As the Internet gets older and more sophisticated, the Marginal Cost (the cost of an extra unit) of using the Internet at any given speed approaches zero. The prospect of a free Internet has good implications for everyone on the planet, even citizens of poor countries who normally miss out on the benefits of technology. This article examines the potential outcome of a worldwide free Internet.
The latest technology will always be expensive, but dial-up Internet is no longer the latest technology. The marginal cost of dial-up Internet is approaching zero, compared with the cost of Broadband Internet. People of richer nations will always prefer the latest technology as they are more able to afford it than the people of poorer nations. Poorer nations will still be able to reap the benefits of the Internet so long as they can afford the price, which will soon be true for dial-up Internet. Dial-up Internet is suitable for educational purposes and software development purposes, as it is capable of quickly rendering text and image based web pages and allowing users to communicate efficiently by text-based email messages and Instant Messenger type programs.
The marginal cost of the above-mentioned hardware is approaching zero, which means that even the poorest people in the world will soon be able to experience the Internet.
For the poorest people in the world to gain access to the World Wide Web requires not only free hardware but also free software. The GNU/Linux operating system meets the requirement of being free and therefore has a bright future in the poorest nations of the world. While the Microsoft Windows operating system will most likely dominate the marketplace of the richer countries, it will most likely be defeated in the poorer countries where all other things being equal, free products are more likely to be adopted than non-free ones. The only alternative to this result is if users use piracy to operate a "cracked" version of Windows, but this is unlikely to happen for larger companies who must obey the law, whereas smaller companies and private individuals can break the law with less fear of being caught, because in the latter case there are less people who are in a position to report an illegal activity.
It seems likely that in the future, information and educational material will be free, like hardware and software. The Web at the moment is a battle between free content and paid content. The free Wikipedia Encyclopedia is a prime example of a free content provider, while the older institution the Encyclopædia Britannica is an example of a non-free one.
The contest between the Wikipedia and Britannica is like a battle between old technology (paper) and new technology (web pages). Britannica is written by highly respected scholars and still sells sells for a substantial fee even though the per unit (marginal) cost is the cost of copying a CD-ROM, or hosting a Website, both are practically zero. Wikipedia be edited by anyone and sells for free. Because anyone can edit it, the growth of Wikipedia has been exponential and if it hasn't already eclipsed Britannica, it soon will. Wikipedia is often criticised as being not as authoritative as Britannica. However, poorer nations are more likely to use a free service than a paid one, in spite of any lack of authoritativeness. Free online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia could be published as books, so that even countries without the Internet can receive a quality education.
As the Internet fills with free educational material, it will soon be possible for the people of poorer nations to receive a quality education via on-line learning. As the Internet extends to all countries, it will be possible for people to work in any location. Companies will then be able to outsource their work to poorer countries, where wages are relatively less. In this way poorer countries will be able to climb out of poverty.
|Back to Research Projects|
This page has the following hit count: