MANILA, JULY 14, 2007
 (STAR) By Alma Buelva - In a bid to become more relevant to Filipino online users here and abroad, Yahoo! has spruced up its existing Pinoy Connect site by adding social Internet tools to encourage more Filipinos to log on.

Today, close to 14 million Filipinos or 20 percent of the overall population go online regularly. Of this number, 85 percent go online with Yahoo!, says Tom Sipple, Yahoo! managing director for Southeast Asia.

“The Internet has become a mass media in this country and we feel we have a social responsibility to our users to create initiatives like Pinoy Connect,” Sipple says.

A step toward this direction is a new partnership between Yahoo! and GILAS to build awareness as well as raise funds to support the latter’s efforts to install PC and Internet connectivity in all 6,000 public high schools in the country.

In the new Yahoo! Pinoy Connect’s front page, a special section for GILAS (Gearing Up Internet Literacy and Access for Students) is prominently displayed to give visitors information on GILAS and how they could donate to the educational cause that the Ayala Foundation spearheads.

“Our partnership with Yahoo! has been acted upon in various levels which goes beyond the website that helps us raise awareness and collect monetary donations,” says Bill Luz, executive vice president of Ayala Foundation.

“Last May, a team from Yahoo! even went to Tanauan, Batangas to check out some of the 12 public high schools there, five of which were wired because of their donations. Today, the Yahoo! donation benefits 1,700 students in those five schools. They even helped us paint and repair the schools,” shares Luz.

Sipple notes that Yahoo!’s business in the Philippines is driven by the company’s belief that they could help enhance education, lower geographic barriers, narrow social gaps, and advance economic opportunities.

“We also aim to expand the ability of citizens to communicate and express themselves, to access information and to conduct commerce… The Internet can positively transform lives, societies and economies,” he says.

Confident that their presence in Yahoo! Pinoy Connect will let more people all over the world know about GILAS, Luz appeals to individuals and companies to “click on the donation button” on the website to help them meet the P100-million investment required to wire 1,000 public high schools in one year, exclusive of the cost of PCs. Without external support, Luz says the amount needed would balloon to P300 million.

“We are trying to transform lives of students. There are 1,400 high schools in two provinces and 19 cities that are already online with a total of 600,000 student-beneficiaries. Batanes, so far, has seven schools connected, while schools in Misamis, Quezon City and Cabanatuan City have been completely connected,” Luz says.

Local variety

The new Yahoo! Pinoy Connect, accessible from, offers a collection of the most relevant social and user-generated content services designed by Yahoo! for Filipinos around the world.

It includes Filipino-centric content from Yahoo! Answers (social search), Flicker (photo sharing), Yahoo! Groups (online communities), (social bookmarks), (event networking), Yahoo! Video (video sharing), and Yahoo! Web messenger, among other features.

First launched in December 2006 as an educational initiative aimed to teach Filipinos how to stay connected to their families and friends abroad, the Yahoo! Pinoy Connect now even boasts of online resources for new Internet users, Internet café owners, students and teachers. A video tutorial by popular US-based Filipino artist Rex Navarette walks first-time users or visitors on how to use the many online services that the site provides.

“We collect feedback from Filipinos and we create partnerships to collectively meet the growing needs of people using the Internet in the Philippines,” says Sipple. “We have Yahoo! engineers in Southeast Asia who are making sure Filipinos get the right searches for local or global content… We can also work with Internet café owners to know what Filipinos want or do mostly online.”

Meanwhile, Yahoo! is doing all these things with an eye on the future. By next year, eight million more Filipinos are expected to go online and Sipple says “they will be our next priority.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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