?)

      Regardless, I’m glad you brought SNS up. It’s seems to be the highest (rather, only) priority of Filipinos when going online. If maturity is the element that would make people go further, then I wish it came with the buckets-full of rain our country gets every month.

  7. I’ve noticed that other establishments do have websites, it’s just that they don’t take the time to update them. The information’s already stale and they’re still at the top of the page as though it’s still the latest happening. Sad. D:

    Completely and wholeheartedly agreeing with the Internet being a luxury rather than a commodity in our country. Bill Gates spoke as though it’s *easy* to put up an Internet service. For goodness sakes, parts of our country are still in dire need of electricity. Heck, they don’t even have decent roads. It just proves that the difference between the States and the Philippines is rather large.

    • IKR, stuff don’t get updated, and people generally lose interest after seeing the pages not get updated. It’s such a waste.

      Again, another IKR here. There’s a really huge gap that’s not only limited to the digital divide he mentioned. Makes me wonder about government claims that the Philippines will be ready for first world status in 20 years. Makes it sound like wishful thinking.

  8. You did a great job here analyzing Internet importance in Intercultural context. Definitely, culture plays a role on how the Internet changes our lifestyle.

    I think the Filipino culture is still unripe to allow the penetration of the Internet’s rule. Perhaps, one factor would be the generation gap that we, the young ones, and our parents or grandparents have. My dad is 40 years older than I am and I am the eldest. Just imagine how hard it was for me to convince him to buy this PC I am using now. He did not see PC as a real valuable and commodity before. He did not know what Internet was all about or what could be done in the computer than mere typing. I know it’s about education but it is also about one’s exposure to the ‘right’ mass media as well. And those are two aspects that the Philippines should work on.

  1. June 26th, 2010

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