You all saw it. The Digital India display picture, and the subsequent hullabaloo on Facebook over how an all evil organization was trying to take over the world – through stealth. Folks went complaining about Facebook, through Facebook. Scions of a free society pointing out the dangers of digital hegemony! Ironic?
Net Neutrality is important. I get it. Free, fair, freedom etc. In an ideal ‘socialist’ world – I would vote for it. Who won’t?
But this is not an ideal socialist world, is it? For the last two hundred years, all our growth has been fuelled by someone’s ambition for profit. Most of us have come to terms with the notion that we (the educated urban layer of the species, at least) have prospered through this process. We all know we cut trees to make paper. We are okay with it. We all know, from the largest oil companies in the world to our local coal traders, all form syndicates. Happens! Banks charge interests. Interests and EMIs are good for us, we say – helps us spend on a lifestyle we can’t afford. Keeps the economy moving, we say. Profit is good; and survival has to be of the fittest. Capitalism is the great leveller of our times. The fairest of all things..
That was all before the Net Neutrality debate.
Suddenly we are all worried what happens to the smaller e-commerce players of the world if Flipkart has a deal with Airtel One! We did not care as much when the same e-commerce sites talked about how their innovation and disruption drove thousands of brick and mortar mobile stores out of business! We were scared out of our wits when some individuals changed their DP to Digital India believing this was a ‘vote’ for Internet.org, the monopoly monster just waiting to gulp down the last bit of freedom left in this world. We did not see any fear when Facebook destroyed its competition a few years back. Or Amazon, or Google, or Walmart or .. (the list goes on, doesn’t it?)
Internet.org (or Airtel One) would bring internet to the folks who do not have internet today. Maybe they are doing it for profit. But there is no denying it would drive penetration – much beyond the current 30%. More penetration means a more rejuvenated economy. The theory of greater good, anyone? Of course, business dynamics might change. But then, it always does! Your favourite e-commerce site might not make it – but they would have just succumbed to evolution. Like countless before them. Free market will win.
I am sure there is a lot to be feared about hegemony, capitalism and syndicates. Not so much about Net Neutrality. There is a lot to be debated on, pondered on, and written on – passionately. But a heated battle on the dangers of Internet.org – by 21st century consumers on and of Facebook?
That is stupid!
There, I said it.