[Bologna] Fwd: <unlike-us> Internet.org risks the Web’s future in Pakistan
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Mer 24 Giu 2015 17:42:23 CEST
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From: Arzak Khan <azrak_khan a hotmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 8:14 PM
Subject: <unlike-us> Internet.org risks the Web’s future in Pakistan
To: "unlike-us a listcultures.org" <unlike-us a listcultures.org>
Please find attached my opinion on internet.org in Pakistan.
Internet.org risks the Web’s future in Pakistan
Zuckerberg-Telenor effort to bring Internet to the developing world is
June 22, 2015 2:00AM ET
by Arzak Khan @internetpolicyp
Internet.org, the partnership between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and
Norweigian telecom operator Telenor, seeks to make internet access
available to the two-thirds of the world’s population who are not yet
connected, and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the
connected world has today. The project was first launched in July 2014
in Zambia followed by Tanzania, Kenya, Colombia, Ghana, India,
Philippines, Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malawi.
Now the project is coming to my native Pakistan. Through the
internet.org app, Telenor’s 37 million customers in Pakistan have free
Internet access to 17 websites that includes the popular social media
website Facebook along with BBC, Wikipedia and other news, health,
education, finance and information services. Internet.org’s aims are
based on a real problem faced by millions of people without Internet
access in Pakistan due to low incomes and affordability, user
capability and, most importantly, poor telecommunications
Despite the effort’s apparent noble intentions, this initiative has
more drawbacks than benefits. First, both internet.org and Telenor are
misleadingly marketing to the people this initiative as “the Internet”
whereas the free net access provided through this initiative is not
the real Internet but basically a bundle of limited websites approved
by Facebook with significant privacy and security flaws. Second, this
initiative does not help in resolving the connectivity issues of
developing countries such as Pakistan and doubles the gravity of the
issue by offering a platform for restricted Internet access where
people with scarcer economic resources have very limited opportunity
for joining the global Internet economy. Thus the effort does little
to narrow the digital divide.
Pakistanis deserve the right to savor the real Internet — not the one
delivered by Internet.org.
The Internet’s success is due to its openness, equality of opportunity
and innovation. Platforms such as Facebook itself would not have been
created if Zuckerberg accessed the Internet only via this initiative.
Furthermore, the Internet is already believed to be an important
medium to help countries such as mine develop successful economies.
But Pakistan is hampered by poor broadband infrastructure, low speeds
and unavailability of access. Pakistanis who may connect for the first
time using internet.org are at risk of missing out on the real
Internet that gives them an unlimited opportunities for socio-economic
development, thereby leading to a potential lack of interest in the
Despite limited access, the Internet has already become a very
powerful medium of change in Pakistan in a very short span of time.
Approximately 30 million of Pakistan’s 191 million population have
Internet, half of them through their mobile phone, according to a
report by mobile survey company Ansr.io. The Internet has empowered
them with genuine freedom of speech without censorship. Paradoxically,
Internet.org is set to put freedom of expression at risk. Its
consequences can be detrimental in repressive regimes such as Pakistan
where governments are pursuing an active agenda for censoring the
Internet in the name of national security and social and religious
values. Facebook through this initiative is strangely putting itself
in a position whereby governments could pressure to block certain
types of content or users who access it. This can be especially
harmful for politically active users in restrictive environments.
Moreover, the security and privacy of individual users will also be at
a constant risk of malicious attacks and spying by the government.
The goal of providing universal, affordable Internet access to every
person on Earth is too large and too important for any one company,
group or government to solve alone. It requires a cohesive
multi-stakeholders approach that demonstrates a commitment to the
public interest, fairness and transparency. As for this particular
effort, Facebook through internet.org appears to be focused instead on
expanding its user base and advertising empire in the developing
world, all in the name of providing free access to ‘the Internet.’
This nefarious development agenda is no different from the ones
pursued in the periods of colonialism, imperialism and then capitalism
where resourceful governments and corporations exploited the poor
countries with the fake promises of development.
Pakistanis, along with peoples from other developing countries,
deserve the right to savor the real Internet — not the one delivered
by Internet.org. The Zuckerberg-Telenor effort not only jeopardizes
the growth, freedom and expansion of the Web in Pakistan but also
risks creating a two-tiered Internet with millions in the developing
world quarantined the wrong side of digital divide.
Arzak Khan is Founder and Director of Internet Policy Observatory
Pakistan, where he promotes policies for development of open and
transparent Internet in Pakistan. He also researches the marketing of
human rights in the global south, the role played by new information
and communication technologies and growing censorship of the Internet.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.
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