The cyber world has been instrumental in accelerating the pace of globalisation like never before. The concept of a ‘global village’, one world interconnected by an electronic nervous system, has taken wings because of the internet. Instant messaging, broadcasting, streaming and other communication tools provided by the internet have facilitated the free flow of information. This free flow of information has led to the exchange of ideas, ideologies, culture, technologies, etc. This has also led to online money transactions, thus removing barriers to the free flow of capital. The free flow of information and capital has changed how businesses are being done worldwide. Outsourcing has become the norm. Brick-and-mortar markets have become a passe as e-markets are flourishing. Innova4ve app-based business models like Uber have increased their footprints. The introduction of cryptocurrency (digital currency) has the potential to enable more secure transactions in future.
More important than the impact on the economic realm, the internet has affected the social life of human beings. It has changed our interaction with each other. Social networking platforms like Facebook fundamentally changed the landscape of human interaction. Social networking sites have allowed us to reconnect with long-lost friends, network with similar-minded people, express our interests and hobbies, share our opinions and celebrate our life with family and friends. The concepts of likes, shares, memes, emo4cons, pins, tweets, and blogs have added new dimensions to how we communicate. These forms of communication are evolving at a breakneck speed. Even the internet has affected the norm of arranged marriage in India, as evident from the popularity of websites like bharatmatrimony.com., shaadi.com, etc. The Internet has also provided a platform for people with similar hobbies and interests to come together and share their work. For example, Instagram allows users to sharetheir photos and videos either publicly or privately. The Internet also allows us to express our opinions through blog posts, Facebook posts or tweets. Thanks to the internet, man’s social life has entered a new, unknown realm.
It is impractical to list the innumerable aspects of human life that are impacted by the Internet. A concept like the “Internet of Things IoT)”, made possible by the convergence of various technologies with the internet, will transform the everyday life of humans. The IoT refers to any device that can connect to the internet and other devices, whether a smart television, a fridge, the engine – of a jet plane, or even a light bulb. The new rule for the future will be that anything connected will be connected. This will be the key to a future consisting of driverless cars, smart ci4es, fully automated manufacturing, wearable health devices to monitor health, automa4c home appliances, etc constantly.
The Internet provides a veil of anonymity to its users. This has led to various cyber threats, from harmless trolling to financial crimes. Individuals and corporations and even a country’s critical infrastructure can be targeted, as evidenced by the malicious computer worm Stuxnet built to sabotage Iran’s nuclear prog. In this context, cyber security should be a major concern as digital attacks are growing daily and more sophisticated. A related concern is that of privacy. As users put their personal information on the internet, their privacy concerns must be addressed. Unfortunately, governments don’t give high priority to privacy concerns. Various governments around the globe are sanc4oning wide-scale secret surveillance programs like PRISM. Breach of privacy shouldn’t become the price we pay for just going on the internet. In the present context, as the right to privacy has been given recognition of fundamental rights, the government of India has cons4tuted the B.N. Srikrishna committee to suggest standards and ways to protect privacy rights and economic information security of the state and its citizens.
Another major challenge that has recently surfaced is maintaining net neutrality. In essence, ‘net neutrality implies that internet data should be treated equally and no different pricing websites should be done. A level playing field gives internet giants and new-age entrepreneurs equal funding, thus incen4vising innovative business models. The debate on net neutrality in India has taken a different turn. Arguments were made that a country like India s4ll doesn’t have access to data or mobile internet because it is expensive and that zero-ra4ngs (subsidising access to certain websites) could be a possible solution. This brings us to the next challenge: bridging the digital divide. The digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demography and regions that have access to modern information and communication technology and those that do not or have restricted access. If the digital divide is not addressed, the inequalities in this work will increase manifold as people with access to the internet can leverage it to become more prosperous. In contrast, people without access to the internet will languish in poverty. However, the government of India has taken the right step in this direction with its large-scale programme of Bharat N, which aims to connect panchayats with the internet and bring a paradigm shift in governance, thus bridging the digital gap.
We need to create a robust architecture related to cyber security involving multiple actors – national governments, NGOs, business houses, etc. The safety of individual privacy should always be preserved, even if it entails stricter rules and regulations. We are still in the very beginnings of the age of the internet. We can make our life more pleasant with me if more wisdom prevails and the state and non-state actors come together to address various challenges that come to the fore due to internet usage.