Category Archives: Digital Divide

World Wide Web Inventor: “It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right.”

Manish Sain

New Delhi, December 11, 2014

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee

With internet censorship and government surveillance on the rise, WWW inventor Tim Berners-Lee has said that it is time to recognize access to the web as a basic human right.

While releasing the Web Index annual report in London, Berners-Lee said, “It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right. That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”

The Web Index, which measures the state of World Wide Web in 86 countries, is prepared by the World Wide Web Foundation, an organization founded by Berners-Lee in 2009.

The data revealed in the report suggests more countries are trying to control the internet and putting in place measures to monitor web users. According to the report moderate or extensive web censorship has been seen in 38 percent of countries this year, which marks an increase considering in 2013 this figure was 32 percent.

Internet Cafe
Internet Cafe

The Index ranks countries on the basis of how they are using the Internet. The countries that top the list are gaining most social and economic benefit from the web while the countries with poorer ranks are either misusing or not gaining by the use of it.

The list is topped by Scandinavian countries. Denmark with 100 points is at the top. Ethiopia, on the other hand, with zero points is at the bottom of the list.

India, is somewhere in the middle, although it scores lower than the global average of 46.30.

According to the report, India scores 44.06 points for universal access to the web, 57.42 for freedom and openness of internet and 40.41 for social and economic empowerment. With a total of 44.60 points, India is ranked 48 in the Web Index.

The neighboring countries Pakistan and Bangladesh lag behind with a global ranking of 76 and 63, respectively.

The Foundation calls for more uniformity in how people across the world use the web. “The richer and better educated people are, the more benefit they are gaining from the digital revolution. This trend can and must be reversed,” said Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, and the lead author of the report. “Extreme disparities between rich and poor have been rightly identified as the defining challenge of our age, and we need to use technology to fight inequality, not increase it.”

The report also highlights the lack of legal protection that the majority of people across the world have against web surveillance. “Laws preventing bulk mass surveillance are weak or non-existent in over 84 per cent of countries, up from 63 per cent in 2013,” notes the report.

Berners-Lee says that he believes the web can be a force for good. “In an increasingly unequal world, the web can be a great leveler – but only if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access and net neutrality into the rules of the game,” he concluded.


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Ethiopia: World’s Poorest Have Least Access to Safe Water – UNICEF

Ethiopia: World’s Poorest Have Least Access to Safe Water – UNICEF

Almost four years after the world met the global target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for safe drinking water, and after the UN General Assembly declared that water was a human right, over three-quarters of a billion people, most of them poor, still do not have this basic necessity, UNICEF said to commemorate World Water Day.

Estimates from UNICEF and WHO published in 2013 are that a staggering 768 millionpeople do not have access to safe drinking water, causing hundreds of thousands of children to sicken and die each year. Most of the people without access are poor and live in remote rural areas or urban slums. UNICEF estimates that 1,400 children under five die every day from diarrheal diseases linked to lack of safe water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.

“Every child, rich or poor, has the right to survive, the right to health, the right to a future,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene program. “The world should not rest until every single man, woman and child has the water and sanitation that is theirs as a human right.”

The MDG target for drinking water was met and passed in 2010, when 89 per cent of the global population had access to improved sources of drinking water — such as piped supplies, boreholes fitted with pumps, and protected wells. Also in 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, meaning every person should have access to safe water and basic sanitation. However, this basic right continues to be denied to the poorest people across the world.

“What continues to be striking, and maybe even shocking, is that even in middle income countries there are millions of poor people who do not have safe water to drink,” Wijesekera added. “We must target the marginalized and often forgotten groups: those who are the most difficult to reach, the poorest and the most disadvantaged.”

According to UNICEF and WHO estimates, 10countries are home to almost two-thirds of the global population without access to improved drinking water sources. They are: China (108 million); India (99 million); Nigeria (63 million); Ethiopia (43 million); Indonesia (39 million); Democratic Republic of the Congo (37 million); Bangladesh (26 million); United Republic of Tanzania (22 million); Kenya (16 million) and Pakistan (16 million).

Ethiopia is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target related to water-62 per cent of the population should access improved sources of drinking water by 2015 against the MDG target of 57 per cent. More than half of the households (54 per cent) have access to an improved source of drinking water, compared to 35 per cent in 2005 and 25 per cent only in 2000 (EDHS 2011).

However, the country is lagging behind on sanitation targets. While the MDG target for access to improved sanitation facilities is 51 per cent, only 8.3 per cent (EDHS 2011) of the population has access to improved sanitation. Children in school are especially vulnerable as the National Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Inventory data shows that only 33 per cent of school have improved sanitation facilities for students and teachers, and only 31 per cent have access to water.

“While the theme this year is the inter-linkage between water and energy, we should focus on women and children as the primary beneficiaries of water in Ethiopia,” said Samuel Godfrey, Chief of WASH in UNICEF Ethiopia.

Huge disparities in the quality of water and sanitation infrastructure lie between the urban and rural area. In most rural areas across Ethiopia, water scarcity, inferior water quality, lack of sanitation facilities and inappropriate hygiene behaviors threaten the well-being of communities. There is also an urgent need to address the issue of separate sanitary facilities. Girls are often reluctant to use facilities, even if they are clean, because toilet blocks and hand washing facilities (important for menstrual hygiene) rarely provide the level of privacy and security they require.

“It is vital that girls should not feel marginalized and lose their self-respect due to lack of WASH facilities in schools. We need to foster an environment where girls maintain their dignity and focus on their school attendance and achievements,” stresses Mr. Godfrey.

In order to harmonize the WASH efforts in the country, the ONEWASH program has been launched in 2013, bringing together four ministries: Water Resources; Health; Education; and Finance & Economic Development. ONEWASH attempts to modernize the way water and sanitation services are delivered; improving the health situation, decreasing the drop-out rates of children in schools, and making financing for Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) more effective. Above all, the program contributes significantly in meeting both the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets.

This week, UNICEF launched a global social media campaign to demand action for the 768 million people without access to safe water. Followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be asked to discuss what water means to them through the use of photography and the hashtag #WaterIs to help raise awareness of what it means to live without access to safe drinking water.

Tech Innovations That Will Change the Developing World

As the Internet began to develop and expand in the early 1990s, we were confronted with the issue of the “Digital Divide” with Internet access limited to those with costly equipment and connections.

We looked at libraries and community centers as the short-term answer to at least create a public place for those wanting access to the new technologies and information sources we were developing. It was a battle to get the funds and create the spaces, but what we did then is now being repeated on a much broader scale, thanks to the reduction in equipment prices, but also the financial interests of those bringing mobile finance to the developing world.

Virtual Banks and ATMs are a major driving force behind the explosive use of Internet tech by the poorest of the world citizens. These new resources and connections will have an amazing impact on health care and other services as the applications and necessary funds are brought to those in need over the next few years. At the same time, new freedoms and awareness we be enjoyed by those using the devices below, and more to come…as I’d change the title of the article below to “…Will Change the Developing World.” …Frank Kliewer

5 Tech Innovations That Could Change the Developing World

October 12, 2011 by Zoe Fox12 

Across the developing world, new technologies are helping to distribute resources for education, connectivity and health far and wide. Innovators are finding ways to make technology cheaper and therefore accessible to millions previously excluded by high costs.

Affordability is often the greatest hurdle to overcome in products from sanitation devices to tablet computers, mobile phones to solar panels.

Take a look at these five tech breakthroughs and how they are helping to level the playing field in developing countries.

1. Inexpensive Tablets

One week after Amazon released the Kindle Fire, the first tablet computer to present a serious threat toApple‘s iPad, another historic tablet was released. On the other side of the world on October 5, India launched the world’s cheapest tablet, Aakash, priced at just $35 for students with government subsidies or $60 in stores, which the government hopes will reduce the digital divide between rich and poor.

If that price — roughly one-tenth the cost of the cheapest iPad — doesn’t sound accessible enough, the Indian government is distributing the first 100,000 units of the Android-powered tablet to college students for free, Reuters reports. “The rich have access to the digital world, the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide,” said Kapil Sibal, India’s minister of communications and information technology.

The tablet was developed by DataWind, a small British company, with researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology. In addition to fitting the price to the budget of middle class Indians, the device was tested playing two hours of video at 118 degrees Fahrenheit to replicate the oppressive heat of northern India’s summers.

2. Inexpensive Laptops

One Laptop Per Child‘s XO and Intel’s Classmate PC share a common mission: Bringing children access to education through computer ownership. Both programs distribute rugged, affordable laptops to schoolchildren across the developing world.

Inexpensive LaptopsIntel developed a suite of educational software to accompany the little blue laptop, which costs between $400 and $500 each to distribute. These programs enable teachers to communicate with their students through web-based applications. The computer features a swivel screen, essentially converting the laptop into a touch-tablet. Its durability was tested by baking it in an oven and placing it in a freezer.

Similarly, One Laptop Per Child donates rugged, low-cost laptops that don’t even require an electric outlet. The $200 computers are distributed to students between ages 6-12, so that they are integrated into their early education. Take a look at the video above to learn more about the non-profit’s work.

3. Inexpensive Mobile Phones

As mobile phone ownership rapidly spreads across the developing world, many have tried to create the world’s cheapest cellphone — even Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez.

Today, Vodafone 150 can claim that title, selling a mobile phone for just under $15. While the phone is not feature-rich, it offers voice calling, text messaging and mobile payments, and it will have an enormous impact on those who have never before connected by mobile. A slightly more expensive Vodafone 250 model is available with an FM radio and color screen.

The phone was launched in 2010 in India, Turkey and eight African nations. Of course, entering into these new markets meant a lot of work to extend the mobile coverage area by the provider.

4. Alternative Energy

SunSaluter: $10,000 Winner of the EcoLiving 2011 Student Leadership Award from Scotiabank’s EcoLiving on Vimeo.

SunSaluter, winner of the Startups for Good challenge, aims to bring solar panels to villages in the developing world that have never had access to electricity. While solar energy is a hot topic across the world, its expense has prevented deeper penetration. Eden Full, a mechanical engineering undergraduate at Princeton University, developed solar panels that optimize energy collection as they rotate to face the sun for as much time as possible each day. The system costs just $10 and uses 40% fewer panels than typical solar energy thanks to its rotations.

5. Improved Sanitation

Bill Gates emphasized the importance of sanitation improvements when he pledged to reinvent the toilet for the developing world.

The computer innovator has a point. According to, one billion people don’t have access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people don’t have improved sanitation. So it should come as no surprise that improving sanitation is key to the progress of developing countries.

Safe WaterWhile cheap laptops and tablets are certainly exciting, some of the life improving technologies in the developing world don’t even require electricity. Last year, India’s Tata Chemicals released the Tata Swach(the Hindi word for clean), an affordable water filter (priced at around $21) that uses nanotechnology, requires no electricity and meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s sanitation standards.

The filter is made of rice husk ash (the natural byproduct of making polished rice) and fine nano-silver particles to prohibit bacteria growth. Using the filter prevents against waterborne bacteria and viruses. When Swach was released, Tata said only 6% of urban households and 1% of rural households in India were using water purification devices.

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