12/11/2019 The Hindu Editorials Notes – Mains Sure Shot
GS-3 – Comes in INFRASTRUCTURE Topic
Question – Should free internet access be a basic human right? Discuss.(250 words)
Context – Kerala giving free internet access to the poor people in Kerala.
Why in news?
- Kerala is planning to provide free internet access to the poor.
Should free internet access be a basic human right?
- Internet could be a key way of protecting other basic human rights such as life, liberty and freedom from torture — a means of enabling billions of people to lead minimally decent lives. It opens unprecedented possibilities to do so.
- Without such access, many people lack a meaningful way to influence and hold accountable supranational rule-makers and institutions. The study cited several examples of Internet engagement that helped hold government and institutions to account like the ‘Arab Spring’ and #MeToo campaign.
- The ‘Arab Spring’- new ways of global reporting on government atrocities.
- #MeToo campaign—helping to ‘out’ sexual harassment of women by powerful men.
- Exercising free speech and obtaining information is now heavily dependent on having Internet access. Much of today’s political debate took place online and politically relevant information is shared on the internet—meaning the relative value these freedoms held for people ‘offline’ had decreased.
- Keeping these points in mind, some of the states have committed to ensuring universal access for their populations. For example,
- The Indian state of Kerala has declared universal internet access a human right and aims to provide it for its 35 million people by 2019.
- The European Union has launched the WiFi4EU initiative to provide ‘every European village and city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020.
- Global internet access is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with the UN demanding states help to deliver universal Internet access in developing nations.
- France has made access to Internet a human right. Finland has gone a step further and mandated access to a minimum of 1Mbps Internet connection a legal right to its population of five million.
What does free internet access as a basic human right mean?
- It means that every person should have access to the internet. It does not mean that they have to have high speed 4G internet but any form of internet service that allows them to do basic stuff like accessing politically important opportunities such as blogging, obtaining information, joining virtual groups, or sending and receiving emails.
- It is just like the global right to health. It does not mean that all have to have the highest level of medical treatment but rather it means that all people should have access to basic medical services that work towards providing higher quality health care delivery.
Kerala first to acknowledge in India:
- After being the most literate state in India since census 2011, Kerala now has declared the internet as a basic human right and provided free internet access to 20 lakh poor households.
- The state government said that the internet connection is a basic human right like water, food and education. “Internet connection should be made a basic citizen right.
- So Kerala cabinet gave a final nod for INR 1548 Cr Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) Project to provide Internet to every household in the state.
- It will be a joint-venture between the Kerala state electricity board (KSEB) and Kerala state IT infrastructure Ltd. The project is to be completed by Dec 2020.
Advantages of internet connectivity:
- information , knowledge, learning – the Internet contains an endless supply of knowledge and information. Using a search engine like Google, one can ask virtually any question and find a web page with an answer to that question. There are also millions of videos on sites like YouTube that help explain various topics and even online courses that can be taken to help teach you about many different subjects.
- Connectivity, computing and sharing – In the past, it would take days and sometimes even months to receive a letter from someone else. Today, with the Internet, you can send an email to anyone in the world and often have it delivered in less than a minute. This helps in things like speedy decision taking. One does not have to wait for an answer for months.
- Address, mapping and contact information – With the help of GPS technology, the Internet can help map and direct us to almost every place in the world. One can quickly route to their location or find businesses in your area that may sell or provide you with a service you need.
- Banking, bills and shopping – The Internet gives a person access to their bank account to view your balance, make transactions, and send money. Also, many services enable them to view and pay your bills electronically. Online shopping is another huge advantage of the Internet. The Internet gives everyone easy access to compare prices between companies and even see what others think about a product through online reviews to help make better purchasing decisions.
- Selling and making money – If someone is in business or wants to sell anything, the Internet is a perfect place to sell most goods. Because anyone in the world with Internet access can find their website, they have access to more people than you ever could with a local retail store. There are other ways someone can make money online by performing other online services.
- Collaboration, work from home and access to global workforce – An Internet connection provides many people with the ability to work from home or have a virtual office. Today, many businesses allow their employees to work from home using their computers and Internet connection. Working from home can help save people money by not having to pay for child care and save them money and time by eliminating the daily commute to and from work every day. Also if a businessman needs employees, many services online can give him access to people looking for a job all around the world. They get access to a much wider talent pool and may also allow you to hire someone at a much cheaper rate.
- Donations and funding – With access to a much wider audience, anyone with an Internet connection can quickly make a donation to their favorite charity or help fund projects and ideas that interest them.
- Entertainment – The Internet gives everyone access to an endless supply of entertainment, with access to watch videos, watch movies, listen to music, and even play games online.
- Internet of things – The Internet helps make devices in our home connected and smarter by giving them access to the Internet. For example, the Nest thermostat can be connected to the Internet to help control the heating and cooling in our home. Also, once these devices are connected, they can be controlled remotely using your computer or smartphone. By connecting IoT (Internet of Things) devices to our home, it can become smarter and more efficient and help save energy, money, and time.
- Cloud computing and cloud storage – The Internet connects our computers and Internet-enabled devices to cloud services, like cloud computing and cloud storage. With cloud computing, a device can have access to more powerful computers and even supercomputers to perform complex tasks while you or your business works on other tasks. Cloud storage synchronizes data across any of your Internet-connected devices, so you have access your files from anywhere. It makes backing up information easier, and safer — your data is securely stored in a professionally-maintained server. So, if we are using a cloud storage backup service and your home or office burned down, we would not lose all our valuable data.
Internet connectivity in India:
- According to Nielsen and the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the country has 451 million active internet users but there is still a huge access gap.
- Internet penetration is significantly higher in urban areas than in rural areas. The best performing state, Delhi-NCR has an internet penetration of 69%. The second best is Kerala with just 54%
- Global technology companies have eyed the huge population of internet have-nots in India and see it as an opportunity
- The government needs to play an interventionist role in plugging this internet connectivity gap and Kerala can set an example.
- Seeing all these merits and following the example of Kerala, the other states can learn from it too and help create more scope and give more opportunities to the people.
GS-3 Mains ( Infrastructure)
- Karnataka State government’s move to frame guidelines for workers of digital platforms like Uber, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy, UrbanClap, etc.
Importance of digital platforms:
- With the manufacturing sector in India unable to provide employment opportunities to the youth, the digital platforms provide work to the growing demographic of youth in the country. They are creating jobs in the economy.
- These platform companies have been able to bring in large investments into the Indian economy as well which is good for developing countries like India.
- Governments have been unable to create viable public work schemes in urban areas for those continuously migrating into cities and towns. Private tech, however, has been able to do this.
- An increasing number of jobs in the gig economy has been created through incentivized demand using cashback, coupons, low fares, and even free services rather than through natural demand. They have given urban workers a financialised, self-driven, optional economic safety net of ‘having a job, having a gig’.
- MoUs signed between platform companies and various State and Central Ministries over the years show that governments have actively invited companies to create work, entrepreneurial opportunities, and skill development. The Karnataka Social Welfare Department signed an MoU with Uber to create work opportunities for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe youth.
- In cases of informal jobs where it was difficult to identify workers for whom protection was to be given, platforms became vehicles to serve this purpose. For example, Uber partnered with Ayushman Bharat to facilitate free healthcare for drivers and delivery partners. UrbanClap partnered with the National Urban Livelihoods Mission to generate jobs with minimum assured monthly wages for the urban poor. The ecosystem of public policy, platform work, and the government together can suggest an urban ‘Jobs for All’, a financialised employment guarantee scheme.
- The platform companies have been successful in creating public utilities which have contributed to increased ease of living.
Significance of the move:
- Active moves to bring digital labour platforms within the purview of new or existing employment and labour regulations in India have been sorely missing.
- The move to frame the guidelines is to ensure that all relevant labour benefits are available to even those working in the ‘gig economy’. The Karnataka government’s move to add benefits can provide a degree of public welfare assistance to a significant and growing workforce in India.
- Details of implementation are awaited but the Karnataka government is following the tone set by the Centre, which proposed a new draft code on social security this year.
- The work created by these companies could easily be regulated as public goods in the coming years, given their growing reach, reliance on them and utility.
- There have been concerns about the lack of job security, social security for the employees. The long and unregulated working hours and the lack of bargaining power for the employees with the platforms have been serious concerns.
- There are a few issues with respect to the gig economy on which there is a lack of clarity. Like whether Uber drivers, for example, are full-time employees of Uber or freelancers. Without such much-needed clarity, any move of the government is bound to be challenged by the platforms in the courts of law.
- The Ministry’s bid to provide insurance and job security can fructify only with direct acknowledgment of the role played by platforms in employment generation, and not by overly regulating them.
- The strength or ability of labour regulation to push companies to deliver full formal employment in a financialised world of work seems poor. As any such move leads to the rise of asset-light models. While the government has the responsibility of ensuring social stability, any move in this direction must not create hurdles for the businesses.
- The regulation might become more in the coming times, where platforms can be asked to perform more public functions like implementing a minimum wage. The digital platforms are unique in their models and operations and the excessive regulation of them on traditional lines might not be a viable approach. For it might make them economically unviable leading to its closing down and the subsequent job losses.
- While the government has the responsibility of ensuring social stability for all, any move in this direction must not create hurdles for the businesses. This will lead to loss of employment which in itself is a way to social security. The government needs to balance the views of all stakeholders.