Internet usage and access in the Philippines have grown dramatically in the last few years. Various studies put the current number at roughly 75-78 million internet users in the country, and we are also considered one of the most active in the world. In terms of speed, Ookla’s January report stated that the Philippines was at 49.52 Mbps download speeds for fixed and 17.95 Mbps download speeds for wireless. While these numbers are not the fastest in the world, they’re a significant improvement compared to where we were five years ago. Access and speed definitely can be better, but ultimately I believe the challenge for our society is how we actually maximize and use the internet to our advantage.
According to the 2021 Global Digital Overview Report, Filipinos are connected to the internet 10 hours and 56 minutes online daily on average. That’s four hours more than the global average of 6 hours and 54 minutes. What do they do online? The report says mostly activities for leisure — a mix of watching online videos, playing video games and of course social media. It’s a consumption-based digital economy, a cheap source of entertainment that we can turn to if we want to escape from the challenges of everyday life, or just boredom in general.
This is where I think we miss the mark.
The internet rewards creators economically more than consumers. While it is a fantastic tool to research and access information, what can make a big difference is if ordinary folk actually put that information to work in a productive and positive way. If the way one uses the internet aligns with their goals in life, it acts as an amplifier and booster. It shouldn’t be just a tool to escape from life. It should uplift the quality of one’s life.
Here are three distinct areas where the internet can give users a leg up:
The recent rapid digitization of the country has made e-commerce more accessible to Filipinos. We are used to scrambling for good deals during monthly sales and we constantly ask ourselves, what can we “add to cart?” However, instead of getting excited about buying stuff during e-commerce sales, why not be the seller instead of the buyer to reap the benefits? Platforms such as Shopee, Lazada and even the Facebook marketplace have made it easier for people to discover what others have to sell. Start by selling stuff at home that’s not needed anymore. Then use that capital to get into an actual online business later on that’s aligned with one’s passions (toys, cards, food, etc.).
Be the seller, not just the buyer.
One line I love from the Batman movies comes from the Joker: “If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free.”
We can apply the same when it comes to offering services. If one has a skill that can be monetized — video editing, writing, digital marketing, graphic design, SEO, programming, photography or even teaching English — that’s an opportunity to tap a bigger customer base on the internet. Put up a website or Facebook Page, actively promote it on your networks, invest in search ads on Google, or boost posts on Facebook with a small budget (at first) and then invest more as you earn more.
As more Filipinos gain access to the internet, it should come with the education on how they can use it properly, so it doesn’t end up using them.
Instead of being the “influenced,” be the “influencer.” Anyone who has the skills for writing, photography, or videography can start their own YouTube Channel, TikTok, IG, or blog. Newcomers won’t be a viral sensation overnight, but the algorithms of social platforms are built to reward consistency. The more one uploads, the better the platform learns how to recommend the content creator to the right audiences. One can also take the time while creating content to continue to learn how to produce better videos, photos, or blog posts that draw more engagements.
As an “influencer” though, I have one bit of advice, this time drawn from Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Don’t spread fake news. Don’t scam people. Most importantly, be a positive influence on your audience.
The internet has dramatically changed my life for the better. It allowed me to have businesses that eventually let me leave behind my corporate life. That’s my wish for everyone today. And as more Filipinos gain access to the internet, it should come with the education on how they can use it properly, so it doesn’t end up using them.