- Let the internet save help the earth's poor.
This was the message in the speech of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, at the opening of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis.
“It is a fantastic longing, not for technology per se, but for what technology can do. This conference must be a gathering to find solutions, so that we build bridges to create a better life, ”Annan pointed out.
We all need to take seriously in these words. They are harder to live and live up to than we like to believe.
23.000 delegates from 170 countries attend the UN-sponsored conference. But the distribution of technology is skewed. Or as UN Communications Secretary Shashi Tharoor pointed out:
"It is worrying that the 400.000 inhabitants of Luxembourg have better internet access than the 800 million inhabitants of Africa,"
The goal is still to reach the UN's Millennium Development Goals on Poverty, namely to connect all the world's villages to the Internet by 2015. According to the United Nations International Telecommunication Association (ITU), at least 800.000 villages in the world – several of them in Burkina Faso, holding elections this week – to come online over the next decade. This will cost just over one billion dollars, about one percent of the annual investment in mobile technology.
Here, too, Norway's leading telecommunications company Telenor, with its many sub-companies, has a responsibility. It is not further optimization of bandwidth in Scandinavia that is now the most precarious need, but the global expansion of the internet for everyone. The spread of the Web is the largest popular information revolution since Chinese print art came to Europe in the 1400th century. With the UN Millennium Goals, it is now clear that access to the internet is like a human right to count, not unlike the right to food and drink. The essence of man lies in the thirst for knowledge, its search for more information.
Wikipedia (wikipedia.org) is an example of how the hunger for knowledge can be quenched through access to a democratic information channel. 822.000 English articles are now available on this multilingual encyclopedia, which can also offer over 11.000 New Norwegian keywords. Common to the articles is how expertise and / or lay people help to develop a global insight that provides international views. While the various national encyclopedias – such as Store Norske – most often provide a skewed and tendentious presentation of what is of reprehensible knowledge, Wikipedia develops a far more neutral and exciting point of view.
And this is where the inhabitants of Burkina Faso's villages play a role. Their perspective and their contribution to global knowledge banks like Wikipedia will benefit us all.
Kofi Annan's words that the internet can save the poor also need an addition. The poor's internet access can also be a salvation for the rich's world understanding.
The motto for our new age should be: Up all the earth's bound slaves – let the net set you free.