A dream for the digital age

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King dreamed of an America that one day they could fulfill the promise of equality for all its citizens, whether white or black. Today Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, also has a dream: to give Internet access to 5,000 million people on the planet who do not.

Zuckerberg’s vision may seem like an attempt to achieve more interested Facebook users. However, today the world is facing a growing technological gap has implications for equality, fraternity and liberty and the right to seek happiness no less urgent that racial division preach against King.

Across the globe, more than 2,000 million people live in the digital age. They can access a vast universe of information for little or no contact with their friends and family, and connect with other people that have the ability to collaborate in new ways. The other 5,000 million still living in the era of paper on which my generation grew.

In those days, if you wanted to find. out, but did not have an expensive encyclopedia (or I had was not as up to date as to contain that information), had to go to the library and spend hours to find her. To communicate with friends or colleagues who were residing abroad had to write a letter and wait at least two weeks for a response. International phone calls were prohibitive for expensive, and the idea of seeing someone while talking to one was the stuff of science fiction.

Internet.org, a global collaborative initiative which Zuckerberg started last month, aims to make the two-thirds of the global population without access to the Internet are integrated into the digital age. It involved seven major companies’ information technology and non-profit organizations and local communities. Knowing that you cannot ask people to choose between buying food and buying data, the initiative will seek to achieve more innovative and cost of connecting computers, develop more effective software and explore new media business models.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has suggested that Internet access is not a major priority for the poorest countries and that it is more important to fight problems such as diarrhea and malaria. We can only praise their efforts to reduce the toll of these diseases, which mainly affect the poorest. However, it is interesting that your vision seems to lack a more visionary consciousness of how the Internet can transform those lives. For example, if farmers could get more precise about where to plant your seeds or obtain higher prices for their crops predictions, it would be easier to pay the installation of sanitary networks so that their children will not get the diarrhea, or meshes for beds in order to protect their families against malaria.

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Recently, a friend who works giving advice to poor Kenyan family planning told me he came to his clinic many women who could not spend more than five minutes each. Women who have strong single information and one chance to get it; if they had access to the Internet could have it in their eyes whenever they wanted.

Moreover, it would be possible to search online, so that women would save having to go to the clinic. Internet access would also make a detour to the problem of illiteracy, according to solid oral traditions of different cultures and enabling rural communities to create self-help groups and share their problems with people in similar situations in other villages.

What is true for family planning is also a wide variety of subjects, especially those that are difficult to talk about, such as homosexuality and violence. Internet is helping many people understand they are not alone and they can learn from the experience of others.

If further expand our vision, it is not absurd to expect links and connections between the poorest and those with more material means, thus raising the levels of support and assistance can be established. Studies show that someone is more likely to donate to a charitable organization against hunger when shown a picture and he said the name and age of a child as receiving assistance. If just a photo and a few details of identification they can do that, what could be achieved with a conversation on Skype?

Providing universal access to the Internet is a similar project on the scale of sequencing the human genome and, as this will generate new problems and sensitive ethical issues. Online scammers have access to a new and perhaps more naive public. Violations of the copyright will be generalized even more than today (although not cost their owners a lot of money, as it is very unlikely that the poor can buy books and other proprietary materials).

Moreover, the distinctive features of local cultures may be affected, which has a good side and a bad one, as these can restrict freedoms and deny equal opportunities. However, in general it is reasonable to expect that provide access to the world’s poor knowledge and interaction with others anywhere in the world to have a very positive social transformation.

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