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PH eyes widening of internet access through space tech

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Internet connectivity has been one of the challenges faced by many, particularly in rural areas, prompting Philippine legislators to push for the passage of the Public Schools of the Future in Technology (PSOFT) Act.

The bill aims to promote the use of technology in the delivery of high-quality education while also ensuring adequate investment in digital and technological infrastructure for public schools.

The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) will play a role in this by focusing on the space segment of telecommunications and internet infrastructure.

On Tuesday, December 14, PhilSA Director General Joel Marciano Jr. told the Philippine News Agency, “given the rapid advances in space technologies seen globally, it is imperative that the country take necessary steps in building a future knowledge workforce that can contribute to a space-enabled economy. PhilSA will (help) engage DepEd (Department of Education) in developing, enhancing and strengthening relevant SSTA (space science and technology applications) concepts and practice as one foundational technology to be introduced and sustained in the curriculum.”

PhilSA is a member of the PSOFT Interagency Task Force (IATF), which is responsible for developing the PSOFT Roadmap.

The proposed measure aims to consolidate the development plans, programs, and projects that will be implemented by various national government departments and agencies in order to advance digital technology and innovation in public basic education.

Among the components of the PSOFT Roadmap is “Universal Access to Internet for Public Schools,” which aims to provide internet access to all public basic education schools in order to help reduce the digital divide among learners and raise educational standards for all.

In this regard, PhilSA intends to bring to the forefront relevant space technologies that enable internet connectivity, including solutions and services from new and emerging Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellations” (MEO).

Previously, PhilSA launched the INCENTIVISE (Introducing Non-Geostationary Satellite Constellations Test Deployments to Improve Internet Service) project, which invited new Satellite Internet Operators (SIOs) to conduct test deployments in remote locations.

Marciano stated that by allowing satellite SIOs to conduct test deployments in the country, government agencies such as DepED, the private sector, and the general public can experience and evaluate the performance of satellite broadband internet services for a variety of purposes, including education, telehealth, disaster response, telecommuting, and e-commerce.

This initiative is also expected to expand market entry and access to additional internet players that can help bridge the country’s digital divide, he added.

The need for modern infrastructure to be built, used, and maintained in order to provide accessible quality education has long been recognized, according to Marciano.

“We emphasize the need and ability to generate and build, and not just to use, relevant technologies, in addressing the effectiveness and sustainability of our socio-economic programs,” he added.

The INCENTIVISE project will make it easier to enter and deploy satellite user terminals and/or gateway equipment to gain access to LEO and MEO satellites and establish broadband internet connections.

Meanwhile, Marciano stated that PhilSA will advise and collaborate with DepEd on the use of space technology and relevant space-enabled services to implement relevant Bill provisions. He stated that this could include the generation, processing, and use of spaceborne data, satellite images, and other geospatial information to support DepEd operations in monitoring school buildings or infrastructure.

Other PhilSA plans include a regular nationwide baseline assessment of space education in Philippine schools, which is expected to support collaborative efforts between PhilSA and the Department of Education in incorporating SSTA into the curriculum.

“The subject of space has always fascinated many young people. With the establishment of PhilSA, we intend to work with DepEd in building on this widespread interest in order to increase the number of students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and to enhance educational outcomes,” Marciano said.

According to him, PhilSA is offering scholarships to Filipinos to pursue SSTA graduate level studies in universities both in the Philippines and abroad. It is being considered to expand opportunities to support educational programs in SSTA at the undergraduate and secondary levels, particularly in public schools.