Connecting the next billion people to the Internet

Guest post by Rebecca, a Year 10 pupil at Oundle School

On February 26th, Oundle School’s Computer Society was privileged to hear a fascinating and motivational talk by Ben Francis from Mozilla Corporation. Mr Francis has had many interesting jobs and projects (including an internship at Google) culminating in his current work at Mozilla as a Front End Engineer. What he told us has had a profound effect on me, putting into words some of the diverse ideas I have about the Internet.

Mozilla is a non-profit organisation committed to connecting the next billion people to the Internet. And how? Using $25 smartphones, running Firefox OS. It’s a beautiful idea. At present, the Internet is dominated by the wealthiest, most developed regions of the world, and the largest corporate businesses. The tragedy of capitalism is that it cultivates market monopolies. One of Mozilla’s core aims is to prevent Internet monopolies, as this stifles innovation and promotes inequality. The commercial imperative currently shuts out the poorest two billion people on Earth. Until every person can equally access the Internet, it does not accurately reflect the world’s population. Mozilla supports Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original, brilliant vision of universal connectivity. Even though this still requires financial layout for the (very) cut-price smartphones, it is clearly a great leap in the right direction for deeper penetration of the Internet in LEDCs.

Mozilla’s fifth principle is: Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on the Internet. And the sixth: The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide. Neither of these can happen without truly global Internet access. (source: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/about/manifesto/)

Mr Francis also mentioned net neutrality, and the importance of the American Government renewing their pledge. Do you realise how close we just came to losing net neutrality? Only a determined effort by liberal-minded legislators in the US, cyber-activists, and organisations like Mozilla saw off an attempt by corporate business to introduce a two-speed Internet. This would have meant that Internet traffic would no longer be treated equally: a hierarchy would have developed whereby big business could buy privileged access. Everyone else (that’s you and me!) would be slowed down, blocked, or otherwise downgraded whenever we used the Internet, because we would have neither the money nor the muscle to buy a superior Internet experience. For more information, see http://www.theguardian.com/technology/net-neutrality.

Luckily, this future dystopia has been seen off – thanks to individuals like Mr Francis, and organisations like Mozilla. It’s another victory for equality online, and an important one. It’s certainly enlightened me, and made me more determined to make a difference in the world, in cyberspace or otherwise.

Rebecca Siddall


 

See the award winning website Rebecca built and wrote about engineering geological repositories for carbon capture and storage, and to safely dispose of long term, high-level nuclear waste. http://www.engineeringgeology.co.uk/

Connecting the next billion people to the Internet

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