During the fifth anniversary of Internet in the Philippines last March 29, he was voted as one of the Fathers of Philippine E-mail.
When asked why and how Roberto "Obet" Verzola earned this particular award, his e-mail reply was, "I guess because I started a commercial e-mail service, servicing mostly non-profit groups (but also some businesses and government offices), in February 1992, around two years before the Internet was introduced in the Philippines."
Today, Obet still runs the same e-mail service but with fewer users. This he attributes to many people having direct Internet connections.
"Our users are non-profit groups, also known as non-government organizations. They are mostly groups who could not upgrade to Windows 95, or who have gotten used to our user interface, or who are only interested in e-mail and not browsing."
Obet has been writing since the early 70s, and he currently writes for the IT Update, a local IT newspaper, on an irregular basis. Aside from this, Obet is the secretary-general of Philippine Greens, an organization of political activists who advocate principles of ecology, social justice and self-determination.
"And I sit in the board of three other non-profit organizations, involved with consumer issues, press/media issues, and renewable energy, respectively," he adds.
Obet also has something to say on the issues of privacy, censorship and intellectual property rights.
On privacy: "We -- the government, particularly -- should respect people's privacy, and this means there should be no national id, where the same ID numbers are used in every government or private database."
On censorship and intellectual property rights: "Censorship is a very complex issue and it is difficult to speak about it in general terms (except for me to say that in general, I'm against it.) Intellectual property rights are inconsistent with the social nature of information. In reality, they are a means for rich countries to monopolize information goods."
With the Philippine Internet community keeping a vigilant watch over the PLDT vs Gerry Kaimo case, Obet has this to say: "I'm on Gerry's side. I have one concern though: I'm worried that ISPs will compromise with PLDT at the expense of users. We should not let this happen. Actually, ISPs are worse than PLDT, if you think about it."
As for the question of the continuing growth of the Internet in the country today, Obet says that "the Internet is an infrastructure for globalization and new forms of colonization by rich countries victimizing poor countries. It will make the rich countries richer but I doubt very much if it will lift our people from poverty."
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