What happens when access is there but threats to safety hinders you from competing in the exchange of information and ideas via the Internet? As strange as it may sound to some, apparently that’s one challenge that some young people in South Africa face in what would have been their key to new opportunities and being part of the Information society.
Mobile technology penetration is high in South worldwide including especially among school-going youth to such to an extent that access to information is supposed to be on the tip of their hands. However this privilege is enjoyed by few. Challenges such as creating and distributing information that degrades some ICTs are increasingly reflecting physical spaces, with all the social ills faced by women and the girl child. Women continue to suffer harassment and stalking in on-line spaces.
The site, Outoilet which was blocked last year for promoting child pornography, has apparently made a comeback recently. According to a local newspaper the Citizen “Outoilet resurfaced last month as a mobi-site and while it is still new and has very little content, it has set up chatrooms of hundred of schools that were included on the old website. They include Jules High School, which was the focus of attention after a video of a young girl having sex was posted and was being sold on the site.”
The Jules High school alleged rape incident became a widespread across the country, distributed widely using the digital media. the young girl involved in the traumatic experience had to undergo court appearances and later a diversion programme. The incident has added to a number of reasons for young girlsto shy away from the Internet, in fear of being or subjects to be exposed to harmful content or being pestered to share their personal information with strangers.
So what does universal Internet access and Digital freedom mean to me? Could it mean not having the power to access useful information? Could it mean continuous violence faced more especially by women on on-line spaces? Could it mean limited access, if any, at all as one become very cautious of what might happen once they are on-line? How much of a freedom is it if you do not really feel free?
What does Internet access really mean? Does it mean the power to download any information, pornography or not whenever you can? What does digital freedom really mean? Does it mean the right to freely upload naked pictures and videos of people without their consent?
I am not saying that Internet access is bad, but one should be cautious about the down-side of it. There are great benefits to having access to the Internet that many do not have the privilege to. However, we should be considerate of some of the challenges that others face when they have access, challenges that hinders on an opportunity to be in touch and help in the socio-economical development with the rest of the world.
Cyber-bullying like physical bullying and other forms of abuse is escalating and we should put an act against it. It negatively affects the victims to such an extent that in this case, the rights given by Internet access are limited if not violated.
In a time when freedom of expression and equal access to knowledge and ideas has become synonymous with access to the Internet, World Pulse is asking women worldwide: What does "Universal Internet Access and Digital Freedom" mean to YOU? This month, we invite you to raise your voice by writing about the everyday obstacles you face and risks you take in accessing the Internet, or how you have used it to change lives and bring about positive change in your community. Click here to learn more about this campaign and how to participate.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Universal Internet Access.