We Should Derive Meaningful Benefits from Internet Access

2014-02-12 00:05

Having access to a computer that is connected to the internet is but a mere dream to many of our people. That is why the few which enjoy the privileges of connectivity have to act in conscience and ensure that every minute spent on the net serves the purposes of personal development and information acquisition.

Africa is badly affected by the digital divide, with access to the internet either being a distant dream or too much of an ‘unnecessary’ cost to feature in the budgets of the poor. According to Statistics SA, the 2011 Census results that were released on 30 October 2012 revealed that less than half of South African households had access to the internet at home. “Of those households that had access to the Internet, 16.3% accessed it via cellphone, 8.6% from home, 5.6% from elsewhere and 4.7% from work,” reported mybroadband.co.za.

A staggering 65% of the population did not have any access whatsoever to the internet.

For 2012, MyBroadband reported that “less than 10% of South African households had access to the Internet at home.” It is only after including internet access at work, internet cafés and universities that the number of citizens with internet access got better.

(I am allergic to statistical data, so I will rather leave numbers and make my point, which is not really an interpretation of the Census revelations but a summary of my observations as a young internet user.)

It is incontestable that in rural areas and townships we still struggle to gain access to the internet. Internet is a commodity that can only be enjoyed by a few who can afford smartphones, tablets and other tools that connect them to the digital world. In a case where there are internet cafés, not all residents can afford them.

This leaves us with no weaponry of contention to argue that we are not privileged to have access to the internet. Having almost helplessly admitted our position of privilege, we, young people, need to then ask ourselves the question: Are we using our internet access privilege to better our lives?

We should as a favoured group ask ourselves whether we have derived benefits from our internet access that have transformed our lives for the better.

Do we derive any meaningful benefits from our smartphones beyond the pleasures of social networking?

Are our tablets simplifying our job hunting sprees and proposal writing hassles or do we just enjoy the attention we get for walking around with such massive mobile inventions?

I noted in the Stats SA report that 5.4% of those who have internet access were university-based users. I may be correct to assume that majority of them, if not all, are students – young people. I have seen some students having ridiculously high internet bills that could be a result of watching music videos, erotic content, WWE matches as well as soccer highlights. Most of the time young people spend on the internet is mostly dedicated to entertainment/social networking sites. Although there are those who use the internet for their personal enhancement, it can be argued that most of them consume an unhealthy diet of information, given the websites they visit. As a matter of fact, I have noted among first-year students the prevalent tendency of spending hours on Youtube watching videos that are far from their academic needs.

This is a cause for serious concern because some of those students should be browsing different available bursaries to fund their studies. There are recruitment sites that have a platform for students to upload their CVs for potential job considerations.

I know for a fact that there are students who are not making use of such privileges, whereas they are paradoxically regular internet users.

So, perhaps before you as a ‘blessed’ young person with internet start typing the address to that naughty or music-downloading site, you should think of what other better information you need to make it in life. You should rather create your online CV and test it against the employability tests made available by different recruitment websites or equally significant, read industry news so that you appear smart at that job interview.

Information is the treasure of all treasures.

The most effective way to destroy a nation is not to infect them with diseases or to plant bombs, but to hide information from them.

Internet is the carrier of all sorts of information, progressive and destructive.

The choice lies with the hand that moves the mouse and the finger that double-clicks.

Let us be digitally smart!


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