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Power, Transport, Water and Broadband

बिजली, सड़क, पानी और Broadband
Power, Transport, Water and Broadband

Just about an year ago Finland declared broadband internet access as a legal right and now BBC has come up with a survey that 80% people in developed world believe that internet access should be a fundamental right.

Image Credit: BBC, March 2010. Link to detailed results [PDF]

People equate internet to a fundamental right stating its impact on other fundamental rights [Ref: UN Declaration, Articles 18, 19, 26, 27 and 29] such as freedom of thought, conscience, right to speech, opinion and expression, and right to education and full development of personality.

The whole concept may look outlandish in the developing world where the basic necessities of food and shelter are still not available to all citizens, but for a large part of the "access enabled" population, the internet is becoming as fundamental to the very existence of modern lifestyle like banking services or water or electricity. For example, check out his conversation which happened late night earlier this week on facebook.

So here's my friend trying to figure how to restore electricity to his place in Gurgaon, when I sitting a good 1300kms far in Mumbai was able to help him sort the problem out. And if this use-case sounds a little extreme to you, check these cases out (most from the US, except the last).
  • The Garden City, Kansas Police Department started using Twitter as a free public messaging tool to send out information on events, missing persons and other community advisories, as did the Franklin, Massachusetts Police Department some 1,000 miles away.
  • Over 200 police related Twitter® micro-blogs, the largest being the Boston Police Department with over 2,100 followers.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has its own Twitter® micro-blog http://twitter.com/LLIS for best practices information for state and local homeland security and emergency response personnel
  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Emergency Preparedness and Response site uses Twitter as a mass communications tool and has over 2,000 followers.
  • The FDA has employed its own Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/FDARecalls to alert over 3,000 people of its recall of salmonella-tainted pistachio products.
  • In India, Delhi Police has a facebook page with an aim to "make the Community Page the best collection of shared knowledge" and Delhi Traffic Police has a twitter feed as well.
Already, twitter is becoming a very useful tool during calamities and disasters. For example, during a recent fire outbreak in California L.A. Fire Department was issuing frequent updates using Twitter[2]. During the Haiti earthquake relief workers used twitter extensively to issue updates helping people keep informed as well as providing information on ways to make donations. The cascading re-tweets even helped raise the number of donations for several organizations.[3] [4]

Just imagine if the internet were to become the harbinger of the latest alerts on floods, earthquakes or storms, access to the internet anytime, anywhere (for example to a fisherman on his boat in the middle of the sea) would become a matter one's life and death. No wonder GigaOm feels that we need a duplicate for twitter.

Clearly, the internet in its new avatar is blossoming from being just an information storage and dissemination tool to a 'real time communication backbone' for the world. In this context, it is becoming even more fundamental to human existence, than just being "one [of the] outlets for expressing free speech ... or becoming better educated [1]". Its high time we gave a serious thought to including "access to the internet" in the list of basic necessities like power, water and transport.
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Power, Transport, Water and Broadband
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