The divide between those with access to the internet and those without it has been known for some time but the Covid pandemic exposed this divide like never before. While billions went online to stay updated on risks, guidelines and other pertinent information about the pandemic, nearly half the global population remained without access to the internet. In the least developed countries, only 1 in 5 people had internet access during the pandemic.
This put them at greater risk during the pandemic and removed any doubt about whether we should count access to the internet as a basic human right.
While so far the right to internet access has revolved around access to social media websites, and educational channels and ensuring delivery of government services to remote locations, little attention has been paid to studying how important access to the internet is during a crisis. Most of the focus of the government and the private sector was to ensure that people could work and children could learn from their homes. This essentially kicked those without internet access down the ladder on the list of priorities.
However, there are companies doing remarkable work to bring internet access to billions more. LotusFlare is a Santa Clara-based software development company that creates products for the telecommunications industry. One of its products aims to help travellers get fast, affordable access to connectivity via an app. This not only lowers the cost of connectivity when travelling but users can avoid standing in line at the airport to buy a local SIM card, or dealing with flaky Wi-Fi networks.
Their app Nomad offers data plans to over 100 countries. The product leverages eSIM technology now used in iPhones and the latest Android smartphones, to install a SIM over the air. A user can create a Nomad account, select their destination, pick a data plan, checkout and provision the device with the new SIM in about 4 minutes. All from the comfort of their living room. If they need more GBs while travelling a top-up can be done in the app.
The past two years have shown us that the internet is more than just a platform for socialising and entertainment. In a time of crisis, whether it’s a pandemic, climate change disaster, war or anything else, it is quintessential that we stay connected. If the global population is fragmented and only half the people get the information, chances are that the outcome of these crises will be more devastating than they have to be. Bringing the internet to billions more should be looked at as a humanitarian cause because that’s what it is.