By Wilson Chua
What’s our pain?
Twenty three years on, the Philippines still ranks at the bottom of Asian countries on speed and pricing. There is a lot of blame going around. No matter who is at fault, let us take another tack. Instead of complaining, let’s work together and solve this. How?
Have you heard of the “Hawthorne Effect”? Wikipedia defines it as a type of reaction where people modify their behaviors in response to their awareness of being watched. This is similar to saying “You get what you measure”.
If the Hawthorne effect holds true for Philippine internet, then it follows that by measuring the bandwidth, we get better internet. This is the idea.
Bandwidth and Signal Strength
In the past, we could not measure bandwidth. So no one thought of monitoring it for the entire country. Yet, things have changed. Mobile phones have more abilities now. We can use them to measure speeds and signal strengths. We can use them to collect the data. We can analyze and extract insights. We can “crowd source” for volunteers. Collectively you and I can now measure bandwidth and signal strength of each carrier at ANY location at ANY time. We just need a measurement tool and a server to collect the data.
Project BASS is born
BASS stands for Bandwidth And Signal Strength monitoring tool. BASS volunteers crafted an easy to use Android app for phones with OS v5.1 and above. We made this free. And made it as Winthrop Yu puts it: “lightweight & uses minimal time and data”. It was a pleasure to work with this fantastic group of volunteers. As Ollay Rullan said “they carved out chunks of their time” to make this tool available.
Goals and benefits to Stakeholders:
Our overriding goal was to create a better internet for all stakeholders. For Carriers, they get free access to the collected data for issue isolation. Carriers could re-route surplus bandwidth to more needy areas. For handset makers, they now have actual data to compare field performance of each of their units. For end users, the bandwidth map guides them in making their purchasing decisions. For digital businesses, the bandwidth map helps them target their business offerings more. For the government regulators, BASS provides “supplemental 3rd party data that is free”.
How it works
Download the app to your phone from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.orozco.netreport. The app will do a spot measurement of your internet bandwidth. It also sends us the GPS coordinates and signal strength of your current location. We also determine your handphone model, make and OS details. (This triggers a warning that the “app is requesting permission to make calls”). The app doesn’t make calls. Promise!
The data ends up in our server/s. Every time you run the app, it generates one record for that location at that time. We crunch the data and convert them into a map with visual cues.
You should be able to determine which carrier has better coverage, signal strength and bandwidth. Data scientist can generate still additional insights.
Responding to calls for volunteers from my Feb 3, 2017 technology column, concerned volunteers from several fields stepped up and undertook to create the BASS app. We launched our MVP (minimum viable product) on March 29, 2017 in time for the 23rd Philippine Internet anniversary.
Our thanks goes to the wizards and member experts like Tzar Umang, Flerie Castro, Paul Sydney Orozco, Melbourne Baldove , Olay Rullan and Andrew Alegre.
Call for volunteers and partners
We need you to run the BASS app at different locations and at different times. The more data we have, the better the bandwidth picture. If you are Google, we need your Big Storage for the massive data that we expect to generate, store and open to the public. If you are Globe or Smart, we ask that you waive data charges on BASS app usage. This encourages more data points to be made. If you are a handset maker, you can help us pre-install the app on selected models of your phone. If you are Facebook, we need you to help us with Ad credits to promote awareness.
This is our “moonshot” project. We choose to do this project not because it is easy, but because it is hard. But together, we can pull this off. To help or volunteer, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ProjectBassApp