Internet access is good for more than memes

Turns out, you can pick your family

Turns out, you can pick your family

By Arabella Breck

The idea of going without the internet or a smartphone for even a few hours might sound horrific to those who have had steady access since its creation. 

The internet’s impact even made technology an established human right. In 2011, the U.N. released a report that stated “disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law,” as reported June 3, 2011, by Wired. 

However, in many developing parts of the world, internet access is still scarce.

The internet has become the primary medium of communication in the world, and without it, citizens are left without a wealth of information. But, even as some areas of the world are starting to build businesses and lives dependent on internet access, governments are weaponizing the resource. 

People in the southwest and northwest areas of Cameroon have gone without access to the internet for more than three weeks. The government is suspected of shutting off access after a series of protests, as reported Feb. 8 by BBC.  

The protests in Cameroon come from historical divides between the French-dominated government and the English-dominated provinces in the country, as reported Feb. 3 by CNN. However, taking away this established human right is not acceptable under any circumstances.

One area in Cameroon now attempting to function without internet access has been dubbed “Silicon Mountain” and is home to start-ups and companies that rely on internet and technology to function, CNN reported.

For a country to support its citizens, entrepreneurship and development should be encouraged, and a way to do that is by providing opportunities built on the availability of the internet. 

Nji Collins Gbah, a 17-year-old from the area where internet has been cut off, was recently named as one of the 34 winners of Google’s annual Code-in, a competition for coders around the world. Collins Gbah traveled to another part of the country when he lost internet access and was unable to continue his work, according to a Feb. 10 BBC article. 

A geographic location does not determine intelligence, but unfortunately, it does determine the resources people have available. If Collins Gbah was not able to travel to another part of the country or did not have internet access to begin with, he would not have the opportunity to participate in and place in Google’s Code-in. 

The issues that arise from lack of internet access go beyond Collins Gbah’s story and detriment to the evolving tech industry in Cameroon. 

The internet has changed the way people live their lives in the 21st century, and not just because it allows people to instantaneously look at cute pictures of puppies and watch Buzzfeed videos of people trying weird food. 

Access to the internet and social media platforms has allowed people involved in modern movements, such as the Arab Spring, to communicate, coordinate and be successful in voicing their opinions. 

The internet is essential because it keeps us connected to people outside our immediate community. Without the internet, I would not have known about Cameroon’s cut-off, “Silicone Mountain,” the successes of Collins Gbah or have even written this column.