Progress is often a scary thing. Sometimes, it’s even an unwanted thing. When the 13 colonies decided it was time to cut the umbilical cord from England, there were colonists among them who thought the idea was ludicrous. When African-Americans struggled for equal rights, the idea of a black president was unthinkable to the American population. When the internet began permeating every aspect of our lives, older generations feared that it would make the world, and its children, increasingly impersonal. Thankfully, they have been proven wrong.
The internet is not only connecting the world, but also increasing it’s standard of living. It is the world’s most powerful tool. It makes politics and diplomacy personal.
Jack Dorsey, the inventor of Twitter, along with representatives from Google, YouTube, AT&T Inc., Blue State Digital and other Silicon Valley executives, now intend to help Iraq rebuild its battered technology industry. Efforts to expand internet use in the country have been hidden by the continual conflict, and it is estimated today that only five percent of Iraqis have web access at home. Internet access has become an indicator of a country’s economic prowess and stability, but its use is far more important than that.
When President Barack Obama gives a speech, the world views it via the internet. In fact, the internet played a significant role in helping Obama win his presidency. Yes, he is a charismatic, bright individual, but those things alone do not bring in money, and it is money that fuels campaigns. Obama’s web campaign pulled in more money than any previous attempts at using the internet for fundraising have done. His effective use of the internet has made him the most powerful man in the world. Blue State Digital, the internet strategy firm that helped boost Obama’s online campaign, now has a representative visiting Iraq. Imagine what the internet can do for Iraqi citizens. Or rather, what it can do for us.
An Iraq with access to the internet is an Iraq that is able to access Obama’s weekly web addresses, view his speeches online and engage Americans directly using websites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter. This would be an Iraq far less likely to believe the propaganda spewed by any potential dictator because Iraqi citizens would be able to see what America stands for on their own. For better or worse, they would be able to judge our nation based on the truth.
This stands true for the rest of the world. The internet is becoming our strongest diplomatic tool, and at the same time, it is becoming much easier to access. Take a trip over to the College of William and Mary’s homepage, and you will find that the College now has YouTube videos and its own Twitter page. Many of us met each other first through Facebook groups set up for the College. The White House is using YouTube to spread its messages, and CNN does not hesitate to use Google Maps on the air.
I have a Facebook page, a Twitter account (which I admittedly never use), watch YouTube regularly, and often use Google Maps as I work at The Flat Hat. As a college freshman, I am using the same tools that our nation’s most influential organizations use.
Ask older generations about the last time they used something the president uses, saw their opinion appear on television within minutes, or easily engaged in dialogue with someone from a foreign country and you will see whose generation is more personal.
E-mail Bertel King at [email protected]