Let's talk about the Internet and how this huge digital access point into the world of knowledge and discovery affects our lives on a number of levels every day.

On the one hand, it is an awesome marvel as it allows us to learn almost anything we want to learn or plug ourselves into a perpetual streaming media extravaganza guaranteed to overload our minds with useful as well as useless information.

On the other hand, it is a tool for advertisers and data gatherers to discover what we want and then try to sell us things we probably don't really need but we'll buy them anyway because the ads say we do need them!

Using the Internet Responsibly

There is a responsible way as well as an irresponsible way to use the Internet on both sides of the web pages that it serves up.accessing the internet

As consumers, we are responsible for managing what we have access to and what we should avoid depending on whether we would gain a benefit or not from it.

As content providers, teachers, information sharers and advertisers as well as product and service vendors, we should observe a level of responsibility to the consumer and respect their needs as well as their privacy.

Equality on the Internet

When the Internet was in it's infancy, then we were all pretty much equal online. Of course initially it was only the lucky ones who could get connected mainly through schools, Universities and colleges.

Then the technology started to appear to allow some basic home access and we all started saving up for 14.4k modems to connect our home PCs. In the mid-90s things started to snowball and more and more people became connected. The average user was still likely to be an academic or computer geek but even that profile was changing quickly.

Nowadays of course, it's unusual to find someone who hasn't been online at some point. Many of us arrange our lives and research crucial decisions by using social media.

Those of us living abroad, use it to stay connected with family and friends. There is no doubt that it's the most incredible advance in communication since we learnt to speak and write, while its attraction is virtually global. The world has become so much smaller due to the Internet, and it's common today to have virtual friends from all across the planet.

How Things Change

But things have also changed for the worse online in some aspects too. As I mentioned when the Internet first appeared, everyone who could get online would find pretty much the same thing.

That however is rapidly changing and most of us experience a rather customised version of the Internet. Across the world many countries are implementing their own filters and restrictions on their Internet access.

From the Chinese who filter anything pretty much anything they deem to be unsuitable, usually anything critical of the state, to rulers following a more religious than political agenda. Many supposedly enlightened democracies are also following this route.

Australians have already tested an extensive content filter (which fortunately didn't go that well) and the Icelandic Government are intending to block all adult websites.

Whether or not you agree with these various blocks and filters, everyone should be aware of the dangers that this presents. The Internet has developed because it is a vast open network accessible to all, the more people block, restrict and filter it's content – we will be left with our own personal, edited version of this once great mountain of data.

Slowly and surely across the world, more and more sites will become accessible and lines of communications will be closed. We will no longer have access to everything but merely the sites that our particular country feel is suitable.

Of course you'll always be able to access more of the web in the USA than, say Iran, but there the risk is more commercial than pure ideology. From a personal development aspect, restricting its availability will do more harm than good.

It is sad to see now that many countries who's citizens could benefit most from the Internet are already trying to shackle it. The Internet could be one of the great economic miracles of Africa, but even now many countries are monitoring and filtering what you can do online.

Equality on the Internet was what we expected for all, but slowly it seems to be slipping away from us. There is hope of course, as mentioned there are many, many ways to bypass such restrictions like these.

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