The Importance of the Internet


CARMEL, Calif. — The international community is becoming ever more globalized. With this, people around the world are relying on cell phones and the Internet to keep connected with family, to read the news or to receive higher education. The Internet is now one of the most powerful technological forces in history.

Recent events have brought the importance of the Internet back to the foreground. Gowex, a Madrid-based international Internet provider, filed for bankruptcy early in July due in part to financial scandal. Because of inflated revenue, CEO Jenaro Garcia has resigned and could face up to ten years of jail time.

Gowex was a major provider of Internet broadband around the world. The company offers connection to people living in international cities from London to Shanghai to Buenos Aires. Gowex has provided Internet to American citizens since it was first established in the United States in New York City back in March of 2013. It now reaches San Francisco, Miami and Chicago, among others.

Gowex’s bankruptcy will send thousands of its users into an Internet abyss, cutting them off from social media, news and entertainment.

Fortunately, international Internet access is hardly about just one company. Rather, the increasingly interconnected world relies on the networking that is bigger than Gowex.

The Internet has surpassed cell phones as the most important source of communication and information. 37.3 percent of the world’s population relies on the Internet for work, education or societal information. Some 70 percent of these people log onto the Internet every day. Gabriel Accascina, Regional Coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme under the U.N., says the Internet is instrumental to our society as a key component of the “global information infrastructure.”

As the Internet’s user base increases, it will become crucial in reducing global poverty. Even intermitted access to a broadband connection can have numerous valuable affects that can break the cycle of poverty.

Education is one of the best ways of pulling populations out of poverty. These days, in a world that now relies on online databases, education is becoming increasingly reliant on access to the Internet. Books, language aid centers and math tutoring can all be accessed online and supplement classroom instruction. In addition, computer skills are essential for some higher paying jobs and career success. Overall, kids who have access to the Internet have a huge advantage for later accomplishments.

This is the basis of the Malaysia’s Mobile Internet Unit program that began in 1999. In this program, a bus equipped with 20 personal computers and sponsored by the Malaysian government travels to rural regions of the country and teaches school kids how to open a word document and surf the net. By 2001, 39.7 percent of children could use spell check, as compared to 8.9 percent before. Additionally, after courses on the bus, more than half could use email, while only 16.6 percent were able to do so before.

Malaysia is not the only nation that understands that the Internet can be key to improving education for the future. India has had some success with the StoryBook project, which works to bring up literacy levels in impoverished areas in India by using audiovisual exercises available online.

Global health is also hugely impacted by the spreading use of Internet across the world. One of the most important ways the Internet aids public health is through surveillance. Access to online surveys allows scientists and epidemiologists to better estimate the presence of diseases in local populations and understand the threat of an epidemic. The surveillance that can be conducted using the Internet allows epidemiologists and doctors to better prepare for the spread of a disease.

The Internet can help doctors and public health workers to pass on knowledge on diseases and healthcare. For example, condom campaigns to prevent AIDS or information on how to treat diphtheria can easily be spread online. Essentially, the Internet can be used to curb the spread of diseases through education on public health measures.

The Internet also has the power to grow industry, repair the economy, promote tourism and build up grassroots movements. It is a powerful tool that can pull developing nations into a globalized world.

While the task of expanding the Internet to cover rural and impoverish areas is daunting, several projects are already finding success. For example, the UN University International Institute for Software Technology is developing a research project in Laos, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. It has partnered with the Laos’ Minister of Agriculture and Forestry to bring Internet to rural parts of the country. The goal is to understand how technology, specifically information and communications technology, reduces poverty. The project will focus on things like raising literacy levels and financial stability in the local community, as well as gathering information that can shape the public policy towards technology in the nation.

Overall, the Internet is a powerful source of information and communication that is becoming increasingly important in poverty relief efforts. With the use of the Internet, doctors, policy makers and educators can make an impact in areas that have been left out of rapid development and bring them up to speed on the increasingly interconnected world.

Caitlin Thompson

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Reuters, BBC, FAO, UN University, The Next Web, Institute of Physics, ITID Journal, Global Economic Symposium, CDC, The New York Times, Map Kibera, UN Chronicle, The Cultureist
Photo: Huffington Post


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