You are not connected to the internet. Connect Maldives: Our aim…

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You are not connected to the internet.

Connect Maldives: Our aim is to secure free internet access for all.

Connecting the Maldives through the internet 

In 2008, MDP’s government came to power pledging to improve the quality of Maldivian life, centered on connecting the scattered geography of Maldives, with a transportation network. Claiming they inherited a government with no money to last even a month and with an inadequate state reserves hindering the ability to borrow, MDP now works towards growing the local economy, with pledges to aid small businesses and introducing avenues and methods to increase people’s wealth. 

One of the things they neglected to focus on is strengthening the existing telecommunication infrastructure. Which currently is in dire need of regulation with telecom companies to be held accountable for the services they provide. Perhaps the group steering the government spent too many years in waiting and they are too old to understand technologies of the modern world. Perhaps they don’t fully comprehend the inherent potential of the internet and mobile connectivity. Perhaps they are just too busy focusing on building other means of physical connectivity which they may feel can attract more votes.

Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said in 2010:

“The right to communicate cannot be ignored,” 

“The internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created.”

“Governments must regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water”.

“We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate.”

Citizens deserve the internet

The internet is rapidly becoming a vital part of many people’s lives (*some usage stats). Among the quarter of a million eligible voters for the 2013 election about two-thirds would have been born after 1970s (between the ages 18 to 43). A generation that not only uses mobile phones extensively but also the advantage of internet using smart phones and computers in their homes/offices/schools/libraries. While the other one-third older citizen’s children also require access. There exist also a few hi-tech ipad owners in the current regime whose understanding of Internet may be limited to sending emails and occasional surfing of websites for pleasure. 

There has been much reference to the digital divide, which is a reality. the knowledge divide between the most favoured and the developing countries, particularly the least developed countries (LDCs), is liable to widen without effective government policy. 

The idea of the information society is based on technological breakthroughs. Since the “information age” knowledge societies differ from older knowledge societies because of the focus on human rights and the inclusive participatory character they inherited from the Enlightenment, the importance of basic rights as enshrined in Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Internet played a crucial role in overthrowing the previous regime, but thanks to no one in the current government (except for the ones that got caught up in the recent sex scandal). Perhaps they are too scared that by giving the citizens the gift of Internet, it may ultimately lead to their own downfall. However it must be highlighted that Internet is a vital in order to consolidate and strengthen the fledgling democracy. Grassroots movements are discovering that it’s not necessarily law or force, but culture and ideas that bind communities, identities, and nations.

But what about the younger population? the children studying at schools? surely they deserve more. Worldwide, the Internet is transforming the way people access knowledge and thus education. 

What about small businesses who rely on Internet to keep overhead costs low? The Internet is also revolutionizing the way government and businesses are run and commerce conducted. Notable local e-commerce initiatives include: ibay, Wataniya e-learning, badhige.com, MvLeads, Maldives e-government -gov.mv and maldves e-banking – Keesa. Yet the country still remains deprived of an affordable internet payment gateway for small and medium enterprises. It is as simple as BML negotiating with PayPal to enable payment processing for its accounts.

What about the dying Dhivehi culture? Which is experiencing an underground renaissance, and is flourishing once again as witnessed by the resurgence enabled by digital technology specially on the Internet, reinforcing a cultural community that cuts across national borders. Internet is vital for cultural transmission and Thaana script remains the very essence of it, being the most integral yet unnoticed element. Thaana typography having missed the phase of movable-able type, experienced a short stint on typewriter and has managed transition into the digital realm – though in an unkempt state. The Government needs to fulfill its duties as sovereign safe guarder of national identity by negotiating with relevant international bodies. Thus ensuring successful migration of our heritage to cyberspace before we fall victim to climate change and become stateless refugees in the real world. The fate of Dhivehi culture depends on the ability of Maldivians to preserve and carry on their script into the future.

While the government is busy carbon neutralizing, installing solar panels, dreaming up wind-farm projects, holding cabinets meetings underwater to highlight the plight of the nation and setting up ferry systems; they are not yet aware of the full potential of the Internet and ignoring  the real connectivity issue at large which will make the people connected, rich, knowledgeable and the nation carbon neutral.

Dear Mr. President:

Its high time your government stopped trying to admire and emulate the failed model of Singapore and start implementing simpler and more efficient policies towards sustainable development, most of which already exist and are just waiting to be activated.

When more and more countries around the world (with France, Finland, Estonia, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea among them) coming to the conclusion that the Internet is a fundamental basic human right in this era, why has our visionary president still not come around to it? Surely, being an ex-journalist, we believe you won’t have any trouble coming to the same conclusion and championing the cause.

We ask that you Pledge to make broadband Internet free for all Maldivians the cornerstone of your 2013 election campaign. MDP being a party that listens to the people. We are confidant that you would not hesitate to give a little power and freedom to stay in power.  

Internet Service Providers need to be consistently reminded that the services they provide are essential and not a luxury. Openness and accessibility are critical components of the Internet and as such we need to establish proper independent regulatory bodies to: 

– ensure reasonable internet connectivity through out Maldives

– hold service providers accountable 

– hold the ISPs accountable for the disruptions of services 

– ensure that ISP’s honor their agreement with the government

– improve of services of mobile phones and internet providers

– keep the internet free from government interference

Show to us and the world that you are a real visionary and not just a poster boy by making the dream of a truly connected Dhivehi Raajje a reality for all Maldivian citizens.

Read more and contribute at: Connect Maldives