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GILAS (Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students) is a multi-sectoral initiative that is composed mainly of corporations and concerned non-profit institutions that realize the need to invest in bridging the digital divide among the nation's public high school students.
Filipino students learn under the most difficult of circumstances. The Philippine governmentâ€™s budget for education is not enough to provide for adequate educational facilities and other learning resources. This is why only a handful of Filipino students are given the privilege of a college education, as only a small minority are able to afford one.
Meanwhile, the Internet is becoming increasingly important in our day-to-day activities, as it opens doors to a wealth of information and resources. Access to information has become a basic necessity, not a luxury. Companies have raised the bar for new hires, requiring proof of Internet literacy as part of the minimum qualifications. Sadly, the Philippine government remains heavily burdened by the task of improving on even more basic resource shortages in the educational system.
Today, public high school students hardly have any access to computers in their schools, thus suffering the risk of being ill equipped in a world that is gradually becoming more digital. The future of the nation lies in its ability to harness the potentials of its youth.
GILAS aims to provide Internet access to all public secondary school students in the Philippines, thus giving them an opportunity to a brighter future.2009 GILAS Accomplishment Report e-book
History of GILAS
A Historical Perspective: Initial Efforts to Address the Digital Divide
In the past decade, the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) embarked on various programs for public high schools focused primarily on providing computers and basic computer literacy. These computers were distributed more than 5 years ago, so most of the computers have either become obsolete or non-functional, unless these have been upgraded or replaced. In any case, very few were equipped with the hardware necessary for basic Internet access.
On the other hand, the DTI's Personal Computers for Public Schools (PCPS) program, which commenced a little over 2 years ago, provided computer laboratories to a total of 2,096 public high schools nationwide. The computers were donated by the Japanese government via a government-to-government grant. At that time, the main aim of the program was to provide computer literacy, not Internet literacy. Most of the computers distributed then are still in good working condition and now provide a relevant platform on which to build an Internet access and literacy program.
In 2000, Ayala Foundation launched its Youth Tech program to provide Internet connectivity packages to some of the PCPS recipient schools. With the assistance of other organizations like Intel and Foundation for IT Education and Development (FIT-ED), the program also provided basic teacher training for both computer and Internet literacy. By the end of 2004, Youth Tech managed to connect a total of 170 high schools.
In 2001, a consortium of 26 private corporations and foundations called ConnectEd.ph was organized by the Makati Business Club primarily to further augment that initial effort. The consortium sought to provide direction and coordination in order to scale-up the provision of Internet connectivity to public high schools. At the end of 2004, Connect.Ed managed to wire another 80 schools, bringing the total number of public high schools connected to 323.
While all these initiatives made some modest gains in addressing the digital divide, 323 out of 5,443 high schools barely scratches the surface. If the Internet is to make any meaningful impact on the system, some ramping up to a significantly larger scale was necessary. GILAS (Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students) was conceived by a group of private sector leaders of like mind and mission: to raise the ante and cover the entire system of 6,030 public high schools in 5 years. Clearly, achieving that pace would require a much larger alliance of private corporations public and quasi-public organizations.
Mr. Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala II, president and CEO of the Ayala Corporation, and Senator Manuel Roxas, the prime mover of the PCPS program when he was Trade and Industry Secretary are providing leadership for the consortium as Working Co-Chairs of the Steering Committee for GILAS. Under the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Department of Education Secretary Florencio Abad Jr., the government has fully endorsed this new initiative and is committed to working with GILAS to achieve this ambitious outcome. Leaders from some of the country's most influential corporations, relevant government institutions, and the socio-civic community comprise the membership of the committee.
GILAS is a nationwide campaign to connect all of the Philippinesâ€™ public high schools to the Internet, thereby promoting information literacy.
It aims to deliver: