STUDENTS of mountain barangays access information through the websites of international scholars and experts. Farmers know when to plant and at what price to sell.
Travelers scour the web for discount fares or book a flight on the way to the airport. A parent in Dubai watches his three-year-old son in a playground in Cebu. A Cebuano in New Jersey in the United States watches the news unfold in real time in Cebu and accesses information in the office or on his bed.
These are among the benefits of the internet and, by extension, mobile phones and social media. But the silver anniversary this week of the internet is occasion, too, to think about its role in the lives of people and its impact on societies.
The celebration opened with colleagues of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web 30 years ago this month, recalling his misgivings about how the web has evolved.
“The web has been hijacked by crooks and trolls who have used it to manipulate people all over the world,” he had said in a United Nations forum. He cited the dark web, cyber crime, fake news, trolls and personal data theft as practices that defeat the purpose of his inventing the web.
In the Philippines, the internet was born when the first connection was established from Makati City on March 29, 1994.
Benjie Tan, who was working for a technology company, posted a message to alert Filipinos overseas that a link had been made. A few hours later that day, the first international email conference was held at the University of San Carlos (USC) in Talamban, Cebu City, to signify that the connection to the internet was live.
“We’re in,” Dr. John Brule, professor emeritus in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Syracuse University, announced in that email conference held in USC.
Twenty-five years forward, we learn that the brutal killing of a girl in Lapu-Lapu City was traced to a person who used a fake social media account to lure her. We read online comments that debase humanity and make you wonder at how low people can go. We have many examples of the ill uses and breakdowns of the internet and the web that there is no need to list them here.
This 25th year of Philippine internet must be an occasion to commit to educating the public on the beneficial uses of the internet and the web, to make it a tool for empowerment.
With the almost 70 million out of the 106 million Philippine population already using the internet, that is a lot of work ahead for those committed to bringing the internet back to what it was envisioned to be by its creators. It is for the internet to be a way for people to cooperate and more easily communicate with one another.
Let’s take back the internet and make it to what it was meant to be-–a discussion platform to connect people of similar or different backgrounds and opinions.
Don’t let the web fall into the wrong hands. This is the cry as the internet turns 25.