That is what is going to be the fate of digitization of India if Free Basics or any other version of it were to gain approval in India. We don’t want a situation where the entire data is in the possession of a corporate like the Facebook, which can make use or abuse of it according to its business interests.
All government services, from the Central government to the State government and local bodies are going to be available only through the internet. If the internet like Free Basics were to ration, regulate, direct or deny access to any service, it will create another ecosystem of corruption in governance replacing the present one where middlemen or touts or fixers or wheeler dealers play the role of a parallel government, be it school admissions, examinations, job interviews, transfers, postings, suspensions or pre-mature retirement, business startups or the corporate.
Information will be controlled to the same extent to which it was before the Constitution of India mandated free access to education to every Indian citizen. Visualize the final stage of the internet when nothing more remains to be done. It would have ended all job openings because one person will be able to replace thousands of workers. Politicians would easily convert democracy in to autocracy, as a technocrat will need no bureaucracy and will run the state according to his whims and eccentricities. Rulers may even work from the Mars!
Before the advent of the internet, books and magazines were the only source of all information. The advanced countries had an advantage over the developing countries. The under-developed countries stood deprived of it. At people’s level, some got the advantage of getting the books and magazines and cash such information in the form of education, research, better jobs, business opportunities and improvement in their economic conditions. Internet did the same thing in the beginning, but has served everyone in the last few years equally.
The Free Basics or its improved version which might emerge later, will end up putting the members of the global village to the same disadvantage once again which prevailed in the print resources earlier and digital resources subsequently. It goes to the credit of the open internet that one can easily access millions of pages from scientific, technical, legal, social science, economics, humanities, literature, geography, history and every field. Books and magazines in these fields of knowledge can cost thousands of dollars, which ordinary students and scholars can’t afford at all. Restrictions in the form of payments, howsoever little, for such free browsing, is bound to kill the quest for knowledge.
Even at present one has to wade through dumps of garbage before reaching the right resource. The print resource saves one the bother of wading through such rubbish and slush, which means getting relevant information in shorter time and lesser payment. The excessive supply of irrelevant or undesired information on the internet is going to revive the print format, which is under threat from the digital platform currently. Too much of irrelevant information can drive a normal human being mad. If the growing demand for resorts guaranteeing no TV, no mobiles, no newspapers is indicative of the malaise of excess of information, it can also be safely concluded that restrictions on open internet through business ideas like Free Basics will also make people opt out of the internet.
Government should not allow the common people to be exploited by these new Zamindars of the Information Revolution who want to colonize the global community through hubs of such Zamindars (the Mughals and the British ruled India through such deplorable agents).We are opposed to this new architecture of the digital colonization of India through hubs of new zamindars like the Free Basics from the Facebook!
PS: This is in continuation of my previous post on the subject.