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Believe it or not, there are only a few Internet users in the Philippines.

By few, I meant that the numbers barely reached one-third of the country’s population. That is, at least, what the international website, Internet World Stats, claim.

spacerPH – 97,976,603 population (’09) – Area: 300,000 sq km
spacerCapital City: Manila – GNI p.c.US$ 1,170 (’04) per World Bank
spacer24,000,000 Internet users as of Jun/09, 24.5% penetration, per Nielsen
spacer1,045,700 broadband subscribers as of Mar.31/08, per ITU

However, if we would look closely, our country is practically the 6th top Internet User in Asia. The figure goes to show that we, Filipinos are still trying very hard to keep up with modern technology and other Asian countries.

If you follow the link: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm, you would be able to see more data on the Internet usage all over Asia. And I would suggest that you explore the website to see the status of other continents when it comes to using the information superhighway.

I guess we can say that our rank happens to be that high because for one, we love to socialize. And the easiest way to do that is by the Social Network Sites. First, there was Friendster, and then Multiply. Now, there’s the most popular, Facebook together with Twitter, Tumblr and all those other websites where we can connect with friends, acquaintances and relatives even if they are miles away. I must admit that even though I was a late bloomer in using the Internet, I am also addicted to it in a way that I check my accounts at least once a day. Besides, there are a hell of a lot more you can do with the Internet. You can watch videos in YouTube, play online games, follow news about your favorite celebrities, research for your assignments without going to the library, and the best of all, you can download songs, movies, and even software for free.

All systems go

Bill Gates, the man whose name I find synonymous to the word “computer”, wrote an essay entitled Shaping the Internet Age. I found myself agreeing to the points he raised in the article and I can say that perhaps, the biggest challenge that the Internet has raised is the issue of piracy and intellectual property rights. I second the idea that the Internet carries a “potential to change the way people live and work”. In all truth, that is exactly what it has been doing to the lives of a lot of people now. The Internet currently knows no boundaries (except perhaps if you’ll count having a username and a password to enter and download from websites for free). An ordinary individual can access almost everything with just one click of the mouse.

Piracy has become part of our daily lives, seeing vendors of pirated CDs and DVDs in many of our cities’ sidewalks. I, myself could say that I buy pirated DVDs. And it is simply because, they’re way cheaper than the original ones. Sometimes, with my quest for what’s free, I don’t even bother going out and buying from my suking tindahan. I’ll just have to go online and search for my favorite games, e-books, songs and movies, and simply click on download. I can say that the download option (particularly the free ones) has certainly made lives of the ordinary Filipino easier. Imagine that what you once have to buy at P2oo or so, you can now get from the Internet for free. And no one can pinpoint you and accuse you of stealing because there are no rules yet. Why else won’t you do it?

I guess this is what Mr. Gates meant when he said that the Internet, as pessimists think, “will result in economic and cultural exploitation, death of privacy, and a decline in values and social standards”. I am pretty sure that there is a point to this particular line. After all, getting things that aren’t yours and sharing them without permission violate the rights of the people who actually own them, right? If I were the one whose works are being circulated and publicized for free and without me knowing it, I would definitely feel betrayed. I can only imagine what those artists are feeling right now.

I am in no position to censure the people who earn because of piracy. I just admitted supporting them, after all. But I think the government must do something to address this issue. People do it because they know they can do it without being punished. They do it because they earn from it. I believe that we are given access to the Internet because it will be beneficial to our lives. It isn’t there for us to use as a tool for satisfying our selfishness. But then again, we are yet to come up with a way that would satisfy both sides of the spectrum.

The Internet still has a long way to go. As what Bill Gates said in his essay, the Internet is still in its infancy. The fact that the rules that would regulate the use of the Internet is yet to be firmly established in a lot of other countries throughout the globe is an indication of how young the system is. Here in the Philippines, an anti-cybercrime bill is yet to be approved by our lawmakers. It will be known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2009 with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Manny Villar, Chiz Escudero, Mar Roxas, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Antonio Trillanes, Loren Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid and Edgardo Angara as authors. To read about it, just follow this link: http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/1317011772!.pdf.

One could only hope that if there ever would be a shape of the Internet Age, the figure would be something worth looking at.