Going hi-tech

My mother Lucia, taking some computer lessons from me during her visit to Amsterdam two years ago

My mother is turning 70 next month, and during one of our previous Skype conversations she asked if it was possible for us, her seven children, to chip in and gift her an iPad. Thinking she was just kidding, all I could utter was, “Wow! Si Nanay, hi-tech na (Wow! Mother is getting hi-tech),” a comment that elicited laughter from her grandchildren who were huddled around her. But when she reminded me about it last week, only then did I realize how serious she really was in owning this Apple gadget.

Mom’s fascination with the digital pad started only recently, when she discovered, after trying out one, how it was a lot easier to use a touchscreen than a laptop’s mouse and keyboard. She’s definitely no computer-literate. She only uses it every time she wants to chat with me and my other abroad-based siblings, and she does this not without the help of my young nephews and nieces — all digital natives — who prepare the computer for her, including logging in on her Skype (or Yahoo) account.

Aside from having trouble mastering a laptop (or a smartphone, which she finds too small), Mom has also come up with a couple of justifications for wanting to have an iPad. The first is the possibility of being able to regularly read the bible again, her nightly ritual of yore, which she can only intermittently do these days because of her deteriorating eyesight.

The second reason has something to do with her Facebook account that she seldom opens. This time she wants to have full control by maintaining it all by herself. Finally learning how to read or watch the posts especially by people she hasn’t seen in years was to her quite magical. “Parang nandyan lang sila (It’s as if they were just here),” I remember her saying then after being reconnected with her long-lost relatives and friends, thanks to the digital slate in her hands.

***

My mother is truly a Johnny-come-lately in the digital age, and  her belated “coming-of-age” can be ascribed to the slow inroads the Internet has made so far into majority of Filipino households. In fact, since March 1994, when the Internet first arrived in the Philippines, the country “has not made so much headways in terms of giving most Filipinos access to it, creating the so-called ‘digital divide’ which has plagued many emerging economies since the dawn of computers and the Internet.”

According to a report done by survey outfit AGB Nielsen Philippines, only about one in three Filipinos was accessing the Internet in 2011. The report also made the following findings:

  • 33% of Filipinos access the Internet, five percentage points below the Southeast Asian regional average of 38%.
  • Internet penetration amongst consumers aged 15 to 19 was close to two-thirds (65%) and nearly half of those in their 20’s were online (48%).
  • There is still much room for growth for those aged 30+ – less than one quarter of consumers aged in their 30s (24%) access the Internet, 13% of consumers in their 40s, and just 4% of consumers aged 50+.
  • 52% of Filipinos have a computer with high speed Internet connection at home.
  • Home is the most common Internet access point for those aged 30 years and above close to nine in ten Internet users aged 50 years and above (86%) cite “home” as their main point of access.
  • 74% of 15-19 years identify Internet cafés as their main point of Internet access.
  • Already close to one quarter of Filipinos Internet users (24%) access the Internet on a daily basis via a mobile phone and 56% intend to access the Internet via a mobile phone in the next 12 months.
  • Over two thirds of Filipino digital consumers (67%) have visited social networking sites, compared to 40% who use email.
  • The Philippines ranked second highest for the number of people who have ever “liked” or followed a brand, company or celebrity on a social networking site (75%).
  • 61% of Filipino Internet users said they trusted consumer opinions posted online, higher than any other market in Southeast Asia and seven points above the regional average.
  • Online product reviews and discussion forums are one of the most trusted sources of recommendations in purchase decision making, second only to recommendations from family and friends.
  • Close to two thirds of digital Filipinos (64%) use social media as a resource in purchase decision making.

Nevertheless, Filipinos, once wired, are one of the most active communities in the information highway, especially in social media sites like Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, etc. This has prompted a local blogger to write that Filipinos really are crazy… Internet crazy. “We should be on Guinness,” quipped this blogger after enumerating a number of  statistics that show the massive Internet traffic generated from the Philippines.

Could it be that the presence of the 10-million strong overseas Filipino workers and immigrants all over the world, who I suppose regularly communicate with their loved-ones back home, are also behind that massive traffic? Anyway, that’s another topic I am planning to research on for DEVC 204.

***

Meantime, I have yet negotiate with Nanay if a cheaper tablet is just fine with her.

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