INTERNET ACCESS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

Elisabeth Sokol

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3 thoughts on “INTERNET ACCESS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

  1. Camila says:

    The topic of Internet access in the developing world is very interesting. As you point out at the beginning of the video: “broadband Internet has the potential to serve as a major accelerator of development”, and therefore, the study of the availability of Internet is a relevant question because the importance of ICT connectivity is that it “recognizes sustainable development goals”, as proposed by United Nations sustainable development agenda 2030. Because of this, I understand that you want to address how the inequality of access to the Internet is a problem for the development of a country because people who do not have access to Internet are “unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits that the Internet has to offer”.
    While the research problem is formulated correctly and demonstrates its relevance, I do not see how this relates to the YouTube Go example. I can see that thanks to this app there will be a connection between videos and “offline people”, but I do not see how there is a direct impact of YouTube in the development of a country.

    First, that relationship would imply that mere exposure to videos on YouTube is an indicator of development, or that some of the development indicators are impacted by the consumption of YouTube videos. However, no international definition of development, such as the ones from OECD and UNESCO, suggests that the use of social or entertainment networks are indicators of development. Internet access itself is something valued by development theories, but “Internet” is not the same as “YouTube”. These are not comparable concepts, and the latter is only part of the first one. YouTube does not have the tools that make Internet use favourable for development, so analyze YouTube Go as a case study distances the research question from its object of study.

    On the other hand, this does not seem to be the intention of YouTube Go, as described on their blog (“YouTube Go: YouTube reimagined for the next generation of YouTube viewers”, 2016). Google’s official site shows YouTube Go as an app for watching and sharing videos, as stipulated in its goals. The idea behind it is that you can access your favourite videos without having to spend more data, and also share them without using your money. That is to say, it is associated with a social activity, and a personal saving, but it is not intended to solve problems of development. This second point reinforces that to establish a link between YouTube use and development is to make many assumptions that have no theoretical basis, and that this link is not related to the very foundations of the app.

    Thirdly, the fact that the videos are available offline does not indicate in any case that there is a democratic access to enjoy this option. As you say at the beginning of the video, devices like smartphones or tablets mean high costs. Furthermore, as mentioned in the reviews of this app, in order to use YouTube Go you need a phone that has a high level of storage and a good connection (Álvarez, 2017), so from the beginning the app shows that this benefit is aimed at users who not only have a device, but to those who have the money to have a state-of-the-art device that can meet these requirements.

    In summary, it seems to me that the YouTube Go case study is not the best example for your argument, since the app was not created to meet the objectives that are theoretically discussed in your research, and it is not related to development indicators.
    Likewise, the problem that you highlight when you mention that “income levels are a key barrier to Internet access” is not solved by the example of YouTube Go, which in its very own conception implies a high economic level that not only finances access to the Internet, but to have a smartphone of good quality. In other words, with YouTube Go people do not “gain the benefits of Internet revolution”, which is central to your argument.

    However, this does not mean that YouTube Go does not have positive results, nor does it exclude that this app benefits many people. After all, the app’s goal is social and entertaining in nature, as stated in the app’s tagline that appears on its Google Play Store site, which says: “YouTube Go – Maximize your fun without consuming your data!” (Google Inc., 2017), objective that is not intended to contribute to development, but rather to encourage the reproduction of videos and the social activity associated with this.
    Finally, this also does not mean that the research question has a problem. The problem is the lack of connection between this research question and the empirical case you chose for the analysis. I think this research project is very interesting, and is also of great relevance because it could help to formulate strategies for developing countries. However, the empirical example does not improve your proposal but weakens it, so I think it is necessary to explore another example that can strengthen your argument.

    I hope this comment helps you to achieve a better final work!
    Best of luck,
    Camila.

    REFERENCES

    Álvarez, E. (2017). Descarga ya YouTube GO, la app para reproducir vídeos offline. ComputerHoy. Retrieved 20 March 2017, from http://computerhoy.com/noticias/apps/descarga-ya-youtube-go-app-reproducir-videos-offline-58302

    Google Inc. (2017). YouTube Go – Android Apps on Google Play. Retrieved 20 March 2017, from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.youtube.mango

    YouTube Go: YouTube reimagined for the next generation of YouTube viewers. (2016). YouTube Official Blog. Retrieved 20 March 2017, from https://youtube.googleblog.com/2016/09/youtube-go-youtube-reimagined-for-next.html

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  2. dennisblokzeijl says:

    Dear Elisabeth,

    First of all, I would like to compliment you on the storytelling aspects in this video. I think it looks very nice, and for me the animations really helped to engage with the video. I also think it is a good case study, since I never heard about these different adaptations of YouTube before watching this video.

    One of the things that I found interesting, is that you sum up some of the obstacles for internet usage. When you are talking about non-internet users and their fears of technology, I was missing a cultural explanation. I think that the examples you provide while talking about anxieties of non-internet users, are more applicable to people who already use the internet. Hacking, identity theft and surveillance are all topics that are brought up in the public debate while talking about the risks of recent technological advancements. I believe that many people that use the internet stress these concerns, but still decide to use the internet anyway.

    To come back to my point about the cultural explanation: I can imagine how this is less of an issue while talking about internet adaptation in India. However, I think while talking about the digital divide in general, it is an important aspect to consider. It is hard to deny that widespread internet accessibility provides many advantages, primarily in an economical sense. However, the idea that internet usage is always necessary the way forward is in my opinion a bit of an ethnocentric notion. It strongly depends on the cultural context and the goals within this context, and I can imagine that there are certain communities that have no aspiration to connect to the internet. This forms another obstacle for bridging the digital divide.This can be the case when a community for examples relies on more religious explanations, such as the Songye in Congo, or the Amish in the United States. But then again, I understand that the obstacles for internet usage in India are of a more practical nature.

    I would also shortly like to reply to Camila, I get your point about the fact that bridging the digital divide is not one main goals for launching YouTube go. However (correct me if I am wrong), but I think the main reason why Elisabeth picked this case, is to use it as an example that applications such as YouTube go might (indirectly) help bridging the digital divide. If more companies introduced such a concept, it would partly solve the barrier of financial costs. Nonetheless, I agree with you that many of the devices are still highly priced, making the efforts less fruitful. It is of course nice to watch videos while using less data, but it is not very useful if you do not have a device to watch these video’s on. Moreover, this might help bridge the digital divide in India, but it is not a solution for other developing countries that lack a decent internet infrastructure.

    Overall, really good job. I enjoyed watching the video!

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

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  3. Payal Arora says:

    Dear Elisabeth,
    I commend you on the skillful video making using the graphics and pace in a way that made us follow the argument well as Dennis also underlines here. Adding to these thoughtful comments by Camila and Dennis, I must say that I have learnt alot on digital access in the developing world. This video could easily serve as an educational video on access issues and anyone wanting to understand the state of the digital divide today. However, I must also state that while this is a good educational video, it is more descriptive than analytical as the arguments are well established over decades, leading to the entire digital divide field. when subjects such as access have been written about and there is wide consensus on this topic, it is useful to make this narrower by providing a case study that either contradicts or that pushes us to reopen long held assumptions. In other words, I would like to have seen points of tension in this pursuit which would complicate this narrative.

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