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A more dangerous Internet is on its way to the world

By Obar Mark Asuelaa | December 6th 2018

The internet has no doubt become the tested new territory where world powers are contesting for exclusive space.

Just like during the Cold War era, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, the 21st century is also facing the same threats emanating from uncertainty.

The silent fear of another world war has brought internet researchers, activists and campaigners to a common belief that a ‘Broken Internet’ is bad for the world.

In January 2007, China successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon that managed to destroy an aging Chinese weather satellite. This project meant that China had become one of the world’s leaders in military space that critically defines growth and development of the internet via satellite capacities.

Unlike cabled internet transmission, modern consumer grade satellite internet service is typically provided to individual users through geostationary satellites capable of offering high data speeds of up to 506 Mbps.

The internet as we understand it today is neither an individual’s idea nor a particular country’s agenda. It has become a universal inkling whose development and implementation has incorporated everyone in the chain – including developers, policy makers and activists.

Governing principles

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), internet’s governing principles include freedom, openness, accessibility and accountability mechanisms.

It is on these principles that in July 2006, United Nations Secretary-General announced the formation of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) whose membership comprises of governments, the private sector, the civil society as well as technical and academic communities. The forum brings together participants in discussions on public policy issues relating to the internet.

In connection with the assessment of Internet Governance Principles, the importance of accountability mechanisms is an issue that many non-profit organizations such as Internet Society have taken interest in so as to provide leadership in internet-related standards, education, access, and policy.

It’s fair to say that development of networks of a major network that make up the modern internet is no rocket science. It is a simple mechanism that can be realised by a few individuals or a government. However, there is a glaring danger in breaking the internet, and creating personalised networks.

Former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt argues that another internet – spearheaded by China is on its way, and he is right. China has technically managed to strategically reposition the scope of the internet by creating a highly censored and undemocratic digital-capacity-building in a tightly controlled environment.

As a matter of fact, China has managed to create equivalents of major ‘Western Applications’ such as Google, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – which have all been banned in the country.

Chinese supper-applications such as search engine Baidu and WeChat offer multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment solutions. Currently, Wechat is one of the world’s largest standalone mobile app, with over 1 billion monthly active users.

In the wake of a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations, universality of the internet is facing a new threat. More countries are creating internet restrictions, which are being implemented by provincial branches of state-owned ISPs, companies, and organisations.

Narrowed interests

Concepts related to internet indicators, layers, and substantive objectives are currently being exploited by monocratic governments to re-align narrowed interests with a view of breaking the internet or joining the new internet.

A broken internet is a perfect recipe for chaos and human rights violations. On the other hand, universal internet sets a common standard on which world’s peace can be grounded. Access to universal internet is a yardstick for measuring the level of fundamental freedoms and rights of individuals in any society.

Presumably, another internet is on its way, and its influence may soon expand the scope of populism as well as nationalism. If China leads the way in breaking the universal internet, the effects and consequences of such actions are as obvious.

China, whose influence in Africa is growing, has hewed a combination of legislative actions and technologies that domestically regulate the present universal internet. Internet users have increased in Africa while freedoms for the same have been diminishing. A broken internet will make it easier for governments to evade openness by legislating restrictions.

There are enough reasons why the universal internet should not be broken by anyone!

Mr Asuelaa is Technologist and PhD student in Data Engineering!

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