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PhilRice communication researcher Jaime A. Manalo IV won the Best Qualitative Conference Paper Award during the recent International Conference on Communication and Media ’12  (i-COME ’12) in Penang, Malaysia.

i-COME ’12 aimed to address communication and media issues such as challenges in the socio-economic and political agenda, cultural integration, and social reengineering. The conference gathered more than 120 researchers, members of the academe, and practitioners from 25 countries.

Manalo’s paper, Beyond Facebook: The undocumented experiences on ICTs of young rural Filipinos, took a critical take on hasty generalizations regarding ICT proficiency of the Filipino youth. Manalo conducted his research in Aurora and in Albay.

“The Filipino youth is oftentimes portrayed as tech-savvy in the media. Some surveys even say that our young individuals are among the world’s most tech-savvy,” Manalo said.

While these observations are encouraging, Manalo said a second look is necessary as most of these global studies on ICT proficiency of young individuals are conducted in key cities. Manalo stressed that young rural Filipinos have very different experiences, which should also be highlighted.

“Issues of the rural youth in the Philippines can easily be glossed over if the attention will be fixated on the experiences of their urban counterparts,” Manalo said.

Computer anxiety or the feeling of discomfort when infront of ICTs, computer illiteracy, and inadequate computer access points were among the issues highlighted in the paper.

He noted that participants from the upland communities in both provinces had poor internet connectivity. Among upland dwellers in Aurora, it is a usual practice to hang mobile phones somewhere to capture some signal.

Meanwhile, cases of computer anxiety surfaced among upland participants, although there were a few who did not have any issues with computers.

“Computer anxiety is an offshoot of inadequate access to computers,” Manalo said. He explains that inadequate access is not solely an infrastructure problem. There were cases when the computers were available but restrictive rules made by the teachers hindered the students from optimizing these computers.

Leading youth and agriculture projects at PhilRice, Manalo asserted that these issues must be addressed as these will enable young Filipinos to actively participate in rice farming so youth can become active partners in agriculture such as by serving as infomediaries for farmers.

“Policymakers should pin their attention on providing the needed ICT infrastructure, and a conducive environment for the students to learn how to use ICTs,” Manalo stressed.

Manalo leads the infomediary project, a campaign to mobilize the youth to search for rice farming information for their parents. Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert, co-director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change at the University of Queensland in Australia co-authors the paper.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute