‘Load na Dito’: Experiencing Data on the Internet in the Philippines Through Social VR

Ruth Guerra
3 min readMay 29, 2022

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A screenshot from a webVR experience on the internet in the Philippines.
A WebVR experience hosted on Mozilla Hubs.

How do you access the internet in “the social media capital of the world”? You buy it from a neighborhood variety store.

Sari sari stores are integral in making the internet accessible in the Philippines — a country made up of over 7,000 islands where almost a quarter of its citizens live in poverty. There is said to be over 1.1 million of these stores, where Filipinos can buy prepaid mobile credits, or “load,” customized to their internet needs, and more importantly, their wallets. A person can buy a 1GB load for around $1 USD as needed instead of paying the $40+ USD per month if they were to subscribe to an internet service provider (ISP).

Photo of a sari sari store with a sign that reads “Load na Dito!”
An example of a sari sari store. Photo credit: Rick Elizaga.

This is crucial because Filipinos use the internet… a lot. Recent studies show that the Philippines ranks number one in the world when it comes to time spent on the internet and social media.

A graph that shows daily time spent using social media per country. The Philippines ranks as number one.
A graph that shows daily time spent using the internet per country. The Philippines ranks as number one.

However, the Philippines falls behind neighboring countries in Asia when it comes to internet penetration rates (percentage of the total population in a country or region who uses the internet) and broadband speeds. This is a paradox. If the internet in the Philippines is so unreliable, how are its citizens making it work in unprecedented numbers? And how is this dilemma affecting the country?

My research project offers an alternative method of presenting this information through immersive data visualizations in social VR using Mozilla Hubs. It attempts to draw insightful (and sometimes fun!) connections between the digital divide and data usage, asking audiences to reflect on and discuss the future of the internet globally.

A screenshot of the sari sari storefront in the webVR experience. The text on the store reads “The majority of internet users in the country connect via mobile data. Filipinos buy ‘load’ (prepaid mobile credits here, at a sari sari store.”
A screenshot from the WebVR experience of maps from countries in Asia that show differences in broadband speeds, costs, and internet penetration rates.
Screenshot from the WebVR experience that shows data visualizations on digital freelancing in the Philippines.
Screenshot from the WebVR experience with a discussion question that reads, “What responsibilities do institutions have when dealing with disinformation online?”

Experience it for yourself here.

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Ruth Guerra

Talks about design research, participatory futures, and social innovations.