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Philippines tops world internet usage index with an average 10 hours a day (theguardian.com)
179 points by pseudolus 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments

I think there’s a fundamental difference between mobile vs computers. Using a smartphone is almost always consumption. While using a desktop/laptop isn’t necessarily production, it seems much more likely.

If I just had a smartphone and no computer growing up, I wouldn’t have learned how to program. I think it’s vitally important to provide access to computers and internet, not just the internet with smartphones.

I live in Tanzania and I teach at a school my wife founded and when teaching my computer class I asked my students (15-19) what the internet was. And swear to god, most of my students thought the internet was Facebook. Others thought it was Instagram, Google, or Facebook. They had no concept of a website.

This is mostly Facebook since it's zero-rated where most Filipino mobile users are prepaid.

Young and old, rich and poor Filipinos are glued to their phones like zombies all day browsing Facebook.

Filipino here. I blame carriers here for making Facebook free-of-charge. Yes, good thing that Messenger let's us send messages for free. But the thing is, we can't see images nor visit links unless you get a data pack/promo or connect to a Wi-Fi.

Especially news, people can't see thumbnails or click links so they directly jump to wrong assumptions based on what they see and hear from the comments. Some people just lost the time to click articles as time goes by.

I wish they made the plan's cheaper but this is the Philippines where internet sucks and PLDT (PH's largest internet provider) and Smart (PLDT's carrier) are the worst.

Ouch. Now combine inabilitity to read entire articles with the way clickbait works in the real world, where title+perex often times say wildly inaccurate thing to attract you to the actual article, at which point you realize it was basically a lie.

One recent example is where most news sources had a title that some [probably famous] man assualted a woman, yet the only local source had a title where it was clear that both man and the woman were arrested and charged. Google news actually makes this easier to see, because it groups titles from multiple sources into one "story" box.

So like Hacker News? (guilty as charged, and no offense intended since it's not really comparable)

I wonder if people adapt by copying articles instead of linking?

In some posts, some commenters paste the news contents from the link in the comments section but this is most usually happens during election time just like in 2016 wherein there is a hot discussion about a candidate (and blame news websites for bias reporting).

You forgot to mention Globe’s broadband. Which is way worse.

I tried their home broadband. Not bad at all, I think it depends on the location.

Globe is best on mobile. They're the best but not so good with the promo offerings they give.

I agree. It is just their reputation that Globe broadband still sucks. But their mobile data on my area is top notch.

Can you really blame the carriers, at what point does personal responsibility take over?

Carriers are partly to blame for accepting the money from Facebook. They are getting paid.

Yes, personal responsibility is also needed.

Keep in mind though that Facebook has used a lot of behavioral manipulation to squeeze engagement out of its users as much as possible. They purposeful made their product addicting.

In a lot of third world countries, digital literacy is lower than in developed countries so awareness of the bad effects of social media is low. Heck, even the US, didn't realize how bad addiction to social media is until the past few years.

> at what point does personal responsibility take over?

Maybe a good approach can be:

- When there are millions of people with otherwise functional lives falling for unhealthy behaviour then you blame the carriers.

- When there is a very small percentage of the population engaging in that behaviour, then is personal responsibility.

For example, personal responsibility cannot be asked for when people lack education.

It's incredible how condescending people here are. Since you see no value in Facebook, those who use it a lot must be uneducated barbarians who are not willing to spend their time on [thing you enjoy]

Economists talk about “revealed preference,” that is, people enjoy the things that they do. But I don’t think that’s actually true. FB, like drugs, short-circuits your brain and just because your reward system is hacked and you spend all day doing it doesn’t mean you actually are getting real value from it.

Like people retired people who will spend all day and most of their disposable income sitting in front of a slot machine pushing a button. I imagine that is not what most of them wish they were doing with their lives.

This is such an unbelievably condescending opinion. Filipinos are not so uneducated that they lack the ability to assess the quality of their own lives. Facebook didn’t invent self-destructive behaviour (to use a hyperbole), it will always be available for people to indulge in. Personal responsibility will always be the only answer to it, and to imply that Filipinos lack the education to implement it is remarkably offensive.

The reference to education was an example. I don't think parent implied lack of education in Philippinos

[Edit: spelling]

I don't understand what the ISPs are earning here?

We have zero-rated Facebook/WhatsApp plans here in Spain but they are only available for certain, somewhat expensive plans. If Facebook or WhatsApp were zero-rated for cheap plans, nobody would pay for data, including myself.

I would assume the ISP is not out of pocket. Facebook pays them to provide the free data.

Hooking more people on the drug is clearly of benefit to Facebook. Especially if the ISP's customers end up thinking Facebook IS the internet.

I can confirm that. Having travelled their extensively; their usage is not healthy.

That's very condescending towards Filipinos.

Filipino here, I didn't feel insulted. Its probably true. For a lot of people, the Internet = Facebook. Add to that the fact that Facebook is free due to telco subsidies and a culture that loves social interactions.

because this is a time metric, I wonder how much the Phillipines' time use is impacted .. by .... sloooooooow ..... connection ........ speeeeeeeeeds.

zavi 19 days ago [flagged]

Only because you're not insulted doesn't logically mean it's not condescending.

If a nation with a young population has a higher adoption rate for a modern technology than "developed" countries that are twice as old on average then good for Philippines. No need to dismiss them as "zombies" and bring in the usual Facebook circlejerk.

Clearly you haven't been here and seen it in action. Groups sitting around the dinner table, or drinking, never interacting with one another or looking up from their phones. There is no cultural stigma to sitting on your phone and ignoring your friends like there is in other countries and it's rather terrifying to see it in action.

I'm a Westerner in the Philippines now, and just the other day I went out to a restaurant and there were a group of young people having dinner at the next table. As they ate, they all were staring at their phones and not conversing, just eating. I thought, "oh well, after they finish eating they'll probably be social over drinks." Nope, I was wrong. After the plates were cleared away, they all remained zombies glued to Facebook. Not a word was passed between any of them. It's really sad to behold what Facebook is doing to the Philippines. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say what people are doing to themselves via Facebook.

Same here, I'm American but live in Manila at the moment. There are many things here that happen due to lack of cultural precedent such as rampant unchecked phone use during social outings. One can only hope that the culture will evolve eventually to make this type of antisocial behaviour less acceptable.

Oppo, which is a top Chinese smartphone maker, has a huge share of the Filipino market. And how they market these phones here in the Philippines is very revealing. The ads say: "Oppo: the selfie phone." That's right, the phone is actually marketed as a device primarily for taking selfies, not voice, SMS, or web.

That's pretty standard everywhere, though? It's not like the newest iPhone would be marketed with "iPhone - the phone that makes calls and sends texts"

Apple doesn't market the iPhone as a selfie phone. No, they wouldn't market it as a device designed exclusively for calls and SMS either, but that isn't quite the same thing since the word "phone" is still part of its name.

I (the original commenter) am Filipino. Born and raised in the Philippines.

It's true, though.

Have you considered that a negative comment about a group can be true, without any bias towards the group?

Another impressive stat on Internet usage in PH is the sex ratio, Female Internet users are equal (or more) to the male users[1]. In India female users account for 30% overall & 64:36 (Male:Female) in rural India[2].

This is an important metric to note if one is running a non-geographically bound dating platform; the female users from PH grew exponentially when compared to other countries in our platform.



Data is cheaper than calls. I don't even bother with call or text plans when I'm in the Phils. It costs a reasonable $8/mo to get 8GB of data if you use the right refillable promos.

With that said, internet is so darn slow and unreliable it must be messaging services. It's hard to get real work done from the Phils as a remote software developer. Thank goodness for Tmux and SSH.

I have intermittent connectivity issues, and [mosh](https://mosh.org/) has been super helpful with typing lag, reconnecting.

+1 for mosh - life changing on spotty connections. I can tether in the back of a car in rural side streets and still keep a ssh session going strong with no disconnects on mosh. The mosh client is also available for chrome / chrome OS, which as saved me a few times.

I'm using Eternal Terminal which also supports scrollback.


Interesting. Will try this when I get back to PH.

+1 for mosh - useful even on non-sptty connections because of laptop sleeps.

I'm a remote dev from the US in the Philippines. I do a lot of work in tmux and ssh for sure.

DSL or fiber internet in the Philippines is the slowest and most expensive in SE Asia. It's because of the high degree of political corruption here. Cartels and monopolies thrive, while consumer choice dies.

I’m from Philippines and Facebook is huge here. Very huge and a bit of concerning because telcos (which are a monopoly here) has free mobile data for users and tons of fake news get reposted. Facebook has also been used as a political tool here.

Higest daily usage, and some of the lowest speeds[1]

Maybe they're on the internet for longer periods of time because the speeds are so low and quality is so inconsistent that they _have_ to stay on the internet longer to get anything done! Having lived in PH off-and-on for about a year I know the pain first hand...

[1] https://www.rappler.com/technology/news/178792-philippines-r...

>most time spent online is done via mobile devices, with the greatest portion of that time spent on social media

A lot of people in Phils seem to have a FB-connected mobile plan where they can chat on FB but not see the pictures on there, although you can send them pictures in the chat. And it only seems to connect them to FB, not the whole internet. Just a messenger app I guess. (Most of my close friends are in the Philippines, we chat on FB.)

Philippines was the number one demographic of the very first large-scale social net - Friendster...

How would a mobile provider block pictures and other attachments inside a chat system? See a large transfer and kill the connection?

Also, in this scenario what would stop users from using domain fronting or encrypted SNI to access other Facebook services?

Facebook itself subsidizes a specific 'facebook data plan' with mobile providers. It loads free.facebook.com which specifically does things to keep data down also.

Yeah, that's it I think. They've said they're on the free plan or something. (I've never had a mobile phone so not up on the jargon!)

> Also, in this scenario what would stop users from using domain fronting or encrypted SNI to access other Facebook services?

That any day the ISP can kill those "bugs" making them useless especially for those who brought those in forms of paid VPNs, and if it doesn't, they will "block" you from the service, from not allowing to initiate LTE connection and locked to 3G, to not connect to the cell site at all.

Also, in this scenario what would stop users from using domain fronting or encrypted SNI to access other Facebook services?

Or just tunnel their traffic through the chat itself:


Thanks - there's some interesting discussion on that page about the FB-only 'internet' from people who know a lot more about it than me.

I spend all day on the computer but mostly I am reading, writing, or scripting that I'm not actually surfing the web. Then again spotify uses the internet.. I wonder how much 'internet usage' is a direct replacement for something that is analog but has the same effect, like reading newspaper.

Filipino internet user here. Can at least say that 10 hours a day for most Filipinos seem accurate enough—most people here are connected to FB Messenger via telcos' free FB promos. And a lot of Filipinos use Facebook like a realtime social lobby, replying to comments and status updates almost instantly.

Sadly though, most of the data probably applies to Filipinos in Metro Manila and developed cities, and there's still a huge part of the population that do not have access to the internet or even basic services like 24-hour electricity.

I visited the Philippines recently, and was shocked at how non-neutral it was. ISPs have promotions like "free half an hour of YouTube per day". It is like the nightmare scenario that we in the rest of the world were warned about.

Worse, someone told me that in 2012, internet service was way better, but then they realized they could just throttle everyone down and jack the prices up.

And I also had to have a Globe and Smart SIM cards, since the two cellphone companies have a cartel.

I loved it there, but it is a shame about the infrastructure.

You're right, but it's not about throttling, it's about subsidies. Regardless, data is about a dollar a gig, which is among the cheapest in the world. The fact is, folks don't want to or more likely, can't afford it, so the subsidized plans are more popular.

Really?? Because I and my companions had a huge problem with data. The only plans we could find were for things like 700M for "general use data", and the remaining for different websites. It was expensive and slow. We weren't in Manilla we were in rural areas mostly.

Yeah, I've been there a lot over the past few years. The problem to me is that there's too many different 'promos' at any given time, much like what you mentioned. But there's always been a 1 gig, 3 day load for 50 pesos from smart and globe.

The throttling only occurs on 'unlimited' plans. Just paying per GB here, and my mobile data speed peaks generally around 10 to 50 Mbps.

After seeing The Philippines, I don't see how anyone can argue against net neutrality...

I can say I am one of the people that made this "achievement" possible. I spend most of my day starting at a monitor.

Kidding aside, I would not put much trust on an online statistic. Specially since they did not even have the decency to tell us where and how they got that info

Unsurprising Philippines is at top of list. World leader in adoption of tech that enables social interaction.

From 2007:


Another. Undated. Avg sms per month per subscriber = 600. Or 20 a day. Which seems low, I'm sure I've seen figures alot higher than this.


Filipino here, gonna have to agree. Its not really tech adoption but more 'new modes of communication' adoption. We adopted SMS like wildfire and now its the same with Facebook/Messenger. Gonna be a good bet that those 10hrs are disproportionately spent on FB properties. Lack of net neutrality also helps build a bigger FB wall - for most telcos its free to use messenger and facebook.

Since long before that. The whole Joseph Estrada thing was in 2001.

The second link is dated 2015-03-31. It's in the page source.

SMS has largely been supplanted by Social Media nowadays in PH.

A bit surprised, I just got back from South Korea, and Instagram is beyond huge there. I thought American's spent a lot of time on their phones, until I spent a month in South Korea.

if your only comparison point is USA then that is the issue. (I am American living in Asia 5+ years)

And yes, IG is huuuuuuuuuge in SK.

I remember reading a newspaper for hours after school. Now I barely read news for more than 30 mins a day. I am more connected but my satisfaction of the quality of news I am consuming has gone really down.

I wonder what similar changes Philippines is seeing. People are obviously replacing some offline activity with something similar they do online. For example spending time with friends our neighbors in real life has now been replaced with FB or Whatsapp. Probably because it is more convenient? Is it better though?

> I remember reading a newspaper for hours after school. Now I barely read news for more than 30 mins a day. I am more connected but my satisfaction of the quality of news I am consuming has gone really down.

Before you wasted multiple hours a day on ephemera when you could have read something lasting or done something more fun, now you waste less than an hour. Before you had no information sources to provide alternative viewpoints or later, more in depth reporting after the initial flurry of news reporting. Now you realise journalists are often ignorant, writing under really tight deadlines and have no incentive to fix mistakes unless someone can sue them or has their own media platform. Journalism was always awful, you just didn’t know.

There was a PBS documentary not too long ago about workers in the Phillipines tasked with reviewing all content that is posted to websites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

By the looks of it, they may easily match or exceed the daily usage of any internet-addicted person in any country. What is the total number of people employed in that industry there?

Would these types of industries affect the numbers?

Any chance you are talking about The Cleaners [0]? Because that was also my first thought when reading this.

Tho it's not actually by PBS, it was originally produced by the cooperation of French and German public broadcasting.

But I'm glad it's finally available somewhere again. The original, publicly funded release was depublished after 3 weeks due to specialties of the public broadcasting agreements. They have to depublish a lot of media after only a few weeks or else it's considered an "unfair disadvantage" for private media companies.

[0] http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/the-cleaners/

How did they measure this? What qualifies as “online”? Does leaving Skype on and open while I go about my day count me in the statistic?

Probably, using the average of facebook users spent scrolling to their feeds..

It's not even just scrolling, a lot of my relatives who are still in the Philippines tend to comment on or interact with just about everything that pops up on their feed. I think it's mostly because of the widespread diaspora and desire to stay in touch with the many people they know back home and abroad.

Interesting thing I saw just today was the 2nd largest (after English) wikipedia was Cebuano with only about 400,000 less article. And Waray-Waray is 11th! Clearly it's not all facebook.

Well, that sounded suspicious, so I looked it up.

Apparently, 80-90% of the content on the Cebuano and Waray Wikipedias is generated by Lsjbot[1].

I’m thinking of using a similar approach to bump up the number of Arabic Wikipedia articles, but it seems like cheating to me...

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lsjbot

Woah that bot seems to be single-handedly responsible for pushing the number of Cebuano and Swedish Wikipedia articles past the, usual, second placed German Wikipedia?

At least I remember the German wiki being firmly placed in second place a while ago, the numbers for active users of these wikis [0] also reinforces that notion.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedias#Detailed_li...

Well there's my answer! Thanks for figuring that out. I was kind of blown away by the stat.

A prime feature of the developing world is how full of bs a regular day is and how much time one has to waste just doing regular stuff.

Browsing FB would be a godsend.

Because most first-world ubermensch spend filling and productive days doing menial tasks for a living wage. I'm surprised how prejudicial and borderline racist comments like this are upvoted here.

I'm from a developing country with strong family ties to my country of origin (I am not white).

Systemic efficiency is really high in the west. Almost top quality in successful countries like Singapore.

A trip to some of the not so successful countries in Asia and Africa and it is an eye-opener how much is taken for granted in a rich society.

Yeah, I think he misunderstood your top-level comment in the thread. I'm in the Philippines and I understood exactly what you are saying even though it might sound negative to woke, politically-correct Western ears. There is a lot I take for granted because I happen to have a USA passport (same could be said for someone from Canada, UK, western Europe, AUS, NZ, etc).

The biggest among these things is infrastructure. In a lot of places in the developing world, it just isn't there. And if it is there, it's a fairly slapdash, ad hoc affair. Probably patched together from whatever they could find. No real professional urban planning, either. Likely to be incredibly compromised by political corruption and therefore working only some of the time, since contracts are given to the local warlord's cronies and sycophants.

Look at the power grid in the Philippines. If you live anywhere in the provinces, you'll experience constant "brownouts" where the power is redirected or there is no failover capacity. And without that, of course, there is no internet connectivity...

What do you mean by 'world full of BS'?

Is it like, people trapped waiting in line for government services? Or something else?

Paying bribes, sitting in traffic, waiting for people who never show up, having the people above you just start knocking out walls or something, being swindled out of wages...

"Filipino Time" or even "Mañana Time" where you either can never plan for something to start at an exact time and have to wait around, or you show up for an appointment only to find that the people you're supposed to meet/help/interview didn't bother.

Anyone remember “Pinoy-grams” in “Cryptonomicon”? Facebook have built Neal Stephenson‘s “Data Haven”

I'm willing to bet that our traffic situation here contributes heavily to that metric. It's common to see commutes taking more than a couple of hours and doubling that if you're living away from the metro.

Somehow I don't buy that if everyone had fiber speed internet they would all spend 10x less time on Facebook. They would consume 10x more content.

After observations, I have a theory that the poorest and boring places are potentially the ones that most use the Internet. The lack of activities makes people look for cheap entertainment and the Internet is full of it. This happens in small cities of Brazil. When the city doesn't have parks and outdoor activities, people stay at games and on the Internet, because there aren't activities to do, and get hooked. A repeated behavior became a habit.

I was borned and raised in the Philippines and visit there frequently. I wouldn't call it "boring". In fact far from it..

Heck, I would trade living there (currently in the U.S.) if it wasn't for the lack of high paying tech jobs for all of the outdoor and aquatic activities that are closely within reach after a relatively short drive.

I am sorry, but you did not get the point. Do all small cities of Philippines have aquatic activities and parks and outdoor activities? Why people are trading it to stay on the Internet?

PS: I am not saying that the Philippines is not good. I am saying that the Internet is cheap entertainment and fills a gap in places where you do not have entertainment.

Around a decade or so ago I did a report on the top SMS/Texting use - and Philippines was far-and-away number one.

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