29 01 2007

Monday, 29 January 2007

SINCE IT was introduced in the Philippines in 1995, the Internet has been used by politicians to win elections without much success. This is true for both administration and opposition candidates, who will surely try to use the Internet again to win votes on Election Day, May 14, 2007.

Today, there are around 4.5 million Internet users in the Philippines, 4.8 percent of the population. Although small compared to users in developed countries, it is a huge leap from the 200,000 users recorded in 1997, and it is growing faster.

The digital highway is still a cheap and relatively unregulated medium. This is the experience of politicians in developed countries like the US and the United Kingdom. In these countries, candidates try to master the e-mail as the new form of direct mail campaign raising money and pushing the message. They find it a low-cost way to converse repeatedly with prospective voters.

This not yet the case in the Philippines with the relative high cost of desktop computers and laptops. And there is still a short supply of Internet rental shops. However, in this election year, an emerging group can elect public officials with the help of the Internet. These are the country’s young voters. They will soon be reinforced by roughly 8 million first-time voters aged 18 to 21, as reported in NEWSBREAK.

Among the leaders of the group is an advocacy group called First Time Voters Project, an association of tech-savvy youth groups headed by Akbayan Youth, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, First Time Voters Network, Movement for the Advancement of Student Power, and Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan.

Young Filipinos have an overwhelming dominance of the digital highway, according to an A.C. Nielsen survey. Here’s the extent of Internet usage by age bracket:

20 years old – 9 percent;

20-29 years old – 54 percent;

30-39 years old – 27 percent;

40-49 years old – 8 percent; and

50- 59 years old – 2 percent.

In terms of education, 66.9 percent of Internet users are college graduates. With these figures, young voters can create a powerful buzz on the Web. They won’t be much regarded as private space invaders since they are mainly identified with the interest of voters. Here, the extent and quality of the database, especially for e-mail, is of great importance Internet buzz via Web sites, blogs, podcasts, e-mails, linked with text-messaging, could produce some of the winners in this year’s senatorial and party-list elections.

If so, the youth’s digital shots for democracy will turn Philippine political campaigns upside down for years to come. —Frankie Llaguno




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