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April 7, 2009
As global Internet use swells, piracy concerns also mount

Google’s Lok Sabha Election Center

The Australian government announced plans to build a 43 billion dollar Internet network to bring broadband access to 90 percent of the country. The development will be administered by a publicly-owned company providing 37,000 jobs.

Blogger Sam Varghese of “iTWire” responded to the news with skepticism, writing:

I’d be really happy if some company or group could build something that just doubles the 6 to 8 Mbps that I get at the moment. Provided it happens in my lifetime.

I don’t mind if North Korea can provide it. Or even Iran. I’d just like to use something that works at a decent speed before I die.

Talk of decent broadband in this country is beginning to resemble talk about the unicorn.

Another country making headlines for its Internet use is India, where Google India predicts rapid growth this year, citing 50 percent growth in 2008 in a country traditionally known for its low Internet use.

Google is not only studying but also feeding India’s online interaction as the country’s general election approaches, with its Lok Sbha Election Center information portal. Gaurav Mishra writes for his “Guaravonomics Blog“about Internet technologies in India’s elections:

The Indian National Congress seems to be stuck in the web 1.0 era. Both the official Congress website and the Congress Media websites are online brochures. The Vote for Congress portal, which was supposed to revolutionize its online campaign by providing the Congress candidates a platform to blog (Hindu/ TOI), is still not up. None of the senior Congress leaders — Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Manmohan Singh — have a website and, what’s worse, their URLs are owned by cyber-squatters (Indian Express). The party does want to set up 600 internet kiosks across the country (Hindu) but without engaging interactive content, their effectiveness might be limited.

Shashi Tharoor — author and former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations — is perhaps the only Congress candidate to seriously leverage the web in his campaign, with presence on Facebook and Orkut (CIOL/ Sify). Former Karnataka chief minister SM Krishna has a Twitter profile. Some of the younger Congress candidates like Priya Dutt, Milind Deora (Facebook) and Sachin Pilot also have well-designed websites, but aren’t really active on social media (Hindu). Some regional Congress leaders, like Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, also have a respectable presence on the web (Hindu/ Exchange4Media/ Indian Express).

China already has Internet traffic to match its population, and a January Economist article showed it passing the U.S. in Internet use. Andy of the “Saving to Invest” blog writes about the importance of considering international traffic and catering to a global audience: 

In time as the world adopts e-commerce at a consumer level the “value” of a transaction is likely to increase overseas much faster than it will locally. Which means that you need to ensure your online business model factors in this new audience and potential revenue source. In time, I have a feeling that the most successful online businesses (and blogs) will be the ones that appeal to a global audience and not just a local one.

Theresa of “Lives of Wander” writes about her difficulties finding an Internet connection in South Africa and other African countries, nowhere near as connected as the countries she and commenters visited in South and Central America:

Unfortunately, however, Internet here is not the God-given right that many of us have come to expect. We’ve had Internet access in about half the places we’ve stayed. Or at least we have access to a computer that is supposedly connected to the Internet. Most of the time the computer is so old and so slow, that it’s a miracle if it connects. If it does connect, getting any page to load can take ages. And the kicker here is that you’re paying for it. Internet is not only not ubiquitous, it’s also not free. So while I’m waiting 20 minutes for my Gmail to load, I’m paying for each of those 20 minutes. And it’s not even cheap either, costing $4 or more per hour. So if you haven’t heard from us lately, if you haven’t gotten emails or comments on your blog or a Skype call, you know why. Sorry.

Commenter Audrey writes about similar troubles in Central Asia and how technologies like Twitter can circumvent both censorship and obscenely slow lines:

We started using Twitter in this part of the world to let our family and friends know we were OK and to give them a little taste of what’s going on (in 140 characters or less). The interface is rather simple, so it comes up much quicker than having to go through a blog editor. Also, we found that government censors in highly controlled countries (eg, Burma, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) hadn’t been turned onto Twitter yet, so it was usually open when other communication channels had been blocked. If internet continues to be difficult, Twitter might be an alternative to get a quick message out.

Internet connectivity proves an ongoing problem across the African continent outside of big cities, but Africa is included in Google’s long list of development sites, and the Google Africa blog traces the company’s efforts across the continent.

In Sweden, connectivity is not the problem, but rather what people choose to do with their Internet connections. Sweden launced aggressive anti-piracy campaigns with the adoption of a new law allowing copyright holders to take names of users from ISPs. The day the law went into effect, Swedish Internet traffic reportedly dropped 40 percent. Techdirt‘s “keep-whac’ing-that-mole department” speculates on the boost this gives to encryptors while really commenting on the misguided infeasibility of these aggressive practices.

With Sweden’s new antipiracy law in effect, it seems that one industry is getting a nice boost: apparently there’s a lot of new interest in encrypting your internet traffic, and services that provide encrypted VPN services are getting lots of new business. This, once again, points out that near total pointlessness in playing Whac-A-Mole over file sharing. It just become an endless game where each side continues to elevate itself, and it makes it that much more difficult in the end for the entertainment industry to do what it will inevitably be forced to do anyway: start building business models that embrace file sharing. But the further they push users of such services underground, the more and more difficult they’ll find it to embrace these services down the road. Each attempt to knock out these services or their users only comes around to backfire on the industry itself.

Meanwhile, South Korea continues to inspire envy in Web users around the globe.

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Great post ! Thanks you very much !


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