Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Value of the Internet

There are days when I wish computers had never been invented . . . those are the days when my computer keeps crashing or freezing, the days when I can't find a particular file I need, the days when I can't remember the url of a certain website and the bookmark seems to have disappeared, the days when I'm in a hurry and everything seems to be on a go-slow.  We all have those sort of days. 

And then there are the other days.  The days when a subject can be easily and fully researched without having to make a trip to the public library (which, frequently, didn't have the right material anyway).  The days when I'm able to chat to friends around the world, courtesy of forums and chat rooms and email.  And the days when I learn something amazing. 

Today was one of those days.  I received a tweet which said "please help me spread the word that seizure alert dogs save lives" and it gave me a link to this article.  Now, I'm a doctor, and yet I knew nothing about seizure alert dogs.  I read the article and retweeted the tweet.  Hopefully, others will retweet it, too.  And I realised that this is the marvel of the internet . . . the ability to spread information around the world.  And, also, of course, the ability to campaign.

I belong to an organisation called Avaaz.  It describes itself as "a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere."  It has been in existence for five years, has over 16 million members, campaigns in 15 languages, and has a core team and thousands of volunteers on six continents.  It is member-led, wholly member-funded and democratically accountable, and campaigns on a vast range of issues.  For example, in April 2011, 500,000 Indians signed an Avaaz petition which set wheels in motion towards a new anti-corruption law in India. In November of last year, half a million members, together with more than 1,000 indigenous protesters, got Bolivian President Evo Morales to halt construction of a highway that would have sliced through the heart of the Amazon. And in January 2012, over three million members worldwide signed a petition opposing a bill that would give the US government the right to shut down any website. 

For as much as there are anxieties about the internet contributing to the spread of child pornography and making it easier for sexual predators to find victims, the internet has also proved itself a valuable tool for good, raising awareness, bringing together people of like minds and giving them a way in which they can make their voice heard.

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