Digital colonization or digital globalization?

Free Basics provides internet access for many people making them accessible to a range of free basic services like news,travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information. Free Basics is part of the Internet.org by Facebook initiative. According to Advox Global voices ( 2017, July 27) “In a vision statement for the program, Facebook surmises that “by introducing people to the benefits of the internet” they will help justify the cost of mobile data and thereby “bring more people online and help improve their lives.”(p. 4). Facebook free basics is now active in 63 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America so it has two billion monthly active users (Advox Global voices, 2017, p 3). Some people considered this action as an act of digital colonization and others found it a favor of freedom.Moreover,

ElleryGV , July 27, 2017. Retrieved from :https://ellerygv.carto.com/me?utm_source=Footer_Link&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Embed_v1&utm_content=ellerygv

“Military colonization” is physically taking over a country by means of military force, so how would you apply that to a website user? Of course countries which doesn’t have the intellectual power and social organization will be the victims of global colonization.“Representations of colonialism have long been present in digital landscapes… But web-based colonialism is not an abstraction.”(The Atlantic, 2016 , Feb 11). The online forces that shape a new kind of imperialism go beyond Facebook,some developing countries like African countries are so poorly prepared to compete in this new digital area and will certainly, in my opinion, be “digitally colonized”. In contradiction to India, where India’s telecom regulator rejected the idea of Facebook’s Free Basics, stating that the initiative violated basic principles of net neutrality. “While formulating the regulations,” wrote the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), “the authority has largely been guided by the principles of net neutrality seeking to ensure that customers get unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the Internet.”(Yahoo News, 2016). This plan making of Marc Zuckerberg (Inventor of facebook) failed in India since the public and the government knew whats cooking, According to Dr Vandana Shiva ( 2015, Dec 29) ₹100 crore cash were available with Mark Zuckerberg for advertising. In other words, Facebook have a system where it decides what parts of the internet are important to users(Shiva, 2015). While in Africa, people are culturally blind and unaware of the colonization that’s gonna take over their continent for centuries later. Africa should realize that there’s an actual digital colonization lying behind facebook’s “free” basics due to the lack of meeting its users needs and the profit of Facebook in the data of its users.

First, The app gives users access to only a tiny set of services, a clear violation of net neutrality and some of them may not be free. As mentioned in the free basics principles, users should be able to make useful content accessible at no cost to several social classes. which is in contradiction to what actually happened in India, Free Basics was effectively banned after discovering that net neutrality was missing, the analysis of the Indian case were logical since emerging markets nowadays are in competition and giving away free data doesn’t sound logical for the business part, but facebook knows how to deal with this situation so they’re trying to deceive people with the free data knowing that the customers after a while will eventually buy data to access all of its features( The Gardian, 2016). “This freemium to premium model is also problematic” says Gbenga Sesan ( the Gardian, 2016), for example in both Ghana and Kenya, despite being built for countries with strong technology sectors and online content markets, these markets were less available for users that downloaded the application and there was premium versions for full access. In Kenya, out of the 16 services featured in the main menu of the app, only three are local. Two of these apps are job-search sites. The third comes from the Daily Nation, the country’s largest daily newspaper. All three local services are available only in English just as shown in this site (Advox Global voices, 2017 , p11–12;p14–15–16; p31):

The Ghanaian version of the app isn’t better, about 70 percent of all services included in the app were based outside Africa, only few local services were present( Advox Global voices, 2017, p20–21).And even with news sites that were included in the app, users were sometimes cut off from the complete version of a news story, videos did not load, and photos were often removed from news articles(Advox Global Voices, 2017, p20–21–22).In some cases, the user does not get to see the whole story, but rather just a sentence or two. Users who wish to access the full story are greeted with a pop-up notice telling them that they must pay full data charges in order to gain access, and Users who cannot afford these charges are then left with incomplete information(Advox Global Voices , 2017, p17;p24–31).sample of the extra charges in Ghana:

retrieved from Advox Globail voices ( 2017, July 27, p20)

“The right to the internet is the right to choose what spaces and media we access; to choose spaces that enrich us — not what companies think should be our ‘basics’.” , that’s what Dr Vandana Shiva(2015, Dec 29) claimed on her medium post relating it to the net neutrality and cost in free basics.

Some people used the hashtag #nofreeBasics on twitter in order to shut it down and cancel mark’s digital colonization.For example, this african citizen posted on twitter in french the following: “ Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of world wide web, stated that poor countries should say #notofreebasics.Also, There’s a lack in linguistic needs of users in both Kenya and Ghana. In Kenya, Kiswahili is the known as the official language and the majority speaks it, the application only had small amount of services available in Kiswahili and the rest were in English(Advox Global Voices, 2017 , p12–13).In Ghana, the version of Free Basics offered via Tigo (one of six leading mobile service providers in Ghana)was available only in English and it did not offer users the ability to change the language to Hausa, Twi or other major local languages(Advox Global Voices , 2017 , p12–13).

Second,Facebook also profit in the data of its users and there’s a wide range in the lack of privacy. Although free basic services are not owned by Facebook in the term of data privacy policy , the technological side behind the application allows Facebook to gather information about its users , including the websites they visit, and their phone numbers(Advox Global Voices, 2017, p23–24). Facebook is in the business of selling advertising based on their user data to companies, where they know decisions about how to market its products and sell effective advertising in developing countries based on the information they have on the user ( Advox Global Voices, 2017 , p25; p32). Ghana researcher, Kofi Yeboah summarized his experience as follows: “The user agrees to the terms of Facebook, instead of Free Basics…. This seems peculiar, given that one does not need to create a Facebook account in order to use the program. It is easy to imagine that a first-time user would be uncertain as to whether the Free Basics app is the same as the Facebook app…” ( Advox Global Voices, 2017 , p24)

As shown in the following link : a simple click to “Learn more about privacy on Free Basics.”shows it is an agreement between those users and Facebook, whether or not they have signed up for the platform ( Advox Global Voices, 2017 , p24)

Some twitter users agreed on the digital colonization of free basics by pointing out the lack of privacy and collecting data for marketing purposes:

As a wrap up, Facebook claims to want to “introduce” people to the internet. But instead, they’ve built a walled garden that fails to meet local needs, and seems much better designed to collect users’ data than it is to educate, inspire or empower them. “For openness, equality, innovation and competition to thrive, every African should have the fundamental right to access any service or information on the open internet; without censorship, restrictions or discrimination.” (The Huffing Ton Post, 2017).

Refrences:

Bonilla, M. , Yeboah, K. , Wanjohi, W. N. , Salazar, G. ,Jalil, M. , Kapadia, F. ,Palatino, M. (2017, July 27).Global Voices Advocacy. Can Facebook Connect the Next Billion? Free basics in real life. Retrieved from:
https://advox.globalvoices.org/2017/07/27/can-facebook-connect-the-next-billion/

Lafrance, A. ( 2016, Feb 11). Facebook and the new colonialism. The Atlantic. Retrived from: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/02/facebook-and-the-new-colonialism/462393/

Joshi , S. (2016, Feb 8).India says yes to net neutrality, no to Facebook’s Free Basics. Yahoo News . Retrieved from :https://uk.news.yahoo.com/india-says-yes-net-neutrality-132746258.html

Shiva, V. (2015, Dec 29).‘Free Basics’ will take away more than our right to the internet. Medium. Retrieved from:https://medium.com/@drvandanashiva/free-basics-will-take-away-more-than-our-right-to-the-internet-4d39422fe122

Shearlaw, M. (2016 , August 1). Facebook lures Africa with free internet — but what is the hidden cost?. The Guardian. Retrieved from :https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/01/facebook-free-basics-internet-africa-mark-zuckerberg

Iwuoha , J-P. (2017, May 26).Dear Mr. Zuckerberg: Thanks for ‘Free Basics’ in Africa, But We’re Not Totally Convinced. The Huffing Ton Post . Retrieved from :https://www.huffingtonpost.com/johnpaul-iwuoha/dear-mr-zuckerberg-thanks-free-basics-africa_b_10121218.html

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