Friday, February 26, 2016

(Feature) Ligao City villages now equipped with DOST’s Tech4Ed centers
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- Some barangays in the city are now enjoying online access to government services, non-formal education, skills training, job markets and business portals, courtesy of the Tech4Ed project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Established in two strategically located barangays in this young Bicol city serving as center for Albay province’s 3rd congressional district, the project launched over the week materialized via a partnership between the local government and the DOST’s Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO).

The ICTO is the lead implementing agency of the government in all information and communication technology (ICT)-related efforts with special focus on areas of industry development, policy, infrastructure development, research and development and capacity building of the public sector,

“We are so thankful to DOST-ICTO for this project that provides not just basic hands-on ICT training, Internet-based research and email services but offers expansive help and solutions for the marginalized sector to enhance their skills and increase their worth in the employment market,” Mayor Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua on Thursday said.

Its services are open for free to everyone in the city -- including out-of-school youth, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, indigenous peoples and women needing Internet access to information and communication as well non-formal education and skills training, she said.

So far, Alsua said, two Tech4Ed centers, each with three computer sets, now operate in the city--one in Barangay Nasisi for its Mayon Unit villages and the other one in Barangay Paulba for the upland communities.

Each center is manned by an information technology specialists assigned by the city government to assist the users.

Nasisi barangay chairman Jurlan Buello said the center now enhances the learning experiences of his constituents through online access to government services, vital sources of information worldwide, educational material providers, health tips and the job market.

Among the features of Tech4Ed are the Learning English Applications for Pinoys (LEAP) training software, eSkwela learning modules, Online TESDA courses, and e-Library which provides learning materials for entrepreneurs and jobseekers including ICT for Financial Literacy, ICT for Entrepreneurs, ICT for Digital Literacy, and ICT for Career Development.

Also included is e-Govserve which provides various users access to government services such as BaLinkBayan for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) online information, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) registration, as well as Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) information.

Applications for birth certificates with the National Statistics Office (NSO) and National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) clearances can also be done through the e-Govserve.

Among its segments of Tech4Ed are eEduSkills that enables education seekers to gain a high school diploma through informal education; eAssist that offers digital and employment opportunities to vulnerable groups and marginalized communities; and eAssess that provides students with industry partnerships that offer them evaluations for job-readiness.

Other segments are mAgri that seeks to empower farmers, cooperatives, agribusiness and food processors by helping them obtain real time information price in the market; and mMarketplace which enables new competitors in the market specifically from rural communities.

Alsua said the facilities now encourage her constituents in the barangays to make use of them in looking for opportunities for personal growth and career development that would help them ease the economic and social difficulties confronting their rural communities.

“We were given this opportunity to avail of the advancements in ICT so we take advantage of it as a bigger prospect in information gathering and dissemination as well as for the local government in the delivery of basic social services to our people,” she said.

ICTOs’ information technology engineer Antonio Bonganay explained that unlike in the previous years when ICT is limited to only the privileged few, the technology now is being made by the government available also to the less-privileged down to the rural areas with the implementation of Tech4Ed.

The project, he said, provides access points for individuals and communities to bridge the digital and education gap in order to promote grassroots development and opportunities for inclusive growth and poverty reduction.

The DOST-ICTO is establishing thousands of Tech4Ed centers, covering most regions across the country and giving priority to communities that are less served by Internet connectivity, a marketing strategy that proves to be one of the most vital components of the project.

In Bicol, Albay is the first of the region’s six provinces to benefit from it with this city the second in the province, next to Sto. Domingo town where a center has been established in Barangay Lidong about a month ago, Bonganay said.

“The mark of digitization would be a truly connected and inclusive society that provides equal opportunities for everyone—every race, religion, municipality and human. Since technology proves itself a luxury for most, it is hard to ensure that the opportunity reaches far beyond the homes in the capital,” he said.

However, according to him, the government, through the DOST-ICTO, is addressing this issue with Tech4Ed that stands for Technology for Education, to gain Employment and train Entrepreneurs towards Economic Development.

It is a project that aims to harness ICT to enable, empower and transform society toward creating an inclusive, integrated and equitable countryside, through providing opportunities for employment and empowering entrepreneurs.

Its mission is simple: to harness the power of ICT in society towards creating a progressive countryside in 42,000 Tech4ED centers nationwide, Bonganay said.

“By giving the marginalized access to digital opportunities, Tech4Ed is now making it possible for hundreds and thousands of people to start businesses, get education, gain employment and take their first steps towards improving their families’ well-being, through a single ICT portal in a single center,” he added. (PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM