I have had no Internet for over a week due to issues with Telkom. I have had to use my mobile, which is expensive. This led me to consider how, in our country, access to information should be a fundamental right, like access to water. Finland has already taken that step and we should all seek to emulate their decision.
Is it a coincidence that the most censored countries have the most atrocious human rights violations? Here is a list of the 10 most censored countries: 1. Eritrea; 2. North Korea; 3. Syria; 4. Iran; 5. Equatorial Guinea; 6. Uzbekistan; 7. Burma; 8. Saudi Arabia; 9. Cuba; 10. Belarus. The runners-up include China, Vietnam, Sudan, and Ethiopia among others.
While I was working in Oman, I could not access many sites. Some were about women’s rights so I suppose from their perspective that could be dangerous. However, I couldn’t read some innocuous sites, for example I tried to read a review of the Booker Prize Winner (The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan). What harm can reading a book review do?
Limiting access to information is a means of control. As adult educators, surely transformative learning is something we need to enable? How can we do this within our context? The answer is a gateway to resources with the Internet providing an incredible way for people to connect with each other and access information.
In South Africa, censorship is (currently) not as much of a problem as is reliable and cheap access to the Internet. Here is a list of the fastest Internet speeds in Africa. South Africa is at number 6. Considering how we are one of the most developed countries in Africa, why is our Internet not faster, cheaper, and more reliable?
I am lucky because when my ADSL goes down (as it too frequently does), I can afford to pay for mobile data. What about most people in our country?
Access to information should not only be for the privileged few who can afford it!
In our country, access to information will fundamentally improve the lives of every single citizen. As adult educators, we need to consider the way unequal access to information and other resources influences our teaching.
I am not ashamed to say I cried when I heard about the young people from Mohlakeng, Randfontein starting an underground library after protestors burned down their library. They are an inspiration to us all. We should all be so passionate about reading and knowledge. I hope to be that motivated and determined in my quest for lifelong learning. Let’s hope that in the future, we will all have equal access to information.
Finland makes broadband a ‘legal right’. (1 July 2010). BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/10461048.
10 most censored countries. (2 May 2012). Committee to protect journalists. Retrieved from http://cpj.org/reports/2012/05/10-most-censored-countries.php.
Fripp, C. (25 April 2012). Africa’s top ten countries with fastest internet speeds. IT news Africa. Retrieved from http://www.itnewsafrica.com/2012/04/africas-top-ten-countries-with-fastest-internet-speeds/.
Zwane, T. (20 February 2015) Mohlakeng: Youths fired up by a love of reading. Mail & Guardian. Retrieved from http://mg.co.za/article/2015-02-20-youths-fired-up-by-a-love-of-reading.
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