You may have seen the recent ten-page internet.org whitepaper, bearing the imprimatur of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. It heralds an initiative for the greater good that may very well change the world as we know it.
The proposal – “Is connectivity a human right?” – outlines the plans of a commercial consortium, including tech companies such as Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ericsson, to provide low-cost internet access to the planet’s poorest nations.
The project’s website states:
Internet.org is a global partnership between technology leaders, nonprofits, local communities and experts who are working together to bring the internet to the two thirds of the world’s population that don’t have it.
(The fact that much of this proportion of non-users may also not have access to the basic necessities, such as clean running water, is not lost – but that’s for a completely different article.)
It may be that internet access helps people achieve basic rights.
Saying it is itself a basic right is not true, and it’s not clear that the people pushing this are motivated primarily by concern for poor people (at the very least, the conflict of interest should be noted, since these people fully intend to profit from the people they claim to be advocating for).
They may genuinely feel that what they want to accomplish might be good for the people they’re helping. They may even be correct in that assumption. But there’s a boundary here that should be kept clearly defined.