Saturday 16 January 2010

More thoughts on Haiti

One of the first things that I noticed about how this catastrophe is treated in the media is the contrast to other so-called "world events" of the past months. With the demonstrations and protests in Iran, we took it for granted that one of the sources of information available to us, the uninvolved consumer, were Twitter, Facebook, Blogs by people in Iran. They became an important primary source for us and the media - they provided an insight no journalist there could ever have. With Haiti, it's different. Twitter, Facebook and Blogs are important, but mainly as outside sources of information, and as places where people who aren't in Haiti raise awareness about Haiti, and call for donations to help. Information about how and where to donate spreads quickly, but there are no flickr-pictures from current Haiti, no blog entries from people in Port-au-Prince. The catastrophe destroyed the little infrastructure the country had, and according to this statistic, only about ten percent of the people in Haiti have access to the internet.
I think we've grown to take the internet for granted; we consider it one of the most important change that happened during the last decade, and sometimes forget how quickly it happened. I remember that most of my friends didn't have internet access until the early 2000. My parents only decided to go online in early 2003. It's been such a short period of time, and we sometimes tend to forget that other parts of the world are still far from the same level of connectivity that we are, that we take something for granted that still is a luxury good elsewhere. You can find a list of countries by number of internet users on Wikipedia - and the map that goes with that list clearly shows how poverty and access to information (and, if we consider the internet as we see it in 2009, the ability not only to access, but also to share information) are linked.

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