The first thing most of us do before dozing off at night and after waking up in the morning is switch on the internet and check the notifications on our cell phones. From work e-mails and school notices to birthday wishes and jokes in the family group, we stay connected with the world at any given time because of a commodity called the internet.
The pertinence of internet access increased manifold with education, socializing and professional work shifting to the online mode during the pandemic worldwide. Countless employed in sectors whose work could not be conducted in cyberspace lost their means of livelihood such as labourers, janitors, drivers and many more. Since the pandemic began, we’ve all been hearing tales of woe of those who starved, became homeless or dropped out of schools and universities because they didn’t have access to a seemingly ubiquitous amenity.
For a lot of us internet is more synonymous with luxury rather than a utilitarian means. Many of us have been scolded by our parents for being on the phone when we’re supposed to be studying even if we were using it for clarifying doubts or listening to recorded lectures. Alas! That is not the rosy reality for almost 4 billion people. Approximately half of the world’s population does not have access to the internet with alarming levels of disparity amongst developed and developing nations, urban and rural populations and people coming from diverse economic backgrounds.
When we converse about issues of the cybersphere, we tend to fixate on privacy concerns, targeted advertisements, spam e-mails, the abundance of deep fakes, unsolicited images, trolling and the like. Somehow, the sordid actuality of those who aren’t privileged enough to have our cumbersome hassles doesn’t even find a backseat in day-to-day discourse. Isn’t it ironic, that even struggles discriminate on the basis of privilege?
During the lockdowns, all that some of us could do was complain about deadlines, not meeting our friends and not being able to partake in the finer indulgences of life (like travelling, clubbing, etc.) which we otherwise would have. On the other hand, there were millions around the globe who were completely disconnected from the virtual world. From kids not being able to attend online classes, to unemployed youths with the responsibilities of entire households on their shoulders, to elderly citizens not being able to avail themselves of government schemes. All because of the internet (or rather the lack of it). Imagine something we use for browsing funny videos and watching art and craft tutorials meant the difference between life and death for others.