United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the UN would like to work towards making quality internet access available to people in developing countries. This initiative is a part of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
The United Nations Agenda 2030 for sustainable development is described as an Action plan for people, planet, and prosperity, to bring more peace and freedom to the world at large. The UN also states as part of their action plan, that they have identified eliminating poverty as a necessary and challenging requirement for achieving these goals. It is of their opinion that better quality internet access should be a major part of the process to eliminate poverty.
Some people may wonder, how does internet access come into reducing poverty? I mean surely, things such as clean water and food are more important for reducing poverty and should be a priority. This point is a valid one, but the internet and the resources available via the web do have the ability to unlock unlimited potential and opportunities. These tools can enable people to help themselves, and open up pathways not yet imagined.
Why Quality Internet Access Matters to the UN
For a struggling farmer without much access to any other source of information the internet may unlock ways he can better use his land. For the family walking an hour to get clean water each day, access to the web may mean that they can research the best place to attempt to dig a well closer to home. The guy who grows a unique type of coffee bean in his homeland and sells them locally may be able to find a buyer overseas with his internet access. Internet Access could provide more economic opportunity for himself. Surely this access would even lead to jobs for people in his village.
Information and communication technologies have reached into every walk of life. They have sparked innovation and entrepreneurship.United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
In addition to these economic and practical advantages, the internet provides countless educational opportunities. Quality education is often not available locally in developing countries. The infrastructure needed to implement it, is often not there. If the developing country has quality internet connections available, students would only need a cheap computer to study. It is also a lot quicker and cheaper to improve internet quality and access than building schools and roads.
Research shows that online learning is useful for providing meaningful education in remote areas. Many people may not be aware that some of the first uses of learning via the internet were for the upbringing of children in the remote Australian outback. This initiative was hugely successful in providing education to children, who although, living in a developed country faced major disadvantages due to their location. This example, along with others clearly demonstrates the potential of education via the internet.
High-quality Internet access has a significant role in providing, developing and improving education where the traditional sources are lacking. Without the availability of a quality high-speed internet connection, the efficiency of learning online is drastically reduced.
Though an excellent chance exists to improve people’s lives with better internet access in developing countries, there are still some significant challenges to overcome. Firstly, there needs to be better internet infrastructure built in developing countries. Though this infrastructure is a lot less expensive than buildings and roads for schools, it is still a substantial investment. Secondly, when a high-quality Internet service is available, it is very hard for the average person in a developing country to afford, because wages are low. There are challenges to overcome!
Initiatives from the UN aim to address the challenges. The United Nations does this with the aspiration of unlocking the latent potential of developing countries. The UN also wants to provide hope to poverty-stricken communities.
Can the United Nations Deliver Quality Internet Access?
The next Question is will the United Nations be successful or even helpful in pursuing to implement better quality internet access in developing countries. The UN has had some remarkable achievements coupled with spectacular failures. Some of the UN achievements include reducing famine, reducing deaths from many conflicts, advancing education, and significantly lessening the spread of aids. Their failures include the Rwanda massacre where UN peacekeeping troops did little to stop the violence, the massacre in Serbia inside a UN safe zone and the Iraq oil for food fund which spawned corruption and fraud.
Many would argue that the spread of the Internet in developing countries is inevitable. Some say it will be similar to the proliferation of the telephone over the entire globe. The reason for this is believed to be, that as something becomes a modern necessity, natural forces will push it to become a reality regardless. The telephone in one form or another is practically everywhere including developing countries. In developing countries two-thirds of people have a mobile phone. This situation was unimaginable at the time of the invention of the phone. Motivations that were aroused by its advantages took over, and the spread of the telephone became like a living thing. The telephone advanced across the globe.
Quality Internet Access. With Censorship?
There is also another concern with the UN in regards to internet access. The United Nations is making some statements that appear to elude towards censorship. There have been comments made about that internet must be “for the greater good of people”. Many developing countries are pushing their agendas and attempting to limit access to some areas of the internet. Any censorship allowed will undoubtedly grow over time, and these restrictions will limit the internet’s potential as a tool for economic growth in poverty-stricken regions.
When there is such an immense opportunity for improvement from invention and innovation, inventions tend to take on a life of their own and grow. Many have the belief that this is the case with the internet. If quality internet access eventually spreads on its own, the question may be a different one. Instead of, will the UN be able to provide the developing world with access to high-quality Internet service. It may be a question of whether or not the United Nations programs can increase the speed at which internet technology becomes available in the third world and can they prevent the regional governments from censoring large portions of the internet.
Well, that remains to be seen but with a little bit of luck, they will succeed.
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