Let’s face it: whoever you voted for in this year’s elections will face the same problems once they get sworn into power. Hence, while we wait for all the ballots to be counted and the results to trickle in, we took a look at three big issues that plague the Pinoy techie every single day.
1. Faster, cheaper internet service
This issue needs no introduction—each Filipino techie has experienced that slow, intermittent internet connection more than once in his or her life. And despite repeated complaints sent to telecommunications companies, no improvements have been made.
So what should the government do? There are many areas for improvement, most of them revolving around regulation. Many of the laws governing the telecommunications industry are now obsolete; these need updates to be enforceable and effective.
According to an article in the BusinessMirror, the current Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995 regards internet access as a “value-added service.” Hence, it is technically outside the jurisdiction of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). The NTC does not also have the power to impose stricter penalties. Under existing laws, the biggest fine that the NTC can charge underperforming telcos is only PHP 200 per day; a drop in the bucket in their daily profits.
Then there are regulations that bog down telcos from constructing more infrastructure. In an article from BusinessWorld, Ma. Yolanda C. Crisanto, spokesperson of Globe Telecom notes that they need 25 government permits just to build a single cell site. Another issue is the use of the 700Mhz frequency for LTE connections. Unlike in other countries wherein this frequency is utilized, our own 700Mhz frequency lies unused as its been assigned to dormant companies.
Meanwhile, in another BusinessMirror article, the NTC concedes that sharing infrastructure between telcos in the Philippines is not mandatory. This measure, which is required in other countries, can speed up mobile internet speed and make it more affordable. This is due to the fact that a company can just use existing infrastructure built by another company, instead of needing to construct their own.
These issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Hence, when the next set of elected officials are sworn in, we hope Congress and Senate not just hold hearings on this matter. We hope to see better laws enacted and enforced to ensure fast, reliable internet access for everyone in the country.
2. A lemon law for gadgets
No, this doesn’t have anything to do with fruit. A lemon law allows you to seek a replacement, free repair services, or a refund if you end up purchasing a defective item or unit.
While we now have a Philippine lemon law passed in 2014—Republic Act No. 10642—it only covers brand new motor vehicles. This is unlike the Singaporean Lemon Law, which covers all defective goods and even financial products. And even if we have existing consumer protection laws, there are still several loopholes that some unscrupulous retailers use to get away with selling defective units.
One such loophole pertains to warranty durations. According to a primer released by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), “There is no hard-and-fast rule on the period within which a customer may return the products he purchased. A rule of reason should, however, be observed, taking into consideration the nature of the item purchased and the expressed/implied warranties mandated by law, i.e., the Consumer Act and the New Civil Code of the Philippines.”
This leads some online retailers to give very short warranty periods for electronic devices. And those short warranties essentially discourage consumers from requesting for replacement units or seeking refunds for defective items. A post on the blog smalltime.me, written by a lawyer, even illustrates how confusing it can get to determine the right warranty period for a 9-month-old defective laptop.
With a lemon law for electronic goods—some of which do cost as much as the downpayment for a car—hopefully these loopholes would be finally sewn shut. After all, the current Lemon Law clearly requires a one-year period, something that’s clearer than the current provisions of the Civil Code and the Consumer Act.
The Lemon Law also requires consumers to send back their vehicle to the dealer for four repair attempts, before filing a complaint. These requirements compel dealers to do actual repairs, Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi) president Rommel Gutierrez said in an Inquirer article. If a lemon law for various devices is enacted, it may have a similar effect on sellers of electronics as well.
3. More government services online—and better security
In the past few years, a number of government agencies have started to offer their services online. These include requesting for certified true copies of the birth certificate, passport applications, and scheduling appointments for the NBI clearance. With more services now online, there are fewer chances for corruption.
However, not all government services are still available on the internet. For example, in many cities and municipalities around the country, applying for a business permit cannot be done online yet. And even then, some of those online services suffer from glitches. Who can forget the troubles that haunted the electronic tax filing system of the Bureau of Internal Revenue last year?
And of course, more online services should mean better security for our data. As the recent Comelec security breach (Comeleak) shows, the government may not have the right experts to implement cybersecurity measures. And it is only in March of this year that a commissioner was appointed to head the National Privacy Commission—a full four years after the passage of RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Law. (The proposed Department of Information and Communications Technology, to which the Privacy Commission should be attached to, has not yet been formed.)
With the National Privacy Commission still in its infancy, the government has a lot of catching up to do to improve its cybersecurity measures. After all, one of the main roles of this Commission is to recommend the standards that government agencies should use for securing sensitive personal information, such as encryption.
These three big issues are just some of the many things that the next government should work on. And yes, there are more complex problems in tech that should be untangled. That’s where we leave the question to you: what other things should the next administration fix? Let us know on our Facebook page.