Has the internet lived up to its promise of an Egalitarian and Just World?

The Emergence of the Internet and the High Hopes that accompanied it

For those of you old enough to remember the emergence of the internet in the 1990s, you would have no doubt been taken in by the then prevailing optimism and hope about the medium finally ushering in an egalitarian and a just world.

Indeed, the expectations from the internet back then were so high that experts and laypersons alike sincerely believed that by making information free and readily accessible to all, the problems caused by hoarding of knowledge and information such as the outsize role of the brokers and intermediaries who profited from precious information could be surmounted.

Further, it was also believed that the problems caused by asymmetries of information wherein those at the top of the income pyramid and the educational spectrum were able to do better than the underprivileged who did not have access to such information could at last be addressed by the internet.

Moreover, it was also felt that by connecting the people of the world together in a worldwide embrace of a spider like information web could make the world a just place as there would no longer be any barriers and obstacles between those seeking information and those having it.

Lost Opportunities, Change Derailed, and Status Quo Restored

Having said that, it is the indeed the case that two decades down the line, the internet is nowhere close to fulfilling these aspirations as can be seen from the ever increasing inequality and the gap between the privileged and the rest.

While the reasons for this are many, the most pertinent of them is that capitalist and free market systems have turned the internet into being monopolized by a tiny few tech firms and entrepreneurs who are no different from the Robber Barons of the Western world in the times of the First Industrial Revolution.

For instance, just as the new technologies that were released and invented at that time led to concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few, the internet too has been monopolized by an elite wherein a few big tech firms such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon control much of what we do and buy as well as how we live and work.

Further, as the internet spread around the world, governments instead of making it free and accessible and transparent have increased their surveillance as well as control over the type and form of content that is being viewed and purveyed online.

The Achievements of the Internet

However,this is not to say that the internet has totally failed in its efforts to create a more equal and a just world.

For instance, it has empowered Billions of ordinary citizens around the world to setup businesses and transact with a worldwide network of buyers anywhere and everywhere as well as anytime and every time.

Indeed, it has given rise to a truly networked society wherein anyone and everyone could simply use the medium to scale up and leverage the synergies afforded by the medium. For instance, this site on which you are reading this article is a classic example of how entrepreneurs could reach a worldwide audience of readers by making information accessible.

Moreover, it has also led to many activist movements who use the internet to organize and network with each other and to plan and strategize.

For the first time in history, it has allowed anyone anywhere to access knowledge from everyone and everywhere as can be seen from the fact that Google has replaced the traditional Encyclopedia and Library based learning.

At the risk of sounding repetitive it needs to be mentioned that ManagementStudyGuide.com is a site that substitutes formal and pedagogic learning with newer generation eLearning.

The Paradox of the Internet Medium

So, on balance, it appears as though that the internet has been a force for good. Having said that, it needs to be remembered that it has also become a fertile ground for Fake News and Malicious Rumors which as can be seen in recent times have resulted in many unfortunate events happening around the world.

Moreover, cybercrime and hacking of systems has given rise to new fears that the next world war would be fought in cyberspace. In addition, Robotics and Automation threaten Millions of jobs worldwide.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the paradox of the internet than the election of President Trump as he promises relief to those displaced by the medium and at the same time, uses the destructive powers of the medium to the full extent possible. Moreover, with a few individuals controlling the flow and the type as well as the commercial aspects on the internet, power has become concentrated rather than diffuse.

On the other hand, it has also given rise to a new set of powerbrokers who harness the potential of the medium to both profits as well as to give rise to equal and just forms of wealth creation.

Conclusion

Lastly, it needs to be mentioned that the solution to some of the problems discussed above as well as to realize the hopes that were generated when it emerged, the internet has to necessarily be an inclusive medium rather than an exclusive club.

In this context, it is worth noting that the rise of the infopreneuers who are attempting to bridge the Digital Divide has rekindled hopes about its potential being realized.

To conclude, what we need is more collective and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders to make it a democratizing medium rather than a destructive one and to make it more egalitarian rather than an evil one.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.


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