by Gabriel Pabico Lalu, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 Sep 2020
MANILA, Philippines — Almost half of Filipino adults nationwide are utilizing the internet, a survey taken by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) before the COVID-19 pandemic struck showed.
According to the December 2019 survey results which were released by SWS on Tuesday, 45 percent of Filipino adults had access to the internet — with 98 percent of them, or 29.4 million Filipinos, having Facebook accounts.
YouTube meanwhile is the second-most popular application among the respondents, with an estimated 18 percent of Filipino adults exposed to the internet using the app, followed by Instagram (six percent), Snapchat (four percent), Twitter (three percent), and Viber (two percent).
The same survey found out that 24 percent or 15.7 million of the 66.2 million adult Filipinos also read the news daily through Facebook.
This is still low compared to 69 percent or 45.8 million adults using television as a primary source of news, and slightly higher than those who use radio (19 percent) and newspapers (one percent) as a medium.
“The proportion of Internet users in the country has been in a generally upward trend since June 2006. It was at 8% when SWS first surveyed it in June 2006. It rose from September 2007 to December 2011, ranging from 11-19%, and from March 2012 to December 2017, ranging from 23-41%,” SWS said in their report.
“It has been 40% and above since March 2018, reaching as high as 47% in December 2018 and September 2019,” SWS added.
Data not only from SWS, but also from other research firms like We Are Social and Hootsuite, show that before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Philippines had already seen a rise in internet and smart gadget usage.
We Are Social’s analysis of the country showed that there are 73 million internet users in the country as of January 2020, which accounts for a 67 percent internet penetration. The same study showed that social media users in the Philippines increased by 5.8 million or 8.6 percent just from April 2019 to January 2020.
Facebook was also the most-used social media app in We Are Social’s study, with the social media company saying that 70 million people can access advertisements on the app’s platform, while 97.8 percent of smartphone users have the Facebook app.
SWS maintains that there is a generally upward trend on internet usage across all classifications, from gender, age, and educational and financial stature, as decreases were not that significant.
Internet use went down among classes A, B, and C — down from 65 percent in September 2019 to just 56 percent in December 2019; and class E, from 35 percent to 28 percent.
Post-COVID-19 lockdowns surveys on internet use have yet to be conducted, but stay-at-home policies to prevent coronavirus transmissions and high data traffic during from March 2020 to June 2020 point to increased usage among the public.
Last August, leading internet speed monitoring agency Speedtest said the country has seen a gradual improvement on fixed broadband and mobile data speeds, returning to pre-pandemic numbers.
Speedtest and Ookla believe that the slowdown was an impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was a phenomenon observed worldwide.
But despite these high numbers, SWS data revealed that internet use among Filipino adults is still highest in Metro Manila and other urban areas, hovering at around 65 percent as of December 2019.
In contrast, Balance Luzon registered a 49 percent-internet use, followed by Visayas’s record-high 39 percent, and Mindanao’s 32 percent.
“By locale, the proportion of Internet users rose in urban areas, up from 56% in September 2019 to 59% in December 2019. It has been above 50% in 8 out of 9 surveys since December 2017,” SWS noted.
“However, it fell in rural areas, down from the record-high 41% in September 2019 to 34% in December 2019. It has been above 30% since September 2018,” it added.
SWS said that the survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults — as this was done before the COVID-19 pandemic shook normalcy in the country. The number of respondents were divided equally by locale: 300 each from Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
SWS maintains sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.