By Max T. Limpag
Sun.Star Cebu, November 27, 2004
Top Stories Section, Page 4
(Here’s a story I wrote for Sun.Star Cebu on the IT initiative of Bry. Calamba in Cebu City)
BARANGAY Calamba’s IT dreams are built on refurbished computer parts and donated units.
The barangay hall now serves both as an Internet cafe (although it tries its best not to call it that) and a dial-up Internet service provider (ISP) to its residents–at zero start-up cost to the barangay.
The term Internet cafe connotes a venue for gaming and chatting, “but we want to emphasize the educational aspect by calling this an online library,” said Mario Veloso, chief executive officer of Xconnect, the company that implemented the project for Calamba.
Xconnect approached Calamba barangay officials earlier this year and offered to turn their barangay hall into an online library and ISP.
Calamba Barangay Chief Ester Concha was very receptive to the idea, Veloso said.
Calamba and Xconnect officials searched for donors and managed to assemble both the online library and the ISP’s servers using the units donated by individuals and companies both within their barangay and outside the community.
The facility was inaugurated last Nov. 12 and already, many residents have started using it.
The barangay charges minimal fees to raise funds for operation costs: P10 an hour for the online library and P200 a month for 50 hours of its dial-up Internet connection.
The ISP can serve 10 connections at the same time so it can accommodate scores of subscribers. The barangay is planning to expand the services once it gets more equipment.
With the facilities, the barangay can now serve as an IT training center.
“The barangay council should be the first. We will set a day in the week when all members of the council will be taught how to use the units,” Concha said.
Concha, with the help of Veloso and Xconnect chief operating officer Buddy Odilao, is looking for ways to effectively turn the barangay into a computer training center.
Among the options being looked into by Concha is seeking the help of a group of teachers trained by City Hall in computer usage.
Concha is also offering a nearby public school the use of the barangay center for hands-on computer training of their students.
Concha said barangay residents have started realizing the benefits of the online library. Many Internet users no longer have to walk to a distant Internet cafe on A. Lopez St.
“Parents find it better for their kids to use the computers here because the area is safe unya ug naay problema naa ra man ang mga barangay tanods,” Concha said.
As a compromise, Concha said some of the units they will be adding will have games installed in them.
“Maayo na lang na sila nga magduwa na diha kay sa magsuyop na sila didto,” she said. (It’s better that they play computer games here than use drugs.)
The barangay has also started building its own website at www.bgycalamba.com but the site currently hosts just a starter page for their web e-mail log-in.
Concha, herself, uses the computer center to check on Cebu City Government data available online.
She plans to have barangay records–from trouble reports of barangay tanods to a map containing barangay demographics–made available online.
“This will make barangay management easier if we are able to store all our records in a digital file. We’re doing it one step at a time, eventually all these data will be available in the center,” she said.
Veloso and Odilao, on the other hand, hope to have more barangays adopt the plan. They offer to help officials set up the system.
“The best way to do it is through sponsorship. Companies can sponsor the units. We will be setting the system up at zero cost to the barangay. The only thing we require is that we be the one contracted for troubleshooting and maintenance work,” Veloso said.
Concha, on the other hand, said their barangay is still accepting donations to expand their system. Those interested to help, she said, can just e-mail her at [email protected]