miércoles, 5 de octubre de 2016

Connectivity in exchange for rights

United Nations has set an ambitious set of objectives to be reached by 2030, the so-called 2030 Agenda or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). "The Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom". Although the main objective is to end poverty in all its forms, the agenda also seek to secure the environment, guarantee an efficient and respectful usage of natural resources and achieve gender equality among others high-level goals. The stakes are really high and there is a feeling that the objectives will not be reached with a simple "business-as-usual" strategy.

Digitalisation could be the game changer that would make possible achieving the SDGs. Although it is considered to be hidden within the ninth goal, "Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation", the deployment of broadband infrastructure and services for all is the cornerstone of the global digital transformation efforts. However, the costs are high. Currently, only 40% of the population are connected to the internet and the ITU has estimated that the cost of achieving the connectivity of the 60% costs 450$ billion, around 300$ per each of the 1,5 billion people that will be connected.

The case for global connectivity has been put forward and its cost has been estimated. However, in spite of the productivity dividends and positive effects on personal life of broadband adoption, neither governments nor the disconnected people will be able to foot the bill. Therefore, private companies need to look for new cost effective manners to connect the digitally excluded in both the developed and developing world. It is not a sudden philantropic attack of the private sector, it the conviction that after providing the connection they will be able to sell aditional value added services, one way or the other.

In the developed world, telecommunications companies are exploring personal data as the payment currency for an Internet connection. The price of someone's personal data is highly discussed. Consumers tend to estimated a high cost while companies thinks it is not so much as we think. Nevertheless, it seems it is enough for some US telcos to propose a "pay-for-privacy" model of broadband services. Allow to be tracked while you surf and you will have a discount in your broadband monthly bill.

The offer of companies is not so generous in the developing world. The price of connectivity in Africa and other underdeveloped areas is the complete attention of the user. The value of someone's personal data is directly related with your purchase capability, if your personal data is valueless the price is your whole digital life. That is the proposal put forward by internet.org, lead by mark Zuckenberg. The price of a free internet connection is having the Facebook's vision of the world, the news and images that Facebook would like to present you. 

Many times it is said that connectivity is the new utility. Internet is put in the same level as water or electricity. However, it looks that the only way to extend internet connection to the poor is in exchange of their privacy or their freedom of information. Internet could be the tool for their economic development but their rights are the price

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