ZTE broadband project revisited

The ZTE national broadband network (ZTE-NBN) project that became the symbol of a rotting administration’s runaway corruption could have been the best thing to happen to our nation as it seeks to catch up with its neighbors in the race toward economic development and providing its people unlimited access to knowledge and information.

This was a realization that came to me last week as I repeatedly tried to connect to the wifi of a local hotel. I was getting a moderate signal but could not get a connection. In desperation, I just closed down my MacAir and took out my BB to check on Twitter. Francis Allan Angelo, executive editor of The Daily Guardian, remarked that getting a wifi connection would have been no problem with a national broadband network.

Indeed, it’s just too bad corruption spoiled the project. The NBN could have been the superhighway that the nation needed to drive on to achieve rapid growth. As it is, our ASEAN neighbors have widened their lead over the Philippines, and we are stuck on a dirt road that is pocked with deep ruts. Unless we regain our senses and discover our big mistake in scrapping the project altogether, our country will sink to the bottom of the race standings with no chance of recovery.

But we are optimistic that the Philippines will revive the NBN project to be negotiated under the most transparent and competitive of conditions. We must bury the cadaver of that scandal and look at it with objective eyes. The benefits for the nation are simply tremendous, and it would be a big blunder for us to ignore it.

One benefit that we can enjoy lies in education. With a national broadband network, we can make good use of technology, notably the Internet, to elevate the quality of education to world-class. It can provide kids in rural areas with equal opportunities for learning as those studying in the most expensive schools in the national capital.

In Africa, there is an initiative called the “One-Laptop-Per-Child” where the government provided an affordable laptop for every school child. With access to the Internet, lessons are taught with modules that stream into the laptops. Each child is able to learn material that is not outdated, and learning can be paced depending on the intelligence level of the pupil. The teacher is never without interesting material to help educate the kids. And because of broadband technology, distances cease to remain as obstacles to learning.

This approach to education can be replicated in the Philippines. The technology is constantly improving, and the cost is also going down. I heard there’s now a tablet that costs about P5,000 that can serve as the gateway to information and knowledge for our kids. Why don’t we explore that possibility? This way, we don’t have to print books (and help save trees), and everybody learns under the same standards of education.

Our leaders shouldn’t regard the ZTE-NBN deal as a reason to dump the project. We have to have a national broadband network. And if it’s the Chinese giant telecommunications firm that can do the job, then let’s look at what it’s got to offer. After that botched transaction marred by corruption, everybody will now be more conscious that the entire nation is watching, and proceed on the project with the highest standard of honesty and transparency.

An NBN infrastructure is our best chance to get out of the economic quagmire. We hope incoming DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas will give it serious thought as soon as he assumes office. It can be his ticket to the Presidency in 2016.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

2 Responses to ZTE broadband project revisited

  1. The province of Laguna launched today the Rizal iTablet, which promises to catapult basic education in the province to world standards. This is the concept that could even be enhanced with a national broadband network that I described above. Here’s a link to a video about the iTablet:


  2. The iTablet initiative in Laguna province deserves a closer look by other LGUs. The use of technology to enhance public education is now practical and affordable.


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