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“Development affects access to the internet”
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“Development affects access to the internet”

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emmanuel-olutokunThe internet has come to stay, writes Emmanuel Olutokun, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Lagos in Nigeria, but many areas of the world still face significant hurdles to access. He looks at some of the problems and solutions.

In a rapid and fast-changing world, it is quite safe to say that there still remain portions of the world that are late adopters to development and do not fit into the constantly evolving picture.

The breakout of the internet-cum-technology, alongside the multi-dimensional and endless creativity it affords the average person, leaves us with the reality that the world has moved from being a global village to becoming a global bedroom. The internet undoubtedly has come to stay.

One of the dreams and goals that were born out of this breakout was the plan to ensure that the internet is easily accessible to everyone on planet Earth. This is a good thing considering the fact that it could aid development and also foster the ability to interact and network with other cultures. The only caveat might be the sinister aspect known as cultural imperialism.

Some nurtured the dream that by 2016 there will be free internet for everybody on planet Earth, not necessarily because of the fun and connectivity it will bring, but because it is time for humanity to start giving the same opportunities to everybody. It’s 2017 and this dream is still far from been achieved, though every passing day draws humanity closer to the actualization of that dream.

Internet is maybe the one thing that can give every human being the chance to fill themselves with knowledge, to travel without taking a plane and interact with other cultures. Free global internet could be the start-over the world needs to change a planet in which only a small percentage can live with dignity.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg initiated internet.org, which aims to bring together technology leaders, non-profits and local communities to connect with the two-thirds of the world that doesn’t have access to the internet. Knowing fully well that such laudable fit can’t be achieved single-handedly, top-rated companies like Samsung, Nokia, and Ericsson have also subscribed to this vision.

Narrowing this goal down to Africa, which apparently is the basis for the vision, research has shown that Africa has the lowest internet penetration rate (26.5 per cent) and impediments which constantly pose a threat to this dream and overly stretch a supposedly short term goal.

Top amongst these impediments is poverty. Studies have shown that over the last 30 years, worldwide absolute poverty has fallen from about 40 per cent to under 20 per cent, but has barely fallen or reduced in African countries as over 40 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa still live in absolute poverty. Although the African heritage and culture seems to serve as a respite from poverty, it will often look like a dilemma to an average African who would always think that the vision might only be a fantasy,  or that the herald of the internet in their community would serve as a medium for income generation as well as communication.

Mark Zuckerberg and his colleagues have been able to initiate an ongoing solution in this regard with the launch of an app that provides basic services that allows people to browse selected health, employment and local information websites without data charges.The service is presently finding expression in Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Colombia, Tanzania, India and my dear Nigeria.

With the ratio of rural dwellers being greater than those in the urban regions in those areas, it will take concerted effort from a really focused and determined team to break through the barriers and many factors that come with poverty.

Next is the inadequate supply of electricity. The deplorable state of power supply in the African terrain has been a taunting nightmare that has over time grown to become a culture. Amazingly, many Africans have not even set eyes on light or power supply for more than two years. In a situation where is limited power supply, the possibility of the Internet finding expression becomes slim. Yet it is worth note that some countries, like South Africa, have succeeded in breaking through the barrier of this menace to provide constant power supply, but the large African populace still remain affected.

The goal of making the internet available to everyone living on planet Earth is quite difficult, but very much possible. In fulfilling this goal – particularly in areas with low penetration – there is need for an effective and adequate partnership with decision makers in each country, for there is no strait-jacket answer to tackle the problem confronting each society.

photo credit: n.bhupinder Facebook via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a brand enthusiast, writer and a passionate believer in the strength of the African youths as a change agent.

I am the 2014 award recipient of the ADVAN Future Leader in Marketing and a 2016 Ashoka ChangeMaker Scholar.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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