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The benefits of the internet cannot be underestimated. Many people are presently transforming their lifestyles through the power of information technology. When people have access to information, they are usually empowered and find it easier to realize their objectives (Jackson par. 5). The number of people using the internet has increased significantly within the past two decades. However, many people who have access to the internet are rich in urban areas. The problem is even worse in the developing world. Internet coverage in rural areas is still low. A powerful strategy aimed at improving the level of internet access in rural areas across the world can transform peoples’ lives.
The current problem
Many technology companies believe strongly that “information is power” (Jackson par. 3). Some of these companies have been focusing on the best measures to provide free internet as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) agendas. Most of these firms are targeting different rural parts across the world. This move has been embraced by many people because it has the potential to transform the lives of citizens in underdeveloped communities. The main problem is that some nations have been against the proposal to provide free internet in rural regions. A good example of these countries is India. The government of India restricts different technological companies from operating in the country. Similar issues have been experienced in other countries such as North Korea, China, and Kazakhstan (West 4).
Why it is a problem
The above issue is a major problem because the internet is a powerful tool that can empower people across the globe. It is agreeable that many companies are ready to ensure the remotest parts of the world have free internet access. Since such regions are characterized by poor living conditions and social problems, the targeted people will be able to acquire useful information from the internet. Consequently, the acquired information can be used to start small businesses, engage in positive lifestyles, eat balanced diets, and overcome various social challenges (West 12).
Unfortunately, some countries have restricted various companies from providing free internet to people in rural regions. This remains a major problem because the companies cannot implement their CSR programs successfully. This issue makes it impossible for many citizens in marginalized parts of the globe to realize their goals (Roy 99). Unless there is a powerful strategy to support these CSR programs, many firms will be unable to deal with the problem.
Background of the problem
Media censorship is something that has been undertaken by governments for many years. The issue of internet censorship borrows “a lot from the prohibition of traditional media such as books, music, newspapers, films, and radio programmes” (Roy 99). The use of the internet transformed how information was shared by people across the globe. The internet is accessible to more people in the world. At the same time, online content has been observed to remain permeable across national borders (Roy 100). Some contents and WebPages have been blocked in different countries such as India.
Since 2007, many governments have been unable to censor or control the internet. This happens to be the case because the World Wide Web (WWW) appears to be owned by private companies (Batinic 2). The use of circumvention tools has increased significantly within the past few years. Consequently, the global population continues to access different websites and online platforms. The use of social media has led to new challenges. For instance, some governments have been opposed to the opinions and critiques presented by social media users.
In some countries such as North Korea, the internet has been completely censored. This practice explains why only a few citizens have access to the internet. Technologists have gone further to describe why some governments have found it impossible to control how people access online-based content. The number of internet providers has been on the rise (Batinic 3). However, only the privileged members of society in the developing world have access to the internet.
From 2008, many companies emerged to ensure the internet is available to the greatest number of people. Within the past four years, specific companies such as Facebook have been focusing on the best technologies to ensure more people in rural regions have access to free internet (Batinic 3). Although the idea has been embraced in many global societies, some governments have prevented such companies from pursuing their CSR goals. This restriction is therefore motivated by the desire to censor online-based content.
Addressing the problem: Case studies
Despite the obstacles experienced by technological firms in countries such as India, some experts have come up with powerful strategies to address the above problem. The case of Facebook shows how the above problem can be addressed successfully. Within the past two years, Facebook has been implementing its Free Basics initiative in different parts of the globe. For example, the company has successfully introduced the program in Indonesia and Malawi (Kelly par. 6). Similar initiatives have been considered to ensure more people in the United States have access to free internet.
Facebook has been liaising with local governments to connect more people to the World Wide Web (Kelly par. 4). The company’s leaders have been experimenting and outlining new strategies that have the potential to empower many people across the globe. In India, the “Free Basics program attracted the opposition of different public interest groups” (Kelly par. 21). In 2015, Facebook started a new journey to ensure free internet was available to more people in sub-Saharan Africa (Kelly par. 22). To achieve this goal, Facebook has partnered with a French-based satellite company known as Eutelsat (Kelly par. 6). The company is planning to use Facebook drones to ensure every unreachable region has access to free internet.
Some companies such as “Comcast and Sprint have been making high-speed internet accessible to many American citizens in rural regions” (Kang par. 2). Comcast’s Internet Essentials program was launched successfully in the year 2011 (Kang par. 3). Google has been planning to provide cheaper internet services to the greatest number of people in different parts of the world. Companies such as Microsoft and Dell are implementing similar programs to ensure more people in rural regions have internet access. Google uses its Google Fiber program to offer free internet to its clients. Users are required to pay “a one-time construction fee and eventually have free internet access” (Kang par. 7).
However, these companies continue to encounter numerous challenges. Some governments and local companies have failed to collaborate. The issue of internet censorship makes it impossible for individuals in rural communities to have access to free internet (Africa Renewal Online). The efforts to have free internet access might be futile if the targeted members of the population do not have powerful devices or computers (Roy 99). These challenges explain why the provision of free internet in rural areas remains a dream in many developing countries.
The achievements recorded in the United States are a clear indication that technology companies have the potential to implement powerful CSR programs. Such initiatives are capable of providing free internet to rural areas across the globe. Facebook’s internet.org is a program that can be emulated by companies that want to provide free internet access in rural regions. The internet.org platform is helpful to users who want to add their websites to the Free Basics project (Kelly par. 18). The program then “makes it easier for the users to access the pages in areas with less affordable internet services” (Kelly par. 19).
Technological firms planning to execute similar CSR programs can partner with every stakeholder in the targeted rural region. This means that international and local companies (including government agencies) should be included in the program implementation process. This move will make it easier for more governments to embrace the idea. Companies planning to provide free internet in rural regions should not affect the sovereignty of local internet connections (Roy 100). The programs should be implemented in accordance with the legislation outlined by the government. That being the case, net neutrality is something critical towards overcoming the obstacles associated with free internet access in rural areas. When there is constant collaboration, these stakeholders will ensure more companies promote the concept of net neutrality in the targeted countries. People in rural regions will have internet access and eventually improve their living conditions.
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Africa Renewal Online. The United Nations, 2016, Web.
Batinic, Ivica. “The Role and Importance of the Internet in Contemporary Tourism in Travel Agencies Business.” International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering, and Education, vol. 1, no. 2, 2013, pp. 1-4.
Jackson, Nicholas. “United Nations Declares Internet Access a Basic Human Right.” The Atlantic, 2011, Web.
Kang, Cecilia. “Tech Companies Expect Free High-Speed Internet for Poorer Americans to Pay Off Later.” The New York Times, 2016, Web.
Kelly, Heather. “Facebook to Beam Free Internet to Africa with Satellites.” CNN Tech, 2015, Web.
Roy, Papri. “Wireless Internet Service and Customer Satisfaction: A Case Study on Young Generation in Bangladesh.” Asian Journal of Applied Science and Engineering, vol. 2, no. 2, 2013, pp. 96-102.
West, Darrell. “Digital Divide: Improving Internet Access in the Developing World Through Affordable Services and Diverse Content.” Center for Technology Innovation, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, pp. 1-30.