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Support Statement of the Computer Professionals’ Union for #MarchForSciencePH
April 21, 2017
We, the Computer Professionals’ Union, lend our full support to the upcoming Philippine leg of the global #MarchForScience with the theme March for Science, Environment and the People.
As advocates of information and communications technology (ICT) for the people, we believe that it is not enough to march for the promotion, development, and greater government support for science and technology (S&T). We should link arms with other sectors of society to call for an S&T and ICT development that puts people and planet over profit.
Through the years, we have seen how S&T, and ICT, in particular, has been increasingly co-opted and monopolized by a few. Tech giants rake in trillions of dollars in profits selling proprietary systems or marketing digital platforms that monetize every post, upload, and like of their subscriber base[i]. The most sophisticated digital surveillance platforms owned by security agencies spy on our every move in and out of cyberspace. And while high technology gadgets and breakthroughs are being flaunted in digital expos and conventions, more than half of the world continue to live without internet or computer access[ii], let alone decent living and access to basic social services[iii].
In the Philippine context, the country’s telecommunications sector is privatized and concentrated in the hands of a few profit-oriented companies. Amid this landscape, what should be a basic social service has become a privilege. Only half the population have a unique mobile subscription[iv], some 58 million Filipinos have no access to the internet[v], and only 2 out of 10 public schools have internet[vi].
The Philippine ICT sector as a whole is reliant on the influx of foreign investment, technologies, and equipment. Under this setup struggling tech startups get minimal support while multinational IT firms and their partner oligarchs corner the biggest shares in the local market. Fresh ICT graduates and professionals are mostly employed as technical support or quality control analysts, while ICT workers work in assembly lines in export processing zones without social protection. All face a shrinking job market amid a continuing global economic slowdown.
While we laud the setting up of a separate Department of ICT, we have serious doubts that it will overhaul the present system that caters to foreign demand and mostly repatriates profits abroad. The same goes for a National Telecommunications Commission that over the years has acted as a rubber stamp, if not a mouthpiece, for the private, foreign-backed telecommunications firms that dominate the country.
On Saturday, April 22, we will march for the development of domestic ICT industries that will harness the potential of our local ICT workforce and serve the actual needs of the domestic economy and the populace. We will join our fellow technologists, scientists, environmental defenders, and the general public in calling for the delivery of telecommunications as a basic social service that is accessible, affordable and reliable.
We also enjoin our fellow IT professionals, practitioners, advocates – each and every one of us – to join us in marching for a science and technology that tangibly benefits the most marginalized sections of society. ##
Rick Bahague, national coordinator
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