Against criticism of Internet.org

Internet.org is an initiative to bring more people on to internet, championed by Facebook. The idea is to provide billions of people (mostly in developing countries) with affordable internet access.

One of the main criticisms it receives is that people in developing countries don’t need the internet right now, that we should be spending our resources on more pressing needs such as food, fighting poverty, etc.

This is true but only partially.

Unquestionably, lifting people out of poverty & taking care of the two holy triads of food, clothing, shelter and bijli, sadak, paani is a higher priority than giving them internet access.

However, this argument doesn’t fully extend into not growing access to the internet.

To use a business term, the Internet is a horizontal; a technology that stretches across multiple domains and one that is wonderfully transformative.

Thanks to the internet, you can freely access the worlds largest Encyclopedia, search for information any topic, communicate with more than a billion people, use version 1.0 of a flying carpet, have your toughest questions answered, watch the worlds most inspiring videos, entertain yourself; amongst a ton of other things. The internet is so useful that many countries have declared it fundamental human right

As with any technology, when used right, it just makes things better.

We need to fight poverty and other problems, well we can do that faster, better and more efficiently using the internet.

It seems like there’s a notion afloat that progress in the developing world will be a replay of progress in the developed world.
That we need to get out of poverty then get landlines, then smartphones then …
That we should wait for everyone to get out of poverty, before we give them the internet (or send orbiters around Mars).

With more people having access to the internet, developing countries can fight their problems in smarter and innovative ways unheard of before. Broader internet access only complements any other approach to solving those problems. I can scarcely see why this shouldn’t be done. 

However, an issue i do have is that the Internet.org app prioritises certain services over others. This is almost fundamentally against what the internet stands for. Though this is just one of the initiatives under Internet.org and it seems like a pragmatic solution, it does take away net neutrality.

Beggars

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Beggars exist because of poverty, lack of right opportunities, hard times, etc. 

But thats only half the story. 

Ever looked at a beggar from the lens of an economist?

A person may beg once at first due to lack of resources to do anything else, but a continued existence in that state means the act of begging is now a feasible activity to keep oneself afloat. No need to engage in anything meaningful or useful to earn your living.

If we all stopped paying beggars we came across, the feasibility of begging would reduce; forcing beggars to either find some work, die or indulge in criminal activity.  

If we consider the last of those 3 alternatives to be the least likely to occur, it is but imperative to stop enabling people to be unproductive (or enabling unproductive people) by giving away alms to beggars, and force them into doing better things.

Feeling sympathetic pangs and giving away a few rupees on the spur of the moment only remediates your sympathy and makes you feel like you did your bit.

But in reality, by doing so you contribute to the problem, daily tens and hundreds of people feeling sympathy give away little amounts which collectively become a sum large enough for the beggar. If you want more than a quick fix, stop giving money and try to solve the problem at hand.

Poor kid begging, fund his education.
Middle-aged woman, help her find a job as a household help

STOP giving money to beggars.

Also see, a similar question on quora

Dear fellow Indians,

It’s great to see you celebrate with such gusto the success of Mangalyaan, a truly historic feat for our country.

I hope this achievement inspires forthcoming generations of Indians to bravely challenge the frontiers of human knowledge.

Remember that this great feat was enabled by scientists who decided to follow their passions irrespective of the rewards, monetary or otherwise.

When the time comes for our children to choose their vocations, don’t ask them how big their package will be or worry about who will marry them.

Let their minds run freely and dream of their little dent in the universe.

Putting an orbiter around Mars is rocket science, letting our children live out their dreams and passions is not.

Yours truly
Another face in the billion