Connectivity: first world problem or basic human right?

Thursday, October 9 2014

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We were recently served a dose of perspective. As a carrier, our main internet challenge is to meet the demands of Anywhereization: connecting end users so they can do whatever they want, wherever they want. This mobile mindshift is a user-driven phenomenon that is changing the way we live, work and socialize. But, for most of the world, the biggest challenge of the Internet is a larger one: being able to connect at all.

At our recent customer event in Stockholm, the Internet Society presented a broader perspective on global connectivity with the findings from their State of the Internet Report. They had some very interesting things to say, as well as far-reaching implications for our industry.

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Rickard Bäckling (TSIC), Staffan Göjeryd (TSIC), Michael Kende (ISOC) and Graham Minton (ISOC)

The Internet Society (ISOC) was formed in 1992 to protect the idea that “the Internet is for everyone”. Today their focus is not just on who has the Internet, but who hasn’t. They see the social, political, and economic benefits opportunities that the Internet can offer as a basic human right, not just a privilege for those who can afford it.

They refer to the factors that prevent free and open access to the Internet as being part of the “digital divide”. To study this, they grouped the world’s population into:


a. Those who are connected to the Internet
b. Those who could be, but choose not to
c. Those who cannot connect to the Internet

They then looked at the main challenges for each of these, and what can be done to solve them:

a. Level up the Internet so current users enjoy better services
b. Promote locally relevant content to generate interest
c. Remove roadblocks to increase affordability of access

As a carrier, our job is not to create content and big ideas – our job is to carry them. But where we can make a difference is to keep improving the end user experience and helping to meet the growing demand for Anywhereization. To do this, we need to keep expanding our backbone and connecting to more people and networks. And this means we must continue to invest in infrastructure and technology.

But this is an investment that will pay off for everybody. As Metcalfe’s law states, “Every connected user strengthens the network”. And in light of the thoughts shared by ISOC, I would also say that the reverse applies “the network strengthens every connected user”.

But what do you think – will connecting the whole world really make it a better place? Or are we sharing our first world problems?