October 2018
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Internet is still expensive for disadvantaged people

It is important and fantastic and we see mobile penetration in some parts of the world increasing but mobile won't solve our problems

“It is important and fantastic and we see mobile penetration in some parts of the world increasing but mobile won’t solve our problems,” says Komaitis

By Konstantinos Komaitis,  Policy Advisor at the Internet Society

Accessibility is a key issue.  Accessibility should be at this stage and as we start discussing today those issues just bear in mind accessibility is — means notice crime nation in terms of access at a very high level and also issues of inclusiveness.  It’s quite surprising and disappointing that we are in 2013 and still dealing with issues of disadvantaged people on the Internet.  If there is one platform, there is one tool where those bar years should be broken down and eliminated it’s the Internet because there is — technology behind the Internet really allows everybody to be able and engage. There are issued of affordability, Internet is still extremely expensive and it’s expensive especially for some disadvantaged people and minorities.

Also cultural issues, we don’t really understand what sort of when we are talking about disadvantaged people, everybody has a very different understanding and to a certain extent we all agree but we don’t know what their problems are really.  Don’t know their culture, where they’re coming from in their cultural issues they have to face.

 The other one is availability. Yes, it is important and fantastic and we see mobile penetration in some parts of the world increasing but mobile won’t solve our problems.  It will assist certainly but we definitely need to start providing and creating the infrastructure. By infrastructure I mean both physical which will allow access but also beyond that, in many many years ago we were all very excited with 100 dollar laptop that MIT was doing, this was a fantastic initiative that — lot of hopes if you want were built around this initiative.
It moved to the extent it could move but then due to lack of many reasons including corporation, it didn’t continue.  I happen to — couple years ago that I was watching CNN and they had a report on how India is dealing with Internet access.  So in India, new Zellly, The case study there, they had put up computers in major streets and you could see 10-year-olds going there and playing with Internet. And they were following those 10-year-olds over the course of two or three months and their ability to connect over those months, their ability to grasp things was incredible.  Before that, they were literally on the streets begging for money.  We really see the Internet can be a remarkable tool for everybody and especially for these people to actually become part of this global village that we are all referring to.Also, there is a lack of awareness. We take for granted in many parts of the world including part of the world. I am, in Europe, that everybody gets access to the Internet, even in Europe there are people that do not have access to the Internet because of what they consider or they’re being categorized, siloed as disadvantaged and we need to start looking beyond that.

Internet is for everybody.  It should be for everyone. I would think we can expect wonderful things because they are really keen to engage.  I don’t want to be all doom and gloom.  I really think on a positive note we see increasingly have various organisations taking a step up and doing things.  We see it in the regulatory front, less slower but that’s to be expected bus regulation is always slower.

(Excerpts of speech given at Bali Annual Meeting of Internet Governance Forum)