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Overseas Filipino voters turn to Google for election information

Christel Anne Amparado, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Taiwan, will have the opportunity to vote outside her home country for the first time. She has been working overseas as a technical writer for a little over a year. A very busy work schedule and the fact she’s far from home makes it difficult for her to know more about issues surrounding the 2013 elections. So she took to the web to get more information.

“Voting is a responsibility as well as a privilege for Filipinos abroad. I make it a point to research more about the candidates and what’s happening back home from the Internet. Without it, it is difficult for us to keep updated,” she said.

Eunice Palis, a teaching assistant in Qatar University, relies on her Filipino friends’ opinions of candidates, as well as the Internet, to help her decide who among the candidates are worthy of her vote. “It’s a fast-paced working environment in the university and there’s not much time to go through different websites about the candidates,” said Palis.

Anna Rhodora Quiambao is an OFW living in Brunei for 19 years. Although this is her second time to vote from outside the country, she admits the distance makes it difficult for people like her to decide who to vote for. “I don’t have much information about the newer candidates so I had to rely on my family and friends, and on some research I did online. As for some of the old-time senatorial candidates, I relied on my knowledge about them because I already have some ideas about their platforms,” she said.

Amparado, Palis and Quimabao are but three of the 700,000 Filipino overseas absentee voters around the world who have to make important decisions about the country based on what they hear or read from secondary sources. Unlike Filipinos who are only allowed to vote on one specific day, Filipinos overseas are given 30 days to cast their vote. This year, it is from April 13 to May 13.

In Brunei where there are over 21,000 Filipinos, about 43% have registered as absentee voters. As of April 28, more than 400 have already cast their votes. Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Nestor Ochoa is encouraging the remaining voters to exercise their right to vote wisely. “There are about 9,000 registered absentee voters in Brunei. We want them to make informed decisions. But because they’re far from home, resources about what is going on in the country are critical in helping them exercise their suffrage intelligently. My hope is they access what is available for them online,” he said.

Keeping up with the news from back home can be hard especially for countries without Filipino channels on cable television. Now, more than ever, other sources that give easy access to information have become critical in ensuring informed decisions among Filipino voters.

Google Philippines, seeing this need, decided to address the information gap by launching a local version of the Google Elections Page, google.com.ph/elections, a one-stop online portal for aggregated elections-related news and information. News from major local media outfits ABS-CBN, GMA, PTV, SOLARtv, and online news portals Rappler, PhilStar.com, Inquirer.net and Interaksyon.com are aggregated within the Elections Page to give Filipinos in the country and abroad easy access to elections information.

“Since OFWs are not exposed to the candidates’ campaign initiatives, their decision on who to vote for may rely heavily on what can be found on the Internet,” said Narciso Reyes, Google Philippines country manager. “We believe the Elections Page is an avenue through which Filipinos overseas can get relevant information and help them make decisions.”

“With all the information floating on the web, it can be confusing what to look for, what site to go or who to trust. That’s why we thought it best to bring together the media as resources,” said Gail Tan, Google Philippines Communications Manager. “We brought together their news on the elections in one page. This way, the Filipinos can visit the site and have information presented to them in a structured manner. It eliminates noise and confusion,” she added.

The page contains information that would allow Filipino electorates to engage with candidates using Google+ Hangouts and YouTube. The page also includes a Google Map with elections-related incidents plotted on it, giving visual representation of what is going on in certain towns or regions.

Amparado, who scans each online news sites separately, appreciates having all elections-related information she needs in one place. “The Google Elections Page is a great resource to see news reports from different media organizations, giving me different angles and takes on each issue,” she said.

Palis mused, “Information from other people is useful and I can validate those claims using the Internet. The Google Elections Page, which aggregates news from different agencies, will be helpful in making my research fairly easy.”

The Google Philippines Elections Page can be accessed at google.com.ph/elections.

About Google Inc.
Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D . students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google’s targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. For more information, visit www.google.com.ph.

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