In today’s world, access to the internet has become a necessity rather than a luxury. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to this essential resource, especially those living in remote and rural areas. This digital divide is a significant challenge in the Philippines, where a large portion of the population resides in far-flung communities. However, the recent installation of satellite internet by ADDU’s ACCESS Mindanao in one of the remotest municipalities in mainland Mindanao, Jose Abad Santos (JAS), is a step in the right direction.

JAS is located at the southernmost tip of Mindanao island and is isolated from the rest of the province due to its challenging topography. The journey to the municipality takes up to 2-3 hours via a 4×4 vehicle from the provincial capital of Davao Occidental. The residents of JAS have struggled with inadequate or unstable internet access, making it difficult for them to receive government services such as local registration of constituents.

The initiative to bring satellite internet to JAS was suggested by Dr. Lourdesita Sobrevega-Chan of Ateneo de Davao University’s University Research Council upon the request of JAS Mayor Atty. Jason John Joyce. The project was finally approved by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Region XI Office Regional Director Dr. Anthony Sales and Assistant Regional Director Dr. Kenneth Barroga as part of the Grassroots Innovation for Inclusive Development Program (GRIND).

The installation of the satellite internet system in JAS on March 18, 2023, was a significant undertaking, involving the expertise of various professionals, with the help of students of BS Aerospace Engineering as part of their Seniors’ Integration Program class under the Arrupe Office for Social Formation. The installation process included the installation and configuration of satellite dishes, routers, and other necessary equipment.

The satellite connectivity in JAS provides stable access to the internet, which can be used not just to provide government services but also to stimulate e-commerce for  local goods and products from JAS. This connectivity allows JAS residents to connect with the rest of the world and showcase their beautiful mountains and breathtaking coastlines.

This project is part of ACCESS Mindanao, an initiative by Ateneo de Davao University to bring the benefits of space technology to communities in Mindanao that need it the most. ACCESS Mindanao aims to bridge the digital divide in Mindanao by expanding the benefits of satellite connectivity beyond educational use. Through the project, the university hopes to enable tele-education, tele-medicine, social services, e-governance, and more inclusive development that is sensitive to local needs, cultures, and realities.

The satellite internet project in JAS and ACCESS Mindanao provide hope that the digital divide can be bridged, and no one will be left behind in the digital revolution. These initiatives enable remote and rural communities in the Philippines to have access to the same opportunities as those in urban areas, empowering them to participate fully in the digital economy and improve their quality of life.

Photos by Dr. Rogel Mari D. Sese