September 10, 2016

"The internet is often hailed as a liberating technology."

Science: No matter who you are or what kind of country you live in, your voice can be amplified online and heard around the world. By John Bohannon

'But that assumes that people can get on the internet in the first place. Research has shown that poverty and remoteness can prevent people from getting online, but a new study out today also shows that just belonging to a politically marginalized group can translate to poorer access. The study, published online today in Science, provides the first global map of the people being left behind by the internet revolution.

'Mapping the internet is hard. Although it is true that every computer with a connection has a real-world location, no one actually knows where they all are. Rather than being organized top-down, the world's computers are connected to each other by a bushy, redundant network of servers. Each country builds and maintains its own infrastructure for connecting citizens to the wider internet. The decision to expand and maintain the infrastructure in one region and not another is up to those in power. And therein lies the problem: Ethnic and religious minorities who are excluded from their country's political process may also be systematically excluded from the global internet.'

'The next step is to measure the impact of the internet gap using natural experiments. If people's access to online computers influences the outcomes of elections or the frequency of political riots, for example, then it would show that the old adage is truer than ever: Information really is power.'

No comments: