Starting in 2016, in partnership with Globe Telecom, this project team has been deploying novel community cellular networks into rural areas of the Philippines. While the first sites (Tanay and San Andres) were deployed using traditional business models with Globe leading the site installations (and UP providing technical support) in December 2016, as of 2017 they have also begun deploying them in partnership with local NGOs, primarily cooperatives, and provide basic cellular service (e.g., voice and sms) to subscribers. There are, as of this submission, three of seven of these eventual UP sites operating (with ten Globe sites also operational). Users are afforded SIMs and Interconnect, allowing them to connect with people both within and outside of the community. In parallel, they are also evaluating the impact of cellular connectivity in their partner communities, specifically across gender and social networks, through the use of a longitudinal randomized control trial (RCT).
As a part of this they conducted a baseline household survey in November 2016. Half of the people in their target sites live below the $2 per day poverty line. Most rely on subsistence agriculture and one in four receive remittances from outside family and friends. Men and women typically play different roles in the household and have different social networks. Men are usually primary earners, while women usually manage household finances. Without mobile phone connectivity, men have a harder time learning about employment opportunities, including working for wages and where to sell agricultural products. As managers of household finances, women play a role in receiving remittances from their outside family and friends, whom they can’t contact in case of financial emergency. Mobile phone coverage would connect men and women from inside the village to family members working outside the village who send money home and connect fishers and farmers to local markets. While much of the evaluation has yet to be completed, they expect these installations to provide a unique lens into the impact of connectivity in the rural Philippines.