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There’s been a drive in the first part of this century to bring information communications technology (ICT) to parts of the world that have not previously enjoyed it. In 2007, and in the years since, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), funded at various times by companies such as AMD, Google, Intel, and News Corporation, has provided computers for children in various countries to enhance their educational experience (One Laptop per Child, n.d.; Martins, 2007).

In June, Google announced it would bring wireless connectivity to Africa by blimp. This left some Africans criticizing the move as addressing the wrong problem—it’s the cost of equipment that prevents access, not the ability to connect (Stibbe, 2013; Talbot, 2013).

In August, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook, published a white paper entitled Is Connectivity a Human Right and shortly afterwards established a nonprofit organization called Interent.org. This consortium is made up of major corporations that include Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson (handset makers), Opera (a browser manufacturer), and both Qualcomm and MediaTek which are both infrastructure manufacturers (Levy, 2013; Zuckerberg, 2013). Their collective goal is to connect the remaining 5 billion inhabitants of the planet to the Internet who are not now connected and to establish the foundation of a “global knowledge economy” which “encourages worldwide prosperity” (Zuckerberg, 2013, p. 2).  More precisely, Zuckerberg states that “by bringing everyone online, we’ll not only improve billions of lives, but we’ll also improve our own as we benefit from the ideas and productivity they contribute to the world” while also acknowledging that a profitable model will have to be established to facilitate the work (Zuckerberg, 2013, p. 3). He also points out that the Internet is growing by less than 9% a year and that rate is expected to slow even more in the near future (Internet.org, 2013). Here’s a promotional video from Internet.org calling upon a speech by John F. Kennedy which may elicit other psychological connotations:

Zuckerberg’s plan involves building out additional infrastructure and spreading affordable ICT. Currently cellular subscriptions alone have a global penetration rate of 96% (ITU, 2013). Zuckerberg maintains this is not solely about profit as the first billion he has reached through Facebook have more money than the next six billion combined (Fitzpatrick, 2013). This statement may be a bit disingenuous (just as some may say the title of his white paper is misleading as connectivity has not been declared a human right) as increasing revenue is all about the size of the audience that can be sold to advertisers (Potter, 2013; Dickey, 2013; Fitzpatrick, 2013; United Nations, n.d.). Therefore, an additional five billion set of eyes, perhaps hooked into  the world’s most popular social network, would be of great value as it would open markets of previously untapped audiences—a kind of economic colonization of a new world (Cosenza, 2013). Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, both of Google fame, predict this will initially create a “digital caste system” (Levy, 2013; Naughton, 2013).

There are obvious gaps in Internet connectivity in various locations such as Africa’s Eritrea of which .8% of its population connected, but there are also 19 million people in the United States that aren’t connected (Quirk, 2013). The potential impact of such a plan on populations already assimilated by Western culture would be negligible, but the effects on countries such as Ethiopia, which by population is the 13th largest country in the world and has a culture based in collectivism versus individualism, could be significant (CIA, 2013).

This article serves as the first article in a short series examining what types of psychological effects can be expected from the insertion of Western ICT into a collective environment devoid of such equipment; whether changes in cultures might be observed, and if so how might they manifest themselves and how long might that take; and how religious beliefs may impact the insertion of ICT.

References

CIA. (2013). Ethiopia. Retrieved from The World Factbook:   https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html

Cosenza, V. (2013). World map of social networks. Retrieved from Vincos Blog: http://vincos.it/world-map-of-social-networks/

Dickey, J. (2013, Aug 25). The internet cannot save you. Retrieved from Time: Ideas: http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/25/the-internet-cannot-save-you/

Fitzpatrick, A. (2013, Aug 27). Three reasons Zuckerberg’s “internet for all” crusade rings hollow. Retrieved from Time: Business & Money:   http://business.time.com/2013/08/27/three-reasons-zuckerbergs-internet-for-all-crusade-rings-hollow/

Internet.org. (2013, August). Internet.org. Retrieved from Internet.org: http://internet.org/

ITU. (2013). ICT facts and figures. Retrieved from ITU: Commited to connecting the world:   http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/facts/ICTFactsFigures2013.pdf

Levy, S. (2013, August 27). Zuckerberg explains internet.org, Facebook’s plan to get the world online. Retrieved from   Wired.co.uk:   http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-08/27/mark-zuckerberg-internet-org

Martins, C. (2007, July 13). Intel joins One Laptop Per Child initiative. Retrieved from Macworld:   http://www.macworld.com/article/1058937/olpc.html

Naughton, J. (2013, April 27). The new digital age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen – review. Retrieved from The Guardian:   http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/apr/29/digital-age-schmidt-cohen-review

One Laptop per Child. (n.d.). Vision. Retrieved 2013, from One Laptop per Child: http://laptop.org/en/vision/

Potter, W. J. (2013). Media Literacy. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Quirk, M. B. (2013, Aug 21). Mark Zuckerberg wants world’s 5 billion without internet to get connected (and on Facebook?). Retrieved from The Consumerist:   http://consumerist.com/2013/08/21/mark-zuckerberg-wants-worlds-5-billion-without-internet-to-get-connected-and-on-facebook/

Stibbe, M. (2013, June 5). Google’s next cloud product: Google blimps to bring wireless internet to Africa. Retrieved from Forbes:   http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewstibbe/2013/06/05/googles-next-cloud-product-google-blimps-to-bring-wireless-internet-to-africa/

Talbot, D. (2013, June 20). African entrepreneurs deflate Google’s internet balloon idea. Retrieved from MIT Technology Review:   http://www.technologyreview.com/news/516186/african-entrepreneurs-deflate-googles-internet-balloon-idea/

United Nations. (n.d.). The universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved from United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

Zuckerberg, M. (2013). Is connectivity a human right? Retrieved from Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/isconnectivityahumanright

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