Today is OneWebDay and, while having such days doesn’t exactly help anyone, I think the cause itself is a worthy one. If you think the same, you may at least want to sign the pledge. Computers and the Internet are here to stay and the future of our society relies on them, so everyone should have access to and know how to use them.
Public libraries are a great start when they organize courses and allow people to access the Internet from public computers. After all, public libraries are meant to facilitate access to information, not only to books. For a long time, books were the main method of spreading information, but as of some 15 years ago that’s no longer the case and libraries really should start reflecting that everywhere.
Sure, having access from such a place is not the same as having it from home, but it’s far better than nothing. Also, the courses that such institutions could offer would be a great help to those who don’t have much of a chance to learn otherwise, and perhaps even more so for the elderly. Just having access to this great wealth of information and these tools won’t help you if you don’t know what to do with them.
Old computers shouldn’t be thrown away. Whenever possible, they shouldn’t be sold either. Instead, they should be given away, even when certain components have already failed. This is especially true in the case of desktops, because it’s quite easy to take them apart and reuse whatever components are still functional in order to build others. Laptops are a poor choice when it comes to this anyway, since they tend to be more expensive, less powerful and less reliable.
If you do decide to give your old computer away, keep in mind that donating it to a public library or other project that would use it in order to give multiple people the chance to access computers and the Internet is more effective than donating it to a single individual or family. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t donate it directly to another person if that’s what you want to do, it’ll be of great help either way. We should strive to help each other and if your trash could bring someone else joy why not make sure that it happens?
Then there’s the issue of providing Internet access to the people who could barely afford to buy a weak computer for themselves, or just received an old one from someone else, or even to public libraries and other similar institutions. In this race for higher connection speeds, companies tend to forget about those who just want a cheap option, even if it’d be pretty slow. Granted that there usually are decent options for reasonable prices in large cities, but when you can barely make ends meet you are looking for something that’s as cheap as possible.
But people who don’t live in large cities, or live in large cities from poor countries, may not even have those options open to them. They’re often stuck with poor services or even none at all, so that’s where governments should intervene. Some incentives for companies who spread their coverage to such areas could help quite a lot, though more direct interventions, such as supplying the connections to the institutions that offer public computers or even setting up a basic infrastructure and offering services more or less at cost to home users, could help even more.
Network neutrality is another key issue, of course, as large corporations desire more and more control over their customers and society as a whole. On a competitive market, a company that discriminates against a certain kind of content wouldn’t last, because its customers would quickly move on to their competitors, but some companies tend to come to agreements in order to discriminate against the same types of content or, as I said before, people from certain places have few or no options to choose from. So governments need to once again step in, pass and enforce laws that wouldn’t allow operators to discriminate against any kind of content, making sure that people enjoy the same quality of service regardless of what they use their connection for.
I could have started with this issue, but it’s not OneWebDay’s focus. Still, it has the potential to affect everyone, whether they are just starting to use the Internet or they have been using it for a long time, so it is very important. While the other problems I mentioned above tend, for the most part, to be things that grassroots efforts could noticeably alleviate, this is a matter of large corporations and governments, so it could be a tough battle…