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Is Internet Access a Basic Necessity?
February 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm #152266
As I discussed last week, Microsoft is exploring the issues of access to education and training, and how technology can provide solutions to these barriers in a 4 week blog series. The data findings are truly astounding.
A November 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) found that in 2010, 32% percent of Americans - 100 million people - didn't have broadband Internet access at home. According to a 2010 IDC study, 50% of today's jobs require technology skills, with that number growing to more than 77 percent in next 10 years. Yet more than 9.5 million students don't have digital access, be it a PC or broadband access, at home.
Given the data above, we must ask these questions:
- As technology increasingly becomes a core skill, like reading and math, is it time for us to consider Internet access a basic necessity?
- Should access to the Internet be as available as access to a public library?
- Assuming we decide that digital access should be available to every citizen, whose responsibility is it to provide this access?
According to Microsoft, the impact of bridging the digital divide could dramatically improve areas like healthcare and education. Digitally literate people are generally healthier and less likely to have preventable chronic conditions, thus reducing the long term healthcare costs. Improved technology access also increases the likelihood of higher education, which ultimately leads to higher employment rates, greater tax revenue and a more productive society.
What role should government play to engage citizens fully in digital access and education? Check back next week to learn more about bridging the digital divide! In the meantime, share your thoughts below!
February 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm #152276
Yes, with reasonable limitations; Would offer that just as we believe everyone should have access to food; we don't provide them with meal tickets to 4 star resturants, although if one can afford that option we surely don't tell them no. I don't have all the answers as far as the limitations: (Don't believe that everyone should have immediate access to Optical technology for all the internet etc.). Libraries can and should play a significant role in providing all with internet access as can the educational system.
February 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm #152274
I agree that broadband access has reached the tipping point as a necessary utility; however, I don't think that the government necessarily should be the provider of this utility, just as the gas, elecric, or water company does not necessarily have to be provided by a government agency. Users should be charged based on usage and the competititive marketplace should control access. It's not the government's job to bridge the digital divide. Not only is that model untenable, but the government is not as innovative as the marketplace.
Most public libraries, and schools, already provide internet access for those who lack private access. This model should be continued.
March 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm #152272
While I'm all for the Health Care mandate that appears to be on its way out if today's court proceedings are any indication, I'm not sure I feel the same way about an internet mandate. I think we should work hard to give people access to the internet, but I put this in the same category as refrigerators - yes, everyone should have one, but those camping or living out in the wilderness may forgo them. But it should be affordable enough that most everyone could afford it if they wanted to, either via cell phone, TV internet access or whatnot.
March 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm #152270
It's not that the internet should be a basic necessity but the information available should be. Much like "news" is basic necessity through public service announcements, newspaper, townhall meetings, television, etc. - but we don't consider any one of these items in and of themselves as basic necessities as much as the information that is conveyed may be considered a basic necessity. Further, I had to ask the IRS if they consider internet connection a utility like water and electricity (it was a personal tax related question) - and they were absolutely stumped on how to respond to the question. It's still under review. Now having said all that, I absolutely think any institution responsible for fulfilling free and public education responsibilities should be required to provide internet access within the context of education. You just simply can't compete in the labor market these days without basic familiarity that such things exist and how they function.
March 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm #152268
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