My Opinion on Digital India
Net Neutrality (noun) : The principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.
So yesterday on my way back home from visiting a friend, I started seeing all these friends, family members change their profile photos to have a filter with the Indian flag colours over it. And as everyone, I was interested in what this ‘trend’ was. After scrolling down two posts, I see someone share Mark Zuckerberg’s “oh look at me I changed my profile pic for India” post and immediately came to the conclusion that it was what I had been fearing for quite a few months now.
Disclaimer: I am not against the idea of Digital India. I am against the idea of being relied upon companies such as Facebook to provide us with all these things.
So lets start with the basics about what this is about. Mark Zuckerberg is the owner/founder of Facebook and a great role model for quite a lot of us. Facebook have recently been introducing a new brand especially in less developed countries – called Internet.org. Internet.org is a partnership between Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm to provide internet to people in these countries by giving people access to certain websites for free (outside of having a data allowance).
This means that if you come from a small village in India, you will be getting access to a website specified by these companies for free. So if these companies deem Wikipedia as a good enough website to be given access to for people all over the world, then all these people would be able to access it for free (without paying for mobile data charges). But this is where the catch comes in. Who deems which websites are good and which websites are bad to give out for free to all these users?
Let me give you a scenario; Internet.org is provided by Facebook, so Facebook thinks that it is essential for people to be able to access its website for free. What does this mean for them? More users. More users means more data. Right now in all the industries, data is what everyone wants. Data is the most valuable piece of information that any company in the world would beg to have. It is what makes them money. But is Facebook really an essential service that every farmer/businessman in India needs to have? I don’t think so. So the problem with this is, who decides which websites are beneficial and which aren’t?
In India, access to this is only available via one of the network providers; Reliance. So what if I am on Vodafone or Airtel. Do I not get access to the so called ‘Free Internet’? Would I be at a disadvantage if I am on a network provider who provides me cheaper deals overall?
This also brings up the problem that if tomorrow, a student (just like Mark in his early years) decides to start a social networking platform and wants to get it out there in the market for people to use. There would be no point of doing so. This would kill competition. Since a billion people have access to use this certain website, who would want to use this students new website. Even if it is a thousand times better and much more user friendly. Why would anyone use this student’s new fancy website whereas they are getting something else for free? What if a company pays Facebook (profit for them) to have their website available for free through their programme. This would also kill off the competition in those specific sectors (Net Neutrality).
For example, if an e-commerce company buys the right (pays these companies) to have people be able to access their website for free. The minimum benefits would be that this e-commerce website will be able to sell products to all these people who have just got access to internet shopping. This would also mean that all the other e-commerce websites out there will not be able to conquer this market since they don’t have money to pay these companies.
This also means that networks who charge different for different services (like 10 rupees for 100mb of WhatsApp data) or something along those lines are also against these practices. This reduces the urge for competition since people wouldn’t be willing to try different services which may be much much better but are not included in these ‘packages’.
I like the idea of digitalising India. I think it should be done. By doing so, we will be advancing in technology much faster and much more of the population will feel comfortable with it. BUT the steps that are being taken by the companies that are leading these mottos is something I can not agree with. Narendra Modi didn’t do him any good at least in my eyes with partnering with Facebook. BUT I will stay hopeful until the day that the people in the parliaments around the world understand what the problems are.
Also, half the people who changed these photos, didn’t even know what was going on. They did it because “it’s the trend nah”…
/I could go on and on about this topic but I’ll leave it here… rant over