More Filipinos are starting to see and take advantage of the opportunities that the Internet provides in helping people set up businesses and improve their incomes in ways that were not possible in the past.
A survey by multinational technology firm Ericsson said Filipino Internet users now use Web for more than just viewing videos on YouTube or posting photos on Facebook.
“(Filipino) respondents were particularly aware of the income opportunities using the Internet could bring,” said Vishnu Singh, regional head of Ericsson’s ConsumerLab.
These opportunities can range from the complex creation of new applications for Internet-enabled smartphones to methods as simple as online selling.
The ConsumerLab survey on the Philippine market, which covered 2,900 respondents, said more than half of people asked said the Internet provides opportunities to generate more income. Meanwhile, over 60 percent of respondents said smartphones are now effective business enablers.
“We’ve seen a lot of creativity in Internet users,” Singh said in a recent briefing earlier.
He said this was driven mainly by the high cost of living in the Philippines, relative to average Filipino’s income level.
“Filipinos are increasingly looking for opportunities to improve their quality of life,” Singh said. “More and more consumers perceive the Internet and the mobile phone can help create new businesses or job opportunities.”
Ericsson said more Filipinos believe that doing business online was now easier due to the prevalence of e-commerce platforms that allow vendors to sell their wares through websites or blogs, and users to pay for these products using electronic payment systems.
However, the biggest challenge that has kept the Internet from improving the lives of more Filipinos was that the Web remained largely inaccessible to the bulk of the population.
Singh said this was a result of a combination of the lack of awareness of what the Internet is, expensive rates and poor network infrastructure in countryside areas.
Data from the country’s Internet providers showed that only 4.7 million people, or about one in every 20 Filipinos, had broadband Internet subscriptions today. Most Filipino Internet users, he said, still preferred to access the Web through neighborhood Internet cafes rather than committing to multi-year Internet service contracts.
Despite this, the company said it was hopeful that Internet usage in the Philippines would continue to pick up, largely because of the emerging popularity of smartphones.
The survey’s results showed that 66 percent of all non-Internet users were interested in accessing the Web primarily using mobile phones.
“From the data we have gathered in our study, it seems there is strong demand for Internet connectivity in the Philippines, particularly for mobile broadband,” Singh said.
He said the strong demand from the market and the increasing affordability of Internet-enabled mobile devices drive Internet usage growth in the Philippines. “The potential could be even greater if the network infrastructure is improved, Internet awareness programs are introduced and right pricing and packaging are offered to the consumers,” he said.
Also driving the growth of Internet usage was the continued migration of Filipinos to find greener pastures overseas.
Families they leave behind, Singh said, use Internet video and voice applications to keep in touch with their loved ones.
“For families, video calls are an important means to keep in touch,” he said.
Amid the expected surge in demand, Ericsson said Internet service providers need to step up efforts to improve quality and reliability of their offerings.
Ericsson said consumer demands have become more sophisticated, and that most users surveyed expressed a willingness to pay more money for better services.
“Service providers need to have a deeper understanding of their customers’ changing demands, and to deliver on those expectations,” Singh said.
“Customers will impulsively react to poor experience, so the key is to solve their problems and improve the experience at the various touch points that impact the customer journey,” he added.