Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Internet Comes to Rural India

Today on, I read about 62,000 miles of broadband fiber optic cable being installed in the Indian country of Telangana, and was struck by the impact this is expected to have on the lives of rural Indians.  The government is laying the cable alongside water pipes – part of an initiative to bring clean, fresh water to rural residents.  I found it  significant that these two infrastructure projects are being combined.  Access to the Internet has become just important for developing regions as access to clean water.

The impact of digital marketing and promotional communication will soon be felt in this rural area.  Access to education and health information will help bring a variety of benefits to these new users.  I can’t help but ask, will they be ready to decipher the myriad of messages online? 

Are they prepared to recognize advertisements and promoted posts from news stories?  How will the impact of curated content drive the perceptions and attitudes of this massive new group of Internet users?  After seeing the way fake news stories distorted the views on both sides of our recent presidential election, in our highly educated, literate society, I wonder if we are doing enough to help all Internet users better understand the way algorithms and content strategy influences what they see.  Can there be information accuracy education provided just as one would provide water conservation education?

23 million rural Indian residents will gain access to the Internet when the project is complete.  This will provide undeniable benefit for the people in these rural regions, as well as the country overall.  A study referenced in the article stated “for every 1% increase in the number of Internet users in a region the GDP increases $8 to $15 per employed person.”  The decision to provide access – to both water and the world – is the right one.  The only question is: what support can we do to encourage responsible and sustainable use of the Internet as a resource?  Unlike water, it is a limitless commodity.  Like water, however, it can be easily contaminated by prejudice and dishonesty.

No comments: