Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is the Internet our bread-and-butter?

Today the world is celebrating the Web that has become an integral part of almost everything that we do. It was 25-years ago when the young, dynamic British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal for the "global hypertext system" which then came to become the World Wide Web. Imagine a life without the 3W’s...devastating!

There was a time when we just walked up to the library to read, gather material, or simply to get answers to a question that is bothering us for days. But the Internet has changed all that. Today lounging in our pajamas we can find answers to things that we need to know. Simply key in the question in Google and boom you’ll find pages of information to choose from. Google is Batman (without that dark side). You are no longer what you say you are, but you are what Google says you are. That’s the modern technology enabled world that we fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately) live in. 

We surely are a fortunate lot who have the advantage of using the Internet every single minute and every second of the day. But is the Internet the bread-and-butter for survival and one of the basic human needs? Does it really count in the first three things that an individual needs to survive? Food, clothing, and shelter have been basic human needs for generations now. The Internet revolution in the 1990's changed all that in the 21st century. Today Internet connectivity is positioned as a humanitarian need. So much so that tech magnates like Google and Facebook are rolling out billion-dollar projects to connect the world to the Internet. Microsoft mogul Bill Gates says that to improve lives we got to first deal with basic things like child survival, child nutrition. He says PC's and the Internet are not in the hierarchy of human needs. 

So then why are we so dependent on the Internet. I can’t forget days when my roommate and I said re-connection prayers together when the Internet connection snapped for a few minutes. Whether it is work, study, or our day-to-day transactions, everything is connected to the Internet, making it impossible to do without it. But what about those you do not have access to the Internet, how do they survive? 

The 2013 International Telecommunications Union report states that out of 7.1 billion world population only 61-percent of the population have internet connectivity. This still makes 39-percent of the world without connection. That’s a huge digital divide and this really makes a big difference. The Internet may not be bread-and-butter for survival but it does give people access to grab those exciting political, social, economic, educational and career opportunities. It simply changes the way we think. 

Google has already initiated a project to bridge this global digital divide. Google wants to make internet access a basic human right and plans to spend $1.5 million this year to support computer science education around the world. The project "Google Fiber" is focused on connecting homes across America. The project is aimed to make internet access available to the poor, the elderly, and all those without internet access. Google has also launched "Project Loon" technology for gapping digital divide between the world's 4.8 billion unwired people and their 2.2 billion plugged-on counterparts around the world. The project involves releasing helium-filled balloons in the stratosphere, 20km above the earth. These balloons will act as a hub for users to connect to Internet service providers. And recently Facebook made an announcement that it is looking into buying a drone making company that makes bear-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for five years without needing to land. Facebook wants to use these drones to blanket parts of the world without internet access. And Mark Zuckerberg plans to kick-off the project in Africa.

These projects will certainly make that big difference. Wish we could launch balloons and drones for bridging that huge gap between the rich and the poor, to find cures for life-threatening diseases, to end wars, to end discrimination, to end terrorism. 

Post script
Whenever I was asked what the meaning of my name is, I jokingly said it meant “Mother of Pearl.” But guess what after a lot of Internet research done by a colleague, I now know the real meaning of my name. It's a French name meaning black bird. Now I got to decide whether it’s a crow or a falcon :-). And yeah thanks to the Internet for giving me that information.