Father of the Philippine Internet is Mapúan

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Dr. William Torres was one of those who laid down the foundations of the internet in the country. He had informal negotiations with the U.S. National Science Foundation in 1992. The Philippines was finally connected to the Internet on March 29, 1994. (Photo credit to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, pcij.org)

For the father of the Philippine Internet, Dr. William Torres, Mapúans should help expand all avenues for the poor to have access to all kinds of opportunities for a better life.

And to set an example to younger generations, Torres was one of those who laid down the foundations of the Internet in the country.

Currently teaching at the Mapúa’s School of Information Technology, Torres graduated as a gold medalist in Mapúa in 1955 with a degree of BS Mechanical Engineering. To add to that, he was the first PhD graduate of Computer Science among Filipinos.

The beginnings of Philippine Internet

Under the Cory Aquino administration, Torres served as the managing director of the National Computer Center. It was during that time when he made strategic decisions that had good repercussions for the flourishing of the Internet in the country. He first sought the help of Meralco for the installation of the Internet server in their headquarters early 1990s because electric power was still unstable – unfortunately, the request was denied. After which, he went to the Philippine National Bank because they had an international leased line, but the bank was not ready for the Internet yet. Nevertheless, the PNB suggested that he submit his proposal to the National Science Development Board (now the Department of Science and Technology). The board openly welcomed the project and took care of the funding as well.

“Even before 1994, we already had access to the Internet: A few multinational companies had long distance dial-up Internet access to their respective head offices and a handful had leased-line connections, say, to Hong Kong.  These were very expensive and, thus, out of reach to almost everybody. I think my contribution at that time was to find a way to spread this emerging technology in our country and persuade many others to make it happen,” Torres said.

Poverty and the Internet

Asked how an Internet-connected country can be reconciled with the plight of poor Filipinos, Torres opined, “The Internet is the de facto national/global infrastructure to accelerate the building up of almost all inclusive means to expand opportunities.” He added that that Mapúans play an important role in societal development.

“By producing good graduates in the Engineering and Sciences, and by providing leadership to steer planning, designing, and managing of the national infrastructures, Mapúans participate in the betterment of the lives of Filipinos.”

School of Information Technology (SOIT) Dean Ariel Kelly Balan echoed Torres saying that aside from fully-utilizing the country’s rich natural resources, Filipinos should also learn how to use the skills of its people, especially in IT.

“If we strengthen further our IT capabilities, as IT developers, I think this will help the economy grow,” Dean Balan said. “That's why one of the leading industries are the BPOs, which IT really helps a lot.”

ICT department

As a champion of ICT, Torres supports the move to establish a Department of Information and Communications Technology.

“We must have a department to be mainly concerned with the national ICT infrastructure, a key element for nation-building and international competitiveness,” he told.

He said that ICT is as important as the “hard” infrastructures like transportation, water, and energy to which Balan agreed.

“ICT is one industry wherein you have to invest more on knowledge than the monetary value of resources like infrastructure and others. So having ICT, if we will try to give emphasis on this one, will improve our labor force,” Balan said.

Mapúans for the world

Torres believes in harnessing the known potentials of the Institute to better the world, and what better way to do that than educating more creators, builders and innovators?

“Mapúans are well-known for engineering. We create, build and innovate and that is what our country needs,” Balan said.

“Mapúa is on the right track to be a prime educational institution in engineering and sciences.  We must harness the potentials of our institution – our schools and its graduates and the knowledge and expertise – to envision and make a better world,” Torres concluded.