My region has many Internet governance issues. I would like to handle the topic of “The Internet as an engine for growth and advancement. “
Access to the Internet can change lives of many people in the developing world producing plenty of opportunities for the youth, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders. Access to the internet in Africa is primarily through mobile phones.
Many young people are unemployed, yet we can harness technology to assist them improve their livelihoods. Opportunities for the youth can be made possible through introduction of affordable phones, training the youth on mobile application development, incubation of youth businesses that are developing new innovative applications that run on mobile phones and finally, providing employment opportunities for these young innovators. Economic empowerment of the youth will lead to self sustainability of these nations. In the past few years, cost of mobile phones has decreased, enabling access to majority of citizens in developing countries. According to a research by iHub Research and Research Solutions Africa conducted in mid 2012, (Crandall, 2012) noted that “16% of Kenyans at the BoP1 Internet on their mobile phone” This has also been made possible because cellular companies have reduced cost of operating mobile phones by providing cheap calling rates and internet.
As the barriers to access of the phones have been broken, the youth have showed great innovation through development of applications. One such application in Kenya is the iCow that enable farmers to keep health records for their livestock. Other applications being considered will enable farmers get competitive markets for their produce through introduction of a commodities exchange market, and access of competitive market price information. Ushahidi on the other hand is an application that can solve crisis problems of crime, delinquency, and disasters by use of Crowdsourcing.
Opportunities for entrepreneurs can be made possible where governments are stable and they enact favorable policies and regulations for investors. This will attract major companies to establish bases in developing countries and provide funding to local startups. The firms will provide business solutions like mobile banking, provision of micro loans through mobiles,
and mobile money transfer services. A good innovation in the Kenyan market because of favorable business environment is the world famous M-PESA, a mobile money transfer platform.
For many of these positives to become a reality, policies and regulations that affect the access to phones and the internet should be formulated. In Kenya, counterfeit phones were switched off September 30th 2012. The communication commission ordered telecommunication operators to block phones that don’t have International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI ) number from accessing network services. The main reason was that the phones pose security risks to the country because the users cannot be tracked, and also counterfeits deny revenue to the genuine manufacturers. About 1.5million phones were switched off, affecting many users at BoP. (Chebusiri, 2012) Should Kenya have taken a different road? Such policies of locking out the poor from accessing the network only serve to enlarge the digital divide. The digital divide is not only about people of lower economic class not affording mobile phones and internet, but a research conducted by (Scott & McKemey, 2002) revealed that less women have access to phones and internet than men, and less educated people are likely to use these technology than those with high school diploma. Tracking mobile users’ activities poses serious questions of privacy, and incline towards abuse of basic human rights.
Internet Service providers do bandwidth trottling to Peer to Peer (P2P) traffic especially when enforcing copyrights, or metering videos that clog their networks affecting the Quality of service (QOS) for the majority of average users. Accessing the internet through handheld phones as it is the case of developing countries tackles issues of net neutrality since mobile phones use less bandwidth, and they don’t have heavy applications that affect the QoS of other users.
All in all, developing nations should concentrate on having concrete policies, laws and regulation, having stable governments, educating the youth, and encouraging strategic investors to fund local businesses in the technology field. This will enable the nations to create more wealth and improve the livelihoods of their citizens, as well as benefit from foreign exchange and better balance of trade caused by exporting technology.
Chebusiri, W.w., 2012. BBC News – Kenya’s battle to switch off fake phones. [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19819965 [Accessed 24 October 2012].Crandall, A., 2012.
How the Kenyan base of the pyramid uses their mobile phone | *iHub. [Online] Available at: http://www.ihub.co.ke/blog/2012/10/how-the-kenyan-base-of-the-pyramid-uses-their-mobile-phone
[Accessed 24 October 24].Scott, N. & McKemey, K., 2002. The use of Telephone in Rural and Low Income Communities in Africa. In 42nd Meeting of the CTO Council. London, 2002.