- Navpreet Singh
Last week, TRAI disapproved of Facebook’s program Free Basics in India. In the light of this verdict, it has pulled off this plan but not its hope. Facebook still wishes to come back to provide access to the large unconnected chunk of the population, but through an uncontroversial initiative. This causes much furor in the country, stiff opposition from activist portals along with Tim Berners Lee (founder of World Wide Web), and huge expenditure of the company, just to fail at the power of the democratic voice of the country.
For urban youth, this is just another part of celebration because apparently they saved the nation from violation of net neutrality principles. Uploading status on their profiles, they are rejoicing. But for the rural youth, they don’t know what profile or status is, for they haven’t yet been exposed to internet’s power. Had they been given this power, they would also have raised voices in the favour of Free Basics; to let others know how it had helped in their social and personal growth. But this quest of Facebook to achieve digital equality in India was taken as inequality claiming it to be non-transparent and discriminatory. It was open to all developers to compete according to requirements and claim a spot in the app thereby giving the best to unconnected people at free of cost to make them get connected at normal cost. It was open to all underprivileged people who cannot spare the savings to buy an internet connection or who don’t want to utilize the savings on buying one. It would give them access to information about schools, colleges, jobs, hospitals and lastly, free access to apps like Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media tools, which help close the communication gap.
Nevertheless, the quest is still on, with different weapons now. Hopefully, less sharp and more stiff ones.