Thursday, January 21, 2010

2009 in review: Philippines' netizens step up to the plate

philippines manila jeepneyImage by FriskoDude via Flickr

by Tonyo Cruz

Whether through Facebook, blogs, instant messages, Twitter or Plurk or the very familiar SMS, more and more Filipinos in 2009 got productive online and showed the nation a preview of great things to come.

There are now over 24 million Filipinos online, or about one out of every four Filipinos nationwide, according to the website Internet World Stats. The figure in 2000 was a measly 2 million.

As of the third quarter of 2009, 5.78 million were already on Facebook. The figure was 1.38 million higher than it was in the second quarter. No wonder that Facebook is the most-visited website in the Philippines, according to Alexa.com.

An interesting note: The Philippines is fast becoming one of the most avid users of Facebook. If all countries are having a contest on how many and how frequent their citizens use Facebook, the Philippines will end up at a respectable 13th place.

The original Filipino favorite, Friendster, revamped its look this year but doubts remain whether it can stop droves from fleeing it in favor of Facebook.

Elsewhere, more entrepreneurs and avid photo snappers have set up shop in Multiply.

A Yahoo! Philippines-Nielsen survey released this year revealed Filipinos’ online habits and confirmed a previous study that said that Filipinos excel in taking advantage of what the internet has to offer. For instance, a McCann Universal survey of 30 countries revealed that Filipinos lead everyone in online photo and video sharing and social networking. We are second only to South Korea when it comes to blogging.

Filipinos are online to win and we showed this in many ways before 2009 draws to a close. Two shining examples easily come to mind.

First, the spectacular online “bayanihan” (cooperation) in the aftermath of supertyphoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) which saw Filipinos acting like a cool conductor of an orchestra composed of all tools available at our disposal at the time. The objective was to save a considerable part of the country, including the capital, from total ruin. The result was soothing music to the ears of the millions adversely affected by Ondoy and the string of supertyphoons that followed its trail. Even the world took notice of such feat.

Second, the victory of Efren Penaflorida and his project that uses pushcarts for popular education among the poor. That he did not succumb to the despair and cynicism that pervades the mindset of the educated today is in itself already a victory. But because the online community knows a true champion when we see one, we all helped catapult him as CNN Hero of the Year through our online votes. Perhaps in the mind of all those who voted, we just wanted the world to remember the Philippines not because of a lying, stealing, cheating and killing president, but of such a great person like Kuya Efren and his great project.

Barring high rates and low-quality services from the telcos, netizens and mobile users are set to put their indelible mark on the forthcoming elections. Bloggers have started the admirable Blogwatch.ph project to provide bloggers a focal point to engage politicians and political parties, even as more initiatives are said to be in the works.

As we welcome 2010, we can only imagine the great things that await the Philippines, online and offline, coming from their internet-savvy and mobile citizens.

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