By Vic McClelland
Several years ago I had the fortune of working for a telecom operator who did business in India, which afforded me the opportunity to travel there on occasion. While there, I would sometimes accompany our team on field visits to local communities to survey customers about their experience with our service. During one such visit, our small group was sent to survey a family that had mobile service, and was classified as being in the telecom operator’s lowest income group.
The visit was no doubt, one of the most humbling and inspirational experiences of my life.
We were invited to sit on the family’s only bed, which all five shared, inside their very small, two-room rental apartment. Over tea and biscuits, we talked about how they used their single mobile phone, and what they knew about the Internet, Google, Facebook, and the like. The mother, a schoolteacher, described how having a mobile phone helped the family to function better in their daily lives.
Knowing the family mobile was not a smart phone, we asked how the family accessed the Internet. Though she’d never logged on to the Internet, she understood the value it would bring to her family and student’s lives. Her goal was to save enough money to buy a computer for the school, so she could teach her students how to access the Internet to further their education, and also so she could video call her sister who was living in London.
Now, years later, I still remember the excitement in her voice as she described her dreams and plans once she was able to connect to the Internet.
What gives me more right to Internet connectivity than this family in India, or anyone else in the world, aside from the luck of where I was born? Nothing. I am very fortunate, and I do not take this for granted. But it does make me ask myself what more can I do to help families like hers get access to the internet, not just in India but in all communities, in all countries worldwide.
Around the corner from the family’s home, I took this photo (below) of a woman carrying bricks from a huge pile on the street to a construction site down the road. I do believe that connectivity to the Internet has the power to affect positive change on people’s lives equally in countries across the world such as Australia where many don’t have adequate access to the internet or in India where internet access can help with education for children or access to banking to put some money aside from wages earned from carrying bricks.
My role and purpose is to help accelerate connectivity for everyone. I wonder what those of us in the Telecom industry can do more of to make it affordable for the worlds unconnected to connect to the Internet?