Megaworld creates unit for digital technology investments

Andrew Tan-led property giant Megaworld is creating a wholly-owned subsidiary that will spearhead the company’s investments and ventures into digital innovations and technology as it takes advantage of opportunities brought about by changes in consumer behaviors and lifestyles in this digital age.

AGILE Digital Ventures is Megaworld’s digital investment arm that will engage in investing and building technology start-ups that hopes to support the country’s food, retail, and hospitality industries during these challenging times.

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GrabCar resumes operation in Cebu City, Talisay

Following the recent announcement of the government placing Cebu City under GCQ, GrabCar will resume its services in Cebu City and Talisay City to provide safe and reliable mobility solutions for its commuting public and help Cebu safely reopen its economy.

To further Grab’s commitment of helping the Cebuano economy, for the first two weeks of GCQ, GrabCar rides paid through GrabPay will have a 50% fare reduction to be able to meaningfully assist the essential service workers, small business owners, and the general commuting public in going about their daily activities.

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Technology enables disaster resilience in communities

The new normal posed by COVID-19 has fast-tracked the adoption by local government units and organizations of technology-based programs to keep people informed and help students resume their studies despite the pandemic.

Nagiel Banacia, Officer-in-Charge of the Lapu-Lapu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, has been at the front and center of the ongoing health crisis. He says that while traditional forms of communication like tarpaulins, leaflets and recorridas still work, tech-powered communications channels are more effective in reaching quickly and safely communities under lockdown.

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Smart 5G goes live

5G handsets available, 5G coverage in key CBDs

Starting July 30th, the 5G mobile phone network of Smart Communications is going live as a commercial service.

In this initial phase of its commercial deployment, Smart Signature, Infinity and other Smart postpaid subscribers will be able to enjoy the super-fast data service of Smart 5G in key business districts of Metro Manila using Smart-certified handsets with 5G-activated SIMs.

These areas include the Makati Central Business District (CBD), Bonifacio Global City CBD, Araneta City, SM Megamall and Mall of Asia Bay Area. Smart 5G is also being rolled out in key high-traffic areas such North Avenue in Quezon City and Taft Avenue in Manila, as well as in Ortigas CBD, and Clark Green City in Pampanga.

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PH among countries with most improved Video Experience: Opensignal

With most Filipinos staying at home during the community quarantine amid COVID-19, veteran chef Rose Marie Lim of Cebu’s Caro and Marie, one of the country’s longest-running baking and culinary schools, turned to video to stay connected with cooking and baking aficionados both here and abroad.

Through a cooking and baking video series on Facebook, Chef Rose has been able to share Filipino recipes not just with Filipinos outside Cebu, but with a worldwide audience.

“You don’t have to be a master chef for to prepare simple dishes for your family and friends. And if you’ve never cooked or baked since birth, now is the time to try it! Just watch my videos!” she said.

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Google Philippines celebrates Dolphy’s 92nd birthday with doodle

Today, Google Philippines celebrates the 92nd birthday of the comedian, actor, producer, and philanthropist Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon with a doodle. This illustrates the country’s King of Comedy whose charm and humor warmed hearts and made him a household name among millions of Filipinos.

Born on this day in 1928 in Manila, Dolphy’s interest with the performing arts began in his childhood when he was selling peanuts and watermelon seeds at movie theaters. Able to watch movies for free, the young Dolphy started dreaming of becoming an actor and landed his first small film role at age 19. This was followed by years of hard work and success in film and radio before he made his big television debut with the 1960s series “Buhay Artista” (“Actor’s Life”).

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SSS members can now receive claims, benefits via PayMaya

Social Security System (SSS) members can now safely and conveniently claim proceeds from their SSS benefits without leaving their homes by enrolling their PayMaya accounts as their default disbursement option in their My.SSS online portal.

SSS members only need to enroll their PayMaya accounts through the My.SSS member portal (http://member.sss.gov.ph) by entering their PayMaya-registered mobile number under the “Account Number” field at the Bank Enrollment portion of the portal.

Proceeds from the SSS funeral and unemployment benefits, among others, may be coursed through the member’s PayMaya account. Soon, members may also receive their calamity, salary, and other loan proceeds via PayMaya.

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Smart-backed Dynamic Learning Program to benefit DepEd ALS Butuan’s ‘second-chance’ learners

Riding a motorcycle to different learning centers in hinterlands, sustaining the attention of distracted learners, and handling a multi-grade classroom are just some of the challenges that Alternative Learning System (ALS) mobile teachers face every day. The COVID-19 health crisis has made it even tougher for them, as they had to look for ways to continue teaching their learners remotely.

To help the Department of Education (DepEd) – ALS of Butuan City continue teaching in the new normal, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) conducted an online workshop on the implementation of the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP). 49 mobile teachers and education program specialists joined the first run of the virtual training, dubbed as DLP In Action.

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Cebu City’s NOAH Complex receives tech support, connectivity from PLDT

Cebu City’s new COVID-19 treatment and isolation center has been equipped with high-speed WiFi for the use of patients and frontliners.

The New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home (NOAH) Complex at the city’s South Road Properties now has enterprise-grade Internet and WiFi using Cisco Meraki Access Points provided by leading telecoms and digital services provider PLDT.

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Smart network expansion keeps data services resilient amid COVID-19

Opensignal: 4G Video Experience in PH “resilient” during the pandemic lockdown

Quarantined in a barangay isolation center in Brgy Luz, a COVID-19 hotspot in Cebu City, educator Roy Genares turned to the Internet to lift the morale of his fellow COVID-positive patients.

A principal in a mountain school in Cebu City, Genares hosted nightly movie viewings for the adults and senior citizens and watched LearnSmart e-storytelling sessions with the kids.

“It was challenging for us to hold these activities, but with the help of the internet and social media, we were able to pull it off,” he said.

LearnSmart e-storytelling sessions became nightly movie viewing.

As more Filipinos turn to video and other data services amid the COVID-19 crisis, PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) continue to expand and upgrade their fixed and wireless networks across the country, despite challenges presented by the imposition of community quarantine.

We are regaining the momentum of our sustained network roll out efforts over the past five years which have placed us in a strong position to cope with the surge demand for data services during the COVID pandemic.

Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT Chief Revenue Officer and Smart President and Chief Executive Officer

Network roll out

“In the first month after the lockdown was implemented, our network teams faced movement restrictions and we also had to take safety precautions to protect the health of our employees and our customers,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT Chief Revenue Officer and Smart President and Chief Executive Officer.

“But we have since made adjustments and have stepped up our network roll out and maintenance activities. We are regaining the momentum of our sustained network roll out efforts over the past five years which have placed us in a strong position to cope with the surge demand for data services during the COVID pandemic,” Panlilio said.

“By May 2020, we were almost back to pre-ECQ levels. We did this by carefully deploying our people in the field to do physical installations and upgrades and combining this with systems upgrades done remotely,” said Mario G. Tamayo, Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering for PLDT and Smart.

Educator Roy Genares held nightly viewing of Smart’s e-storytelling sessions at their isolation center in Barangay Luz in Cebu City.
Educator Roy Genares held nightly viewing of Smart’s e-storytelling sessions at their isolation center in Barangay Luz in Cebu City.

Resilient networks

The beneficial impact of these continuing expansion efforts have been confirmed by independent third-party firms like Opensignal, which published a recent analysis about the resilience of mobile networks in the Philippines amid the Covid-19 emergency.

“In the Philippines, video has been a big driver of data consumption, and with measures such as the General community quarantine (GCQ) and Enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in response to Covid-19, Filipinos are consuming videos on Youtube, Netflix and other online streaming services more than ever, putting the mobile networks under pressure,” Opensignal’s Hardik Khatri wrote.

“As operators in the Philippines reported a dramatic surge in data consumption, we found that the quality of the video streaming experience over 4G connections was resilient,” Opensignal said.

The study, which covered the period Sept. 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, showed that while 4G Video Experience in March declined by 7.2% in urban areas and 14.7% in rural areas, “the typical 4G Video Experience in the Philippines ranges from Fair to Good, which suggests that the mobile operators have been able to cope well during these extraordinary times.”

Opensignal examined the mobile experience in urban and rural areas in the National Capital Region, North and Central Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

4G Video Experience

Between September 2019 and February 2020, Opensignal noted that 4G Video Experience had improved in a majority of the regions, with rural users in Mindanao seeing the biggest improvement (23.3%) and urban users seeing the highest improvement of 9.1% in the NCR.

In March, when the government imposed restrictions due to COVID-19, Opensignal observed a decline in 4G Video Experience across all regions. “However, urban areas saw much smaller changes than rural regions indicating greater resilience,” Opensignal said.

“Despite the downturn described above, users in the Philippines continue to enjoy a Good 4G Video Experience (55-65 on a 100 point scale) in the NCR, and a Fair 4G Video Experience (40-55) in the remaining regions regardless of whether they are based in urban or rural areas,” Opensignal noted.

STORYTELLING. PLDT-Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto in one of the LearnSmart e-storytelling sessions.
STORYTELLING. PLDT-Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto in one of the LearnSmart e-storytelling sessions.

Increased appetite for video

To better support Filipinos’ increasing appetite for video, social media, gaming and other online activities, PLDT and Smart have continued to expand and upgrade their fixed and wireless networks across the country.

As of end-March, Smart increased the number of 4G/LTE base stations to 26,000, up 6% from end-2019 and 60% more than end-2018. PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which supports Smart’s network by providing high-capacity links to LTE base stations, is now at 338,500 kilometers nationwide, 5% more than end-2019 and up nearly 40% from end-2018.

In April, Smart further increased the capacity of its LTE network by reallocating its assigned 1800 Mhz frequency from 2G to 4G/LTE. As a result, 3,785 2G base stations of Smart have also been providing additional capacity for its LTE network.

Independent data referenced with consent from Opensignal, Mobile networks in the Philippines are more resilient in urban areas than in rural during the crisis, May 2020.

Smart offers best mobile experience in all categories in Cebu: Opensignal

Smart cited for Best Video Experience and Best Games Experience, among other awards

Smart Communications, Inc. offers the best mobile experience in Cebu and swept seven mobile experience award categories in the April 2020 Mobile Network Experience Report for the Philippines by independent mobile analytics firm Opensignal.

For its independent analysis, Opensignal collected 659 million measurements from 288,492 devices across the Philippines from November 1, 2019 to January 29, 2020.

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DOTR, LTFRB, PayMaya provide PUV drivers with cashless payments, additional livelihood

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have tapped digital financial services leader PayMaya to provide additional livelihood opportunities to drivers as well as access to cashless payment options to drivers and operators of Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) as quarantine restrictions begin to ease in some parts of the country.

PayMaya is offering various taxi and transport operators and their drivers QR scan-to-pay capabilities via its mobile app, which will also give them access to a digital financial account that they can use for everyday transactions such as bills payments, airtime load reloading, and sending money to friends and family.

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Parents and kids tune in to eStorytelling Sessions of DepEd, Smart for online learning

Spending time together while listening to entertaining and educational stories is becoming a nightly habit for parents and children following the eStorytelling Sessions of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart).

Launched in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd) and The Storytelling Project, and aired live every 8:30pm on the Smart Communities Facebook page, this is Smart’s way of bringing the magic of stories into people’s home through technology.

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Location data show how Pinoys stayed home, avoided public places during ECQ

Visits to public places such as groceries, pharmacies, retail outlets, transit areas, and workplaces plunged as a community quarantine was put in place in the Philippines in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, phone location data show.

Stays at home dramatically increased in the same time period, according to information made available by Google as part of its early release of the Community Mobility Report to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Data released by Apple also showed a massive decrease in driving, walking, or taking transit as can be detected by direction queries for Maps.

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Accenture, Intel, Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation use AI to save coral reefs

Accenture, Intel and the Philippines-based Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation have developed a new solution powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor, characterize, and analyze coral reef resiliency.

The solution is Project: CORaiL, an initiative the three organizations created in 2019. It has been deployed in a reef in the Philippines since last year.

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Technology aids Cebu group feeding COVID-19 frontliners

In Cebu City, professional chefs have joined hands with private individuals and businesses to combat the COVID-19 crisis in their own way: Through nourishing frontliners with good, clean and fairly priced food.

However, with the Enhanced Community Quarantine in place, they have been unable to meet physically. But this has not stopped the Cebuano group from continuing their advocacy. Instead, they have harnessed the Internet and wireless connectivity to gather more partners for their campaign.

With the support of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), Cocina Collective’s campaign #FoodForFrontliners has been able to nourish Cebu’s COVID-19 frontliners with nutritious and delicious meals prepared by volunteer chefs.

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Smart increases LTE capacity nationwide

With Internet usage rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. is further upgrading its mobile data service by boosting the capacity of its 4G/LTE network throughout the country.

This month, Smart is reallocating its assigned 1800 MHz frequencies from 2G to 4G/LTE. This shift will impact on a large share of Smart’s LTE sites throughout the country and will increase the volume of data traffic that these facilities can handle.

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Keeping the faith in digital spaces during Covid-19 crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic may have changed how the Filipino faithful are observing their Holy Week traditions this year, but it has not dampened their faith.

With the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) implemented nationwide, regular church activities such as public celebration of masses have been temporarily suspended. Thus, churches have turned to digital means to sustain the faith of their communities.

This includes broadcast of Holy Masses on TV and radio, as well as digital apps for those who would like to embark on their traditional Visita Iglesia, but are unable to do so given the current situation.

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Smart’s LTE service keeps people connected despite COVID-19 quarantine

Msgr. Julius Perpetuo S. Heruela is the parish priest of the St. Augustine of Hippo Parish in Bacong, Negros Oriental. Like a growing number of his fellow pastors in this largely Catholic country, he is holding “virtual masses” this Holy Week amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has made public gatherings in churches a serious health risk.

The parish priest livestreams his masses using a web cam linked to his laptop which is connected wirelessly to a PLDT Home Prepaid WiFi unit. He delivers the video to his parishioners via his Facebook page like a watch party. The whole set up runs on the 4G LTE service of Smart Communications. Heruela adds that 9 other parishes in the Diocese of Dumaguete are holding online Masses in the same way.

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Free access to G Suite for Education helps Philippine schools facilitate virtual classes

As many educational institutions are facing or planning for temporary campus closures due to COVID-19, Google is providing distance learning tools, training, and resources to help them stay connected through G Suite for Education.

G Suite for Education is a set of free productivity tools built for teaching and learning, which includes Hangouts (for video and voice conferencing), Gmail, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, and Google Classroom. With this, schools that need to continue with their curriculum can conduct distance learning where teachers and students can remain productive and make valuable learning time despite not being in one physical classroom together.

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