Internet.org Vs. Digital India (Ft. Net Neutrality)

This article is written as a result of knowledge gained through different sources like Wikipedia, Facebook, other blogs and of course my own opinion.

Its been a while since I last blogged. I was looking for a perfect reason to write and now I have got one. You might have got an idea of what it is from the heading of the article. Internet.org vs. Digital India (ft. Net Neutrality). I heard that people on Facebook are changing their profile pictures in support of Digital India. People are changing their pictures into ‘The Tri-Colour’ shaded pictures.

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My intention of writing this article is mainly to express my views on the topic and give my readers a little information on what the thing is really about. First let us learn a little about Internet.org, Net Neutrality and Digital India:-

Internet.org:

Internet.org is a partnership between social networking services company Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) that plans to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries. It is widely criticized for its ‘Anti – Net Neutrality’ policy. In India, Reliance Telecom users will get easy and cheap access to Facebook and its 50 partner sites.

Net Neutrality:

The principle states that the Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites. Another term that I would like to give to Net Neutrality is ‘Consumer Freedom’. We, the users will decided what we will do on the internet. The government or any network service providers should not restrict or favour any particular sites.

Digital India:

Digital India is an initiative of Government of India to integrate the government departments and the people of India. It aims at ensuring that the government services are made available to citizens electronically by reducing paperwork. The initiative also includes plan to connect rural areas with high-speed internet networks.

Now, I hope that you have got some knowledge about all these subjects and if you want more details Google it or search it on wikipedia. I will now jump on to the controversial part. I mean the Facebook profile picture changing saga. I saw a lot of people doing it and also saw people opposing it. Those who change their profile picture has not gone deep into it. They just saw Mark Zuckerberg do it, hence they did it. And I am not blaming anyone here, I am just pointing out what really happened. The crticizers say that, it is just a marketing tactic used by Zuckerberg to promote Internet.org. Even though The Internet.org programme and The Digital India programme has got similarities, they are totally different. And many people on social media has failed to recognize it. Zuckerberg has succeeded in creating confusion among the Indians. As stated earlier, his Internet.org is against the Net Neutrality policy, while India’s Digital India programme is not in anyway against the Net Neutrality policy (Atleast, as of what I know).

It is said that by changing your Facebook profile picture in support of Digital India, you are in no way actually supporting Digital India. You are actually voting against Net Neutrality and you are giving a thumbs up to the Internet.org programme. The people behind Internet.org has created further confusion by coining another term called ‘Free Basics’. People thought that Free Basics is a modified version of Internet.org, but actually both are the same.

Like many other, I did not understand what really the problem was, until I saw a simple explanation on the internet. I don’t know who wrote it, but it helped me to understand the problem.

“Imagine this you are hungry and want to eat, you step outside your house to eat but the government says the road to McDonalds is toll free but to take the road to a little known local hotel it will cost you 10 rupees, Most people will take the road to McDonalds because they dont have to pay anything. Eventually all the customers will head to McDonalds and not the local hotel. What happens to the local hotel ? it eventually gets shutdown as there are no customers and they cant afford to offer subsidies like the McDonalds.”

Why there is a problem with this ?

A company like facebook, which was started by college kids back in 2004 in their dorm room exists today as a 250 billion dollar company because the internet was a neutral place. Imagine if friendster or myspace had created something similar to internet.org in 2004 then it would have been impossible for facebook to exist, as they couldnt possibly have the money to compete with such free services.”

So, that means that if Internet.org is implemented, then in the future internet will only have Facebook and its 50 parnter sites (because no one will opt to surf on sites that are not free). While, Digital India aims at digitalizing India. It includes e-governance, e-banking, etc. India is not going to benefit if all its citizens just browse on Facebook, right?

My conclusion is this, Internet.org is a stupid idea (unless Mark Zuckerberg gives satisfying answers to a set of serious questions) and I support Digital India. And is it mandatory that I need to change my profile picture to show my support to Digital India? I think #ISupportDigitalIndia is enough to show my support to Digital India.

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