As I have just spoiled in order to excuse the lateness of my latest article, I spent some days to observe the technological society of the Philippines. Thus, what follows is a first impression and a try to put the observed into work.
First of all, and you might have known that before: a lot of things are much cheaper than in Europe. A SMS or short message costs one Peso. One Peso is about 1,5 Euro cent or 2,3 $ cent. That’s not very much. In the UK I paid 11 Euro cent for a SMS and in Germany around 12 – 15 Euro cent. Another example is my brand new UMTS USB dongle. In Germany you pay between 60 and 80 € for this piece of technology. On the Philippines I paid 8 €.
Subsequently, all this information and communications stuff is about 85% cheaper than in Europe. It is the same piece of technology or the same service but much more cheaper. My colleague told me that using the short message service is so cheap to them, that they even forward jokes and other non-sense because it does not matter at all. Of course the people in this country earn less in average, than in my cited European countries but not in this dimension.
As far as this paragraph is concerned with digits, just look at some other figures in order to categorise the Philippines. Wiki says that there are over 57 million mobile phones subscribers (compared to about 94 million people living in the country) and an average of 1 billion SMS sent per day in 2007. Thus, I guess the term ‘Texting Capital of the World’ really fits.
What are the direct implications? SMS is used for almost everything. As I just said non-sense like jokes are distributed among them but also financial transactions or the daily business communication relies on SMS. Subsequently, information and communication technologies such as the mobile phones are an integral and vital part of social life and – which is far more interesting – economic life. Well, you might argue that there is no difference to your country, so it is not very new at all. You should keep in mind that the Philippines is a developing country! Therefore, it is kind of amazing.
Due to the fact that I am about 50% political scientist (and the fact that presidential elections are to be hold in may), let us have a look at the political implications of this technological issue. First of all it makes campaigning cheaper and in my mind (and therefore it would need some studies to proof it) more effective. Receiving a SMS on your private phone with the latest news of your political person of interest seems much more binding than seeing a picture on the wall. A low price, a high acceptance as well as a high distributional rate work in favor for the use as political communications medium.
Connecting all the talk about SMS with my next point I would like reference to Twitter and mention that also the Internet costs are far lower than I expected and experienced somewhere else. Elections, SMS, Internet… what could it be that I might talk about…. blogs, right. To be more accurate: the blogosphere. As we have seen in the last elections in the US and partially in France and not in Germany (I am ashamed 😉 ), the blogosphere might have a great impact on politics especially in the days of elections. I have not really been into the Philippine political blogosphere but there are a lot of days to come I can proof what I have heard so far. What I have heard so far is that the blogosphere is very important for political life here on the Philippines. One thing, of course, is the availability and the price but there is more to it. This ‘more to it’ has to do with the political system and especially the ownership of the current ‘traditional media’ (newspaper, radio, television) in this country. As far as I experienced it, the important families do not have political power but also economic power. Thus, I might argue that media is biased here (as probably anywhere else in the world). Due to the loss of trust into these media, people seek for the opportunity to inform themselves as unbiased as possible. Additionally, speech here is very free so that the blogosphere does not have to fear too much repressions.
I will keep you informed because I find it kind of interesting how the blogosphere is constructed and working here on the Philippines.
nota bene: They do actually use the term ‘cyberspace’ as reference to the Internet! Have to figure out if that is common or just corporate guidelines of my mobile phone and Internet service provider.