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Contemplating Internet Inequality in Brazil

linasdias profile image Ana Carolina S. Dias ・4 min read

Hi everyone! Hope you're doing well during these quarantine days~

While I'm using my mother's computer, waiting for my new PC to arrive, I was approved in a Brazilian program about Internet Governance. I never had the curiosity to learn about it such as in-depth as I am having now. It's a very important topic for us, Internet users, and I hope that you read at least some topics about it after reading this blog post.

As our first task, it was created a mailing list between teams of approved people all over the country and we've been discussing some essential themes and something has been quoted a lot in my team: Internet Inequality.

As young people and mostly not working for the government, we are limited to saying they should invest more in education, accessibility, but as we all know, this is not a big priority for them, since even the President and Education Minister are more worried about defeating the leftists than about doing their work.

Nowadays, with the pandemic, this problem has been highlighted with campaigns such as #AdiaENEM (demanding to cancel/postpone the university entrance exams this year) and local campaigns on public schools and universities for not digitalizing their classes (as a private school would do, for example) before all of the students have access to an Internet connection at their homes.

Remote work has also been seen as a solution to some areas such as journalism, programming, et cetera. But, as this LinkedIn blog post by Camila Achutti (in Portuguese) could tell, not everyone has the perfect conditions to work on-line and this should be considered.

The Internet contains information and resources for better education. While its access is not an actual Human Right, it is the main form of information exchange worldwide and the lack of internet access is a lack of reliable and on-time information. For the UN, as stated in this last hyperlink, it's a way to interrupt access to education and freedom of thought/expression, which are actual Human Rights.

So, how do we democratize this access in the middle of a pandemic that is almost obligating us to find new ways to work, to live our lives differently?

Mostly, when we ask ourselves or even official organs this question, we are spammed by the "with public policies" answer. But which public policies? What are the people we voted doing, for making it a thing? As I write this article, the national research "TIC Domicílios" concluded that 3/4 of Brazilians have access to the Internet at their homes. Brazil is populated by more than 212 million people. That means at least 53 million do not have this access to information. That's a lot.

What are the "public policies" doing to help these 53m people get access to the Internet? I googled it up and almost everything I found is almost outdated - most articles are from the first semester of 2016, when Dilma Rousseff was still our President, four years and two governments ago. More recent governments have been doing few - or even nothing - to promote on-line equality.

That was when the "Marco Civil da Internet" (our net neutrality laws) was approved and started working. Since then, I couldn't search for any relevant public policies on democratizing Internet access. That could mean it's not a priority for the federal government.

Both broadband and mobile connections have a broad reach in the country, excluding only a few areas. But not everyone in the reached areas has access to a smartphone or a computer, for example. I'm not saying the government should simply give all of them an iPhone, but at least they should be aware of this condition when digitalizing documents, creating an app for receiving the emergency help from a bank and other exclusive actions for people who have smartphones.

Let's not forget that this last app has suffered a lot since its beginning, remembering the CPF (our social security number) value in the sign-up page was programmed to be an "integer", not a "char" value, excluding numbers that started with zero and that a LOT of people are robbing identities to receive the money.

So, I guess the population itself has to stand up and fight for its rights to information and connection. But how?

As the #AdiaENEM was made mostly by privileged (but heureusement woke) students who had access to Twitter at the time, we will need people who also have access to help with that fight. But only trending a hashtag may not work as well as it did with the ENEM test. We should create actions and campaigns that actually help to bring the Internet to the less privileged, instead of only contemplating numbers and wondering when will someone do something.

Beyond the access of poor people, we should also consider the access of people with disabilities, people of color, and other minorities, such as women and the LGBTQIA+. That makes it even harder and bureaucratic to plan, even in the long term.

How would you help to solve this problem? Please, leave a comment!

Discussion

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panditapan profile image
Pandita

I feel you with the governments not doing absolutely anything part 😓

I'm guessing the only solution I could offer is the creation of civil associations/non-profits that either 1) pursue legal changes that push companies to create infrastructures in remote areas, 2) accepts old computers/satellite internet/money/etc to offer kids remote education, 3) affiliate with internet coffee shops to offer discounts, 4) courses on how to use the internet, computer, software, etc. at a lower price for your target audience and higher price to those who aren't but are still interested (you need cash if you want to operate!), 5) affiliate with companies or offer them courses, workshops and talks (again you need cash to operate!), especially industrialized ones, your demographic is right there waiting to be helped!

It's a small not very well thought out idea sure (I feel more like I'm brainstorming more than offering a real solution sorry), but as a citizen, you can still push and work for the change you want :3

I think it's great that you want to help out your people out! I hope you continue motivated to persevere through this problem <3

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linasdias profile image
Ana Carolina S. Dias Author

Thank you for the comment and the support! I agree with your ideas and I admire your efforts to think about it. I think as citizens we could help by spreading those ideas and making them get out of the paper, and you gave real-life solutions that we could actually apply.