Sunday, December 16, 2007

Adding another billion to the web

Michael Geist wrote an excellent piece about the consequences of adding an extra billion of users to the net, doubling its current size.

Some quotes:

With more than a billion internet users worldwide doubling that number, which should happen within the next decade, will obviously have a profound effect on the network, technology, the computer software industry, access to knowledge, and our environment.

Understanding the effect of another billion internet users starts with considering the origin of those users. Although some will reside in North America, Europe, and other developed countries that close their domestic digital divides, the majority of the growth will undoubtedly come from the developing world.

Countries such as India and Brazil should add another 200 million internet users, while the fastest rate of growth is likely to come from Africa, which is starting from a much smaller base.

The next billion will differ in more ways than just geography. Most new internet users will not speak English as their first language, which should lead to increased pressure to accommodate different languages within the domain name system.

Moreover, many new internet users will have different cultural and societal views on hot-button issues such as online free speech, privacy, and copyright. As they demand a voice in global policy making, those users will help shift the policy debate.

The message of the Internet Governance Forum was that the next billion is an enormously positive story. A tale of improving economic condition that will allow for much broader participation in the communication, culture, and commercial opportunities most Canadians now take for granted.

As we welcome the next billion, we must recognise that they will do more than just use the internet. They will help reshape it in their own image and with their own values, languages, and cultures.

I agree 100% with Geist in this piece. He seems to have expressed, exactly in writing, my thoughts on the subject. I think that a lot of the people to come online are not going to just sit and read. As I have said before, we are tired of other people speaking on our behalf (And quite probably I am committing the same mistake right now, as there's no 'we'), with misconceptions and prejudice of how what it is like living in a developing country. We are tired of the homogenizing trends that impose certain ways of life or the fake diversity endorsed by others. One that refuses us the right to mutate, blend and change our culture, as we are supposed to keep our native cultures alive and in good health.

Geist is right. This additional billion will bring a lot of needed variety of viewpoints to the web. That will shut some mouths of people babbling nonsense from their cozy homes. People that say that we must get food and then get education. People who ignore the fact that you can improve yourself even while you are half-starved. (As did Marie Curie) and that improving can lead to not been hungry anymore, even if your education stops. In ten years the Internet is going to be much more rich, diverse and interesting, and that change is not going to be only due to further developments in web apps and mash-ups. In fact, I foresee that some of the most interesting technological changes in the Internet in the decade to come are going to be actually driven by this cultural diversification and that this is going to be a huge market opportunity.

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