The last few months, the global community has watched as political culture and the law have dramatically attempted to play catchup with technology and its place in our individual lives on both a day-to-day basis, as well as in the lives we share as a world collective.
Information has always equaled power, but we now live in a time where the Internet has allowed for the passage of knowledge beyond cultural and geographical borders at a speed completely unheard of in the past. With the recent Internet blackout by Egypt’s government, it is becoming more and more obvious that those who have access to information—not matter what it may be—hold the power. Discussions of the digital divide stretch back as far as Marshall McLuhan, but perhaps it is only now that we are seeing the fruits of that dialogue.
Who owns information? Who should have the ability to essentially turn it on or turn it off? How are personal freedoms and safety affected? How about the freedoms and safety of nations, as whole entities?
There are no easy answers to these questions. We live in a world that has gradually become more dependent on the internet and the freedom that it provides. Depriving one’s people of said freedom is essentially oppressing them. It may not be a physical genocide, but what Egypt is doing will cripple their population if it continues for any tremendous length of time. One can see the effects of technology-blindness right here in U.S., as so many people are discovering how unemployable they have become without even basic computer skills.
I’m not here to debate whether private information should be shared with the public. Thousands upon thousands of people do it every day on Facebook voluntarily and ultimately, at the end of the day, that argument is better suited as case by case. The matter at hand is the access to it or any flavor of information, in general. If the internet has become one of our primary threads to the many communities and many people outside of our personal bubbles, is it right to cut off that primary life line? I think not and that’s exactly what Egypt is doing. Whether a global blanket of internet access were to exist or international laws in terms of information accessed and distributed via the online world put in place, solutions are complicated.
Only time will allow for the evolution of this situation and hopefully it involves Egypt getting back online.