Internet Health = Healthy IRL Coalitions

Internet health is a huge topic, and carries a lot of different meaning for different people. The ability to approach the concept at all means that you are of the privileged class who can afford to have an opinion. Your geography provides you with the privilege of infrastructure. Your education provides you with the means of weighing what you have versus what is possible. The values embraced by community anchors enable equity in some form or another. Having an opinion about internet health means that you are aware that there is a problem, a condition that usually comes with having exposure or access of some kind in the first place.

As mentioned in the Internet Health Report, the communities that make up this privileged segment of the world are growing and changing. This means that we need to build sustainable, models for those communities to strive toward, so that they might bring their patrons or constituents online (or at least give them the ability to take advantage of the utility if they have the desire and/or need).

A healthy internet means we have communities working together for these best practices, and thus a healthy internet implies an active and robust IRL community of practice with supporting resources for those who are working to strengthen it. This might mean training materials, or access to grants. We might need conferences and workshops or regional meetups. It might mean access to education on how the internet works and, perhaps even more importantly, knowledge of how the systems around obtaining internet access can be made more available to populations that aren’t online. These coalitions are not the easiest to build, but they involve more stakeholders than we often think about.

“As more people come online, we need corporations, governments and civil society to work together to develop better broadband policies, and new business models for equitable access.” — Internet Health Report

So, through this frame of digital inclusion, we find that one of the most important ways we can support a healthy internet is…offline. Working together, developing partnerships, and educating those who have the power and responsibility to make change.

It also means preparing for the changes as they come. Dropping any kind of new access into a community without support can be a tremendous burden. Without making it relevant to those who are gaining access, we risk losing the chance to leverage the moment of change. This means having diverse and accessible resources (offline, IRL) that are bespoke to their communities. Localization of resources for inclusion activities is a key to Right now, I’m working with a team to build a digital inclusion resources repository. Our hope is that people will not only contribute all of the documents they use when engaging with the communities they serve, but also identify which documents should be translated and adjusted to be culturally relevant to the communities they intend to serve.

In light of this, a healthy internet is one where everyone has the resources to build communities of change, pursue and sustain equitable access programs, and educate their stakeholders about why internet access is essential for all.