Yahoo! project connects Filipino migrant workers to families
By Erwin Oliva
INQ7.net, Agence France-Presse
Last updated 06:29pm (Mla time) 12/05/2006
(UPDATE) INTERNET giant Yahoo! on Tuesday unveiled a global project aimed at tapping into the vast market of Filipino overseas workers.
The Pinoy Connect project features a special website designed to meet the needs of an estimated eight million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the population, working abroad as well as their families back home, Southeast Asian executives told reporters on Tuesday.
The new site www.yahoo.com.ph/pinoy features news, entertainment, mobile services, chat groups, mobile communications and instant messaging services targeting Filipino workers and their dependents in the Philippines.
The project was a result of a Yahoo! global research study showing that about "33 percent of Filipinos believe that instant messaging applications," like Yahoo! Messenger, have helped "improved relationships between parents and children."
Recently, Yahoo! Southeast Asia also reported that the Philippines became the third country in the world with the most contributions to the global Yahoo! digital time capsule project.
There are 14 to 15 million Filipino Internet users, with more than half of them using Yahoo! services at least once a month, Yahoo! Southeast Asia regional communications manager Jason Coates said in an interview.
Pinoy Connect is both an online and "offline" dedicated to connect families of the growing number of Filipinos working abroad, Coates added.
In the first nine months of 2006, overseas Filipinos remitted an estimated 9.11 billion dollars, providing critical support to the economy. This does not include cash sent home through informal, non-bank channels.
"We believe the Internet can transform lives and we believe that Yahoo! can make a difference for Filipinos living around the world who need to communicate and stay in touch," said Reza Behnam, managing director of Yahoo! Southeast Asia.
The executives observed that the OFWs generally face little difficulty accessing the Internet. It is their families back home who are reluctant, Coates said.
Yahoo! Southeast Asia has partnered with public and private institutions, including the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Ayala Foundation's GILAS program, the Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Level Up! Philippines, Netopia and Rex Navarette to jumpstart the "offline" awareness campaign for this initiative.
Yahoo! has also produced a booklet both in English and Filipino which teaches families how to start using the Internet applications, the executive said. A copy of this booklet is available online or through OWWA offices.
Pinoy Connect is the first of its kind which is dedicated to migrant workers, Behnam said.
The executive also said this initiative intends to act as a "springboard" for next year's initiatives in the Philippines, which include the launch of localized services.
Recently, it has quietly introduced Yahoo! Videos for Filipinos and Yahoo! Answers tailor fit for local readers.
"We're doing this to eventually spur Internet user growth. With enough users, that will eventually attract advertisers, and in turn, we can spend more on content and development of services," Behnam added.
The Pinoy Connect website is currently bare, but will gradually include more content from local partners, such as the OWWA.
In its statement, Yahoo! said the website will also include news and tools to help families communicate using Internet-based applications like instant messaging.
"We're happy to explore more content sources," Behnam said.
Leading Philippine-based portals have also tapped into the overseas workers' market, offering a wide range of services such as remittances and home sales.
A new building boom is sweeping across Manila and surrounding areas, fuelled by cash-flush overseas Filipinos looking to invest in retirement homes. Rising property prices are helping drive the surge of Philippine share prices to levels not seen since the mid-1997 Asian financial crisis.