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Weighing the Costs;Is it worth It?

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Internet access remains a privilege to many people especially women from poor communities; challenges range from lack of connectivity, poor connectivity, exorbitant prices, personal safety to censorship.
Personally, I have been accessing the internet for the last 12 years, that is since I joined tertiary studies after completing high school. It has not been a smooth ride especially in the earlier days when charges were still very high and very few places offered the services. I remember around the year 2001 after completing my certificate in computer studies and my elder sister had also just completed her undergraduate studies and we could travel to our home town which is around 20 miles from our village to apply for jobs or check mail in case a potential employer had replied. This was a very costly venture as it meant money for transport, lunch and the cost of accessing the internet. We would save up for this and take the journey twice or even thrice a month if possible. We sort of never felt the burden and looking back I have come to realize that when something is too important, it outweighs the risk and cost required.
Since I was exposed to the use of the internet and even reaped the benefits several times, I have always tried my best and even gone to extreme lengths of skipping food to use the money for internet access. In 2004, I applied for a fellowship on Youth and Social Entrepreneurship which was an online contest. I emerged best in Kenya and was placed in a partnering organization to go through the fellowship locally and got the chance to travel out of my country for the first time in my life to attend the gathering of all fellows in Thailand. All in all, I believe that when something is for a greater benefit (as long as one discovers) it is worth whatever costs. There are many people in urban areas and even some rural areas in Kenya who have access to the internet especially with the introduction of mobile platforms but they rarely use it-they simply don't realize the importance or have never benefited from the use.
I recently was discussing something with a friend who we had participated in an online forum and was asking her why she no longer does so. She told me that she didn't see the use anymore since most posts go unanswered and she felt like it was a waste of time and more so airtime money.
As we continue to see how more women can join in the loop of accessing technology, especially the internet, it is also crucial to create as much useful content and maximize interactivity to make it worthwhile. It will be of less value if those who can access the internet fall through the cracks of complacency and apathy as efforts are being made to get more women to access and it. The experience must be made worthwhile especially in the case of difficult or expensive access. For those of us who are seasoned users and have known how to look out for opportunities online, we always have a reason to find a way to access the internet. But thinking of marginalized women, the case is different and introducing them to the internet should include strong measures and encouragement to keep them going. In this way the journey will always be worth the cost.

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In a time when freedom of expression and equal access to knowledge and ideas has become synonymous with access to the Internet, World Pulse is asking women worldwide: What does "Universal Internet Access and Digital Freedom" mean to YOU? This month, we invite you to raise your voice by writing about the everyday obstacles you face and risks you take in accessing the Internet, or how you have used it to change lives and bring about positive change in your community. Click here to learn more about this campaign and how to participate.

Comments

Jumi's picture

Internet access

Thanks for your thoughts on this issue, Kurui. I agree with you that women must not be left behind in the technological development sweeping through nations of the world. The internet is an essential tool for women to participate and make their voices heard in both domestic and international debates about issues that concern us all.

Over the last month, PulseWire members from around the world expressed their views on the importance of Internet access, and the barriers they face. The testimonies address real barriers—like cost—where paying fees at an Internet café can mean skipping a meal that day, or battling frequent power outages can make blogging one post, a multi-day task. Women have also shared security risks faced in connecting online—from the dangers of walking to and from Internet cafes to government censorship. Yet despite the challenges and risks women endure, what has emerged is that the benefits of Internet access outweigh these challenges, and connecting to the web has enabled friendships across oceans, access to fellowships and funding opportunities, and a venue for any woman—anywhere—to have a global voice.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, emphasized the vast benefits of Internet access in his report to the Human Right Council arguing that access is a universal human right, and urging governments around the world to pass laws protecting the freedom of internet access and information. "Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states," - Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur and author of the report.

This Action Blogging Campaign will not be the last of our efforts to advocate for universal access to the Internet. Here at World Pulse we hear your concerns and are committed to addressing them. As an online community of women leaders, we want to make sure that women’s voices and their specific concerns about this important issue are heard.

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