The Digital Divide has reared its ugly head again. (Illustration from Knowledgecontent.org.)
Much of the talk at this week's UN Conference on Internet Governance involved governments from the developing world looking for hand-outs to bridge this Digital Divide.
At the same time, the disputes over regulating Voice Over IP mainly involved payments to the Universal Service Fund, designed to bridge the American Digital Divide.
Most people think I'm a liberal, so let me say something that may shock those people. Both these claims are bogus.
Moore's Law can handle the Digital Divide. In fact, it's doing a very good job of it. We don't need no big guvmint, as the right might say. We don't need it on a national level, nor an international level. Not for this problem, anyway.
What we need is for government to get out of the way, truly out of the way.
Moore's Law means it gets easier, and cheaper, to add digital resources as time goes by. And it's exponential. (Ibid.)
In the U.S. and Europe connectivity is mainly provided by copper wires and switches that take 30 years to depreciate. Fiber, too, takes 30 years to depreciate, but once you're within reach of one, a single cable will now handle all your backhaul needs.
Once a cable is landed, you can use wireless technologies to spread that bandwidth inland. You can depreciate those costs in three years. So three years from now you can deliver an exponential improvement in your infrastructure for no more than you paid this year.
All you need is a business model that will pay back those low costs.
And if you're looking for business models you never look to government. You look for entrepreneurs.
The answer to Africa's Digital Divide can't come from the West, unless you want the UN to create a system for declaring countries "failed" and take over their governance (which no one in Africa claims to want).
This is because the answers don't have dollar signs attached to them.
- You need democracy, governments willing to go when their people say go, and a system for proving that mandate exists which all will subscribe to.
- You need capitalism, a system that protects enterprise and the fruits of enterprise, that provides incentives for people to risk.
- You need liberty, a system of laws that guarantees rights and assures that anyone who tramples on those rights will be severely punished.
There is plenty of room for each country to find its own way, but human rights are universal, the market is universal, and democracy is a universal good.
Those countries that embrace democracy, capitalism and liberty will succeed, because they will adapt to change, including the changes and opportunities made possible by Moore's Law. Those that don't will fail. They will continue to spawn despair, and poverty, and terrorism.
America's Digital Divide will be easily bridged by entrepreneurs if the markets are simply opened up. That means we need true deregulation, the elimination of the cable-Bell duopoly, a fair shake for Wireless ISPs, and the treatment of spectrum as an ocean, not a set of concessions.
You see, the solution to the Digital Divide in both cases is the same.
The answer is freedom. Give us freedom and Moore's Law will do the rest.