Internet cafe in Metro Manila. AFP Photo.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) saw the potential of Internet cafes as “digital classrooms or workplaces” for students and workers as the country adapts to a “new normal” brought about by COVID-19.

“If we open classes in August, we have to put free WiFi hotspots in schools so that only the teachers and a few students would go to school and can practice social distancing,” said DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr.

“But the concern is, how about those who do not have internet connectivity in their homes? We are also fast-tracking what we call the digital classroom. We are repurposing ‘yung mga thousands of internet cafes. They can be reconfigured to become digital classrooms and digital workplaces,” he suggested.

Rio said that DICT could integrate fast and low-cost Internet in such establishments so students and workers alike can utilize them as digital classrooms and workplaces.

“Instead of taking a lot of time installing Internet in homes, let us just connect the community—the digital classrooms and digital workplace—so students and workers living nearby can just walk to the repurposed Internet cafes,” Rio shared.

The DICT undersecretary also pointed out it will be cheaper for students and workers to use digital classrooms and workplaces since they will only spend partially compared to how much they usually spend.

“If a student or a worker will maybe only spend what he or she spends on transportation and food to pay the person administering the digital classroom or workplace,” he added.

The implementation should be sooner than later so the repurposing covers a lot of Internet cafes before classes resume by August 24.

But the resumption of classes, as issued by the Department of Education (DepEd), will not involve physical attendance. The department recommends that classes should be done virtually, especially in high-risk areas.

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