Social Media and the Digital Divide in the Philippines

In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan came upon several islands. One came to be known as Las Islas de los ladrones and the other one came to be know as the archipelago that up to today bears the name of Philip of Spain, the Philippines. And here Magellan despite his ships, guns and steel died at the hand of Lapu-Lapu and his men. Having technology at his side Magellan should have won, but he did not. Magellan did not anticipate that his technology would be of no use on beaches at low tide.

Not taking into consideration the situation one is in has often been disastrous and we see it across our history from the Allied operation called Market Garden and the annihilation of a Roman Legion inside a forest in Germany against Armenius. Misunderstanding and not taking into consideration the conditions on ground if it does not lead to defeat and loss will lead to a pyrhhic or costly victory.

A number of social media in the Philippines always bring out the fact that we are the social media capitol of the world. This seems to be the pitch in most cases were it is argued that there is a need for social media.

This is simply putting social media and social technology before the horse.

During the last Presidential elections. The most talked about candidates in Philippine cyberspace were Benigno S Aquino, Manny Villar, Richard Gordon, and Gilbert Teodoro. Compare this with the number of stickers abd even posters on houses and vehicles you would have thought the fight was between – Benigno S Aquino, Manny Villar and Joseph Estrada – the former President who was deposed midterm, put on trial, found guilty and then pardoned. Come election day, A number of people in cyberspace were surprised not because Aquino won but Estrada came in second.

According to a report from the Broadband Commission and UN – The State of Broadband 2012 : Achieving Digital Connection for All ( The Internet penetration rate or percentage of individuals using the Internet is at 29 %. This means around 70% of the Philippines are not using the Internet.

What does this mean?

Only three out of ten Filipinos use Internet. At the same time this must be tempered that the fact that in terms of Global Social Network Penetration among a set of countries the Philippines has the highest at around 75 % + or – of active Internet users.

In terms of persons using and those not using Internet we have a ratio of roughly 29:71 and in terms of social network penetration it is at 75:25. Internet Penetration Rate and the Social Network Penetration Rate are inverse . This explains a number of things:

Failure to see Estrada coming in second during the last Presidential election.

The lingua franca of the Philippine Internet Community is still predominantly english.

The Philippine Internet Community makes up thirty percent of the total population and seventy percent and more are heavily into social media. This means if social media were to be effectively used in the Philippines three things should not be forgotten

A. The Digital Divide exsists

B. Social media to be effective should be focused or targeted.

C. Results should be managed to fit the conditions.

This would mean that the an understanding of the netizens, their relationships/interactions and their actions has to be achieved. In a sense most pundits are serendipitously correct that this ecosystem called cyberspace has to be understood. And it is an ecosystem, where the important thing about ecology is constantly seen and it is the study of consequences.

Next: the Digital Divide Cannot Be Stereotyped

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One Response to Social Media and the Digital Divide in the Philippines

  1. Pingback: Only in the Philippines – The social network capital of the world, or is it? | Linh Le on Cyberspace

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