RECENTLY in Saint Lucia there has been a movement towards online billing.
Last week we learned that the Minister responsible for Telecommunications, Senator Dr. James Fletcher, had successfully reminded LIME that not all of its customers have access to the internet. (In this case non-adoption of the online billing carried a financial penalty, which has now been removed.) In fact the Minister’s arguments suggest that a minority of Saint Lucians are actively engaged directly with the internet, which may explain what seems to be a dearth of interest in the governance of the internet.
However, as has been made very clear by the issue of the online billing, something that happens online can affect you, even if you are not online yourself. As the influence of the internet spreads, it is taken for granted that people are “online”. People who are not online may well be left out. I recognise my own failing in offering only an email address for feedback from readers and apologise. I am grateful for feedback in any medium.
People still refer to the digital divide, and the digital divide certainly still exists. It may have taken on a new attribute. In our enthusiasm for the internet we may be taking for granted that “everyone is online these days”, and everyone is very definitely not. Sometimes they are not because they choose not to be. Do we feel that they should be compelled? Sometimes they are based where there is no connection available – yes, there are such places in Saint Lucia – or they cannot afford to pay for connection, or for the device that they need to connect. Sometimes there are barriers of traditional literacy, technical literacy or physical disability.
So what do Saint Lucians want the public policy to be as regards the internet and the online world? Should private companies, educational institutions, and the government itself take for granted that Saint Lucians are online, or can easily function online? Or should these institutions be required to remember that the majority of Saint Lucians are not necessarily online yet?
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