Bright And Dark Facets Of The Internet
Narayan Prasad Ghimire
When the deadline to deposit monthly saving approaches, one of my brothers reminds through Messanger, “Hello everyone, please deposit the amount on time. Only five days are left.” Similarly, the youngest member of the family living abroad calls parents on Viber every now and then. The banks and finances send alerts on saving and credit to their customers.
Business companies and scientist are spreading publicity of their products and innovation on social networking sites. Moreover, those witnessing any event and accidents are casting live the science providing information ahead of reporters and photo journalists. Various groups and experts are whetting debates on pressing problems on Twitter and even waging struggle for rights and justice.
Government and security agencies are making people updated on the activities done, and seeking and hearing complaints. These are some examples representing some personal, social and institutional activities which are facilitated and enabled by internet- the brain of the global communication.
On the other hand, the number of people and communities being stigmatised and victimised with growing rumour, hoax, hatred, contempt, blasphemy and others is taking their toll on them. The news stories of separation and breakdown of family, sheer disrespect to social values, torching of newspapers, public threat to some groups are common in the national and international media. What is it amplified by? Yes, internet is not the cause, but enabler of such appalling issues, too.
The unprecedented opportunity created for communications, innovation, knowledge and business, on the one hand, and disappointing effects on individual and human society as a whole on the other have forced everyone to mull: Is internet enabler or destroyer of social values and system? Is it fomenting conflict or ensuring peace? More fierce debate is continued across world now: whether the internet is enabler or damager of democracy?
Going broader, freedom of press and expression, inclusiveness, transparency, separation of power with check and balance among state organs, right to information, rule of law and proportional representations are the fundamentals of democracy. There may be few to oppose this. Now, any individual, community, institution, or system can test how it is treating internet and being treated by the internet. For what purpose the internet is used? Just an instance, for many, Facebook is regarded as internet in Nepal. Why? As per media research organisations, there are some nine to ten million Facebook users in Nepal while there are around one million Twitter users. Needless to say, the facilities in these social networking sites determine the number of their users. Internet is broad and vast. Social networking sites are just some programmes enabled by technology and internet.
To mull again: why and how are Nepalis using these networking sites? Why are they using email communications? How profitable are they? And importantly, has the use of internet enabled Nepalis’ communications, innovation, knowledge and business? More importantly, has internet enabled or damaged our system or the pillars of democracy? Argument for and against it are rife. In my view, without conducting thorough study on the use of internet and its advantages and disadvantages in Nepali society, reaching a conclusion for or against it is illogical.
The most important point is internet, despite being a wonderful achievement, is produced, promoted by the human and for the welfare of the human. Whether making it beneficial or harmful entirely depends on us. If we become slave to internet and misuse it by suppressing views, news and discourse, spreading hoax and manipulation, it is obviously counterproductive for society, system and democracy. Otherwise, harnessing benefits from it is always in favour of human development and strengthening of democracy.
However, the debate must be continued whether internet is enabler or damager of democracy? It is relevant debate for all countries. In order to continue this debate, we can link internet to our individual, social, cultural, economic, education and scientific aspects. The cultural perception of internet may contradict with scientific perception of internet because disruption is not always entertained by tradition and culture. Young technologists link disruption to innovation and innovation to development. Similar issues can be raised by economic and educational angles.
Conclusively, I would like to quote some lines from a famous book, ‘Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World’ by an acclaimed writer, Timothy Garton Ash, as, “The world is not a global village but a global city, a virtual cosmopolis. Most of us can also be publishers now. We can post our thoughts and photos online, where in theory any one of billions of other people might encounter them. Never in human history was there such a chance for freedom of expression as this. And never have the evils of unlimited free expression- death threats, paedophile images, sewage-tides of abuse- flowed so easily across frontiers.”