Can We Provide Secure Internet Access for All by 2020?

Posted Monday, September 28, 2015 in Online, Mobile & IT by Patricia Seybold

How will the ALL the World's Citizens gain Affordable, Secure Internet Access by 2020?

Bono and Mark Zuckerberg partnered in a well-timed Op Ed that was published in the Sunday New York Times on September 27th. It is titled: To Unite the Earth; Connect It. Their call to action coincided with the last day of Pope Francis' visit to the US and the UN's ratification of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UN 2030 Agenda

The UN 2030 Agenda is an important document because it sets development goals and priorities for all governments and for many NGOs and businesses around the world. There are 17 goals for sustainable global development and 169 targets. (If it's not measurable, it won't happen).

As with many such frameworks, the UN 2030 Agenda might have gone unnoticed and largely unremarked in the popular press, had it not been for these two bookends: 1) Pope Francis' moving address to the UN General Assembly on Friday, September 25th, and 2) Sunday's well-placed editorial by two of the world's richest men.

In commenting on the UN 2030 Agenda, Bono and Mark focus on a single target they feel will enable the realization of many of the others:

Internet Access for all

African Farmer with Mobile Internet Access

An African farmer uses her mobile phone to access the Internet to check livestock prices.

My first knee-jerk reaction was "of course, the CEO of Facebook will focus on global internet connectivity, as will one of his largest shareholders, Bono." But, then I quickly flashed to a "call to action" I experienced at the impressionable age of 18, when I realized that my life's purpose was somehow connected to the spread of the Internet worldwide.

In their Op Ed, Bono and Mark write:

" [The UN 2030 Agenda] lists 17 goals and 169 targets, and one of these, 9(c), is a target that we believe is crucial to accelerate realization of all the others: a commitment to provide Internet connectivity for all by 2020."

Half the People on the Planet Do Not have Internet Access

Global Connectivity Stats August 2015

Illustration and statistics courtesy of We Are

Bono and Mark go on to say:

"Today over half the people on this planet don’t have access. That is not good for anyone — not for the disempowered and disconnected, and not for the other half, whose commerce and security depend on having stable societies.

An unprecedented array of technologists and activists — from Mo Ibrahim to Bill and Melinda Gates, action/2015, Ushahidi and Sahara Reporters have come together to support a global Connectivity Declaration, pledging their support for the new global goals and connecting the world to opportunity. This needs to become a global movement.

In this century, global development and global connectivity are closely linked. If you want to help people feed, heal, educate and employ themselves around the world, we need to connect the world as well. The Internet should not belong to only three billion people, as it does today. It should be seen as a necessity for development, and a tool that makes larger things possible."

They list a number of internet access initiatives underway that are moving in the right direction, they focus on access to electricity for all, and they call upon the technorati of Silicon Valley, in particular, to step up to address these challenges:

"More technology companies and entrepreneurs must take more responsibility. Silicon Valley should look beyond itself and act more on issues like education, health care and the refugee crisis. We challenge the tech industry to do far more for those most marginalized, those trapped in poverty, and those beyond or on the edge of the network."

My Epiphany?

What was my personal epiphany that connected my life purpose to the Internet? In my Brown University religious studies course, I discovered the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist who described his understanding of what he called the Noosphere.


I interpreted this as a layer of human consciousness that surrounds the globe and is constantly evolving, hopefully, in a positive way. Back then, in 1969, the Internet was in its infancy, but I was aware of it. Somehow, I made the connection that my life's purpose would be to ensure that the evolution of the Internet would benefit, and not harm, humankind.

The Challenge

Bono and Mark Zuckerberg cite access to electricity, and bandwidth infrastructure as two high priorities in achieving this goal. For my part, I'd like to add security and privacy to this challenge. If the only way that the "least of us" have access to the Internet as a human right is by swapping privacy for access, that's not a good bargain, in my opinion. So, I'd like to throw a gauntlet back at Mark Zuckerberg: use your wealth and technical knowhow and influence to provide private, secure internet access to everyone on the planet.

To Zuckerberg's credit, the Facebook-backed initiative called is definitely a good step in the direction of providing access to free internet services, with built-in privacy and security. Free Internet Services Security: Dual Certificates

Dual Certificate Security for Browser Access

End-to-End Encryption whenever Possible

End to End Encryption when possible

In a future post, we'll ask Patty's Pioneers to comment on the efficacy of the security scheme for


    donald Callahan on September 29, 2015 at 2:55 p.m.

    What a wonderful post, Patty.

    Silicon Valley claims to be different and I thnk it's true. But now let them prove it on one of the biggest issues of all

    As we move along in life, these are the things we need to be talking about

    Donald Callahan


    PS I didn't know that you - like me - were influenced by the good Jesuit father and eminent philosopher  Teilhard de Chardin. 

  • Patty_author
    Patricia Seybold on September 29, 2015 at 4:32 p.m.
    Thanks, Donald--Not surprised that we have something else in common!
  • Patty_author
    Patricia Seybold on September 29, 2015 at 7:55 p.m.

    I was dismayed to hear an interview on Democracy Now, in which Oxford Professor Vijay Prashad explained why he is skeptical about Facebook's and the Digital India concept being promulgated by the current Prime Minister of India:

    "PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: From creating infrastructure to services, from manufacture of products to human resources development, from support of governments to enabling citizens and promoting digital literacy, Digital India is a vast cyberworld of opportunities for you.

    AMY GOODMAN: Professor Vijay Prashad, can you talk about Modi's plan, Digital India, to get a billion more Indians on the Internet, and why you co-signed that letter by a hundred academics expressing concern that it's a front line for mass surveillance?

    VIJAY PRASHAD: One of the things that Modi said when he sat with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, he said that India is a series of Ds, one of which is democracy, another of which is deregulation. One of the principal themes of this government has been to push for a business agenda in the name of the poor. I think that's a very clever strategy they've used, but it's also a very dangerous one. So, for instance, the Modi government has opened 170 million bank accounts for Indians who didn't have bank accounts. But, of course, these bank accounts are empty. ...

    This pro-business agenda is very much in display in his Digital India idea. He sat down with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who has created a web portal called, linked up with a major Indian multinational called Reliance. The idea is to get the poor with the ability to get onto the Internet, in the same way as the poor were merely given bank accounts. So they will have access to the Internet. The problem is that both Facebook and Reliance are constraining the kind of Internet that people are able to reach. ... So, that's one of the major problems with the Modi attempt to do deregulation and development in the name of the poor. It's actually merely in the interest of the rich.

    On the other side, there is no guarantee in India that there is no surveillance of the population through these mechanisms. You can give people various apps to access the Internet on their smartphone, but there's no protection against surveillance. And that's the main reason why I signed that letter, was I feel like it's erroneous to believe Modi's populist rhetoric that he's doing these things for the poor, when the very protections that are necessary are not in place and where the interests of the poor are not necessarily to be served."

  • Bizwhizc
    Consult Bizwhiz on February 28, 2016 at 11:53 a.m.

    The importance of Internet is incresing day by day.But today over half the people on this planet don’t have access. We have to do something to overcome this. 

    Today the global development and global connectivity are linked. The development in various fields can achive through internet connectivity.   




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