Shaping the Internet Age
Shaping the Internet Age .by BILL GATES
This is what happens right now. Internet has spawned a lot of changes in our lives to the point that it has even characterizes the ‘era’ we’re in. But it cannot entirely define us. The extent to which the internet can change our lives relies as to how much we exploit its potential as a tool. It can only do as much as what we want it to do. We are affected by the changes it provokes but we are still the commanding power behind this tool. The danger and opportunities it poses is just a reflection of the yin and yang that human species possess. Fearing that the internet might cause moral decay is stupid. Internet does not shape us, we shape it. We shape the world through the internet, not the internet shaping our world for us. And this is what Bill Gates’ paper is all about.
Mr. Gates pointed many issues in this article, but I’ll only talk about some which I think are highly relevant to me as an Orcom student. I will take on some of his main points and elaborate those through personal observations. I will also try to insert some of the ideas I got from reading articles by other people.
NARROWING (AND WIDENING) THE GAP
Breaking down the barriers of communication is the most important function of the internet. With this function, socio-economic difference will do little to hinder people from communicating with each other. An ordinary housewife can send a complaint message to a CEO without going through the desk officer. Likewise, an IS student whose tuition fee can mount up to an eight-digit figure can become friends with students from a public high school. Because internet provides a ‘relatively free’ exchange of information, a middle class person has access to information that can make him at par with a member of the upper class. Lifestyle becomes a choice and socio-economic standing does very little to limit these choices. A mall fashionista can dress up like the elite Tim Yap and Georj Wilson. Thanks to the internet, they’ll never miss the hottest trends on fashion (and brand imitators can absolutely copy the latest styles of shoes, bags and shirts). Internet narrows the gap between upper and middle class people.
But as it pulls the middle closer to the upper, it also pulls the two away from the lower masses. The internet becomes a source of similarity between the two social strata, at the same time that it leaves the lowest class isolated at the base of the pyramid. The two can have access to rich information but the last could not have the same opportunity. The fact that most people belonging in the lowest socio-economic class cannot afford even a PC unit creates a clear distinction of what they can or cannot do. It is convenient that we have internet shops today, but a P15-P25 peso PC rent may not be as affordable to the lower class people as it is to the middle and upper class men. In these days where computer literacy is a major requirement for decent jobs and where job hunting is an online activity, the lower class citizens may not have much chance of getting hired. The concern of the middle class could be attended, but without the same access to such a powerful channel, the lower class remains unheard. And while the middle and upper progresses for the better, the lowest remains in the slums. The internet could be a powerful tool, but only if you have access to it. It makes living easier for some, but not for everyone. A sad reality.