April 2014Monthly Archives

So What About Digital Equality

For many  the phrase digital equality has very little meaning, but for others it’s an important concept.  If you look at the news events for any given week you’ll normally find some examples of how are access to free communication over the internet is being curtailed somewhere and somehow.  Take for instance Turkey, at the moment there is growing discontent with the Turkish Prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan primarily for allegations of corruption. His response has been typical not of a democratic republic but more of a dictatorship, at least as far as the digital world is concerned.

In Turkey as we speak, Twitter is banned and YouTube is being actively blocked, this is together with one of the biggest lists of blocked sites in the democratic world. A person accessing the internet in Turkey does not have the same access and rights as someone in the USA would. The justification given for blocking these sites, is very weak but in essence it comes down to one thing – these social networking sites are being used to spread the corruption allegations and the government don’t want people to talk.

There are of course much worse places than Turkey to access the web, in reality most of the blocks implemented there don’t work anyway. Just as people will circumvent all sorts of restrictions there are lots of ways to bypass the Turkish blocks, my sister relays her connection through a Canadian proxy server run by a friend of hers. Turkey is a relative well connected country and the citizens are mostly able to afford things like proxies and vpns to bypass even the best filtering attempts. If you try and access the net in China it’s a different story as it’s actually quite hard work bypassing some of the Chinese blocks (of which there are many!).

The trouble is that in China and restrictive regimes like Iran and North Korea, they have actually spent a lot of time an money in making sure people don’t have free access to the internet. Sure proxies and UK VPNs still work – like this iPAd VPN service, but with enough resources being put into tracking these methods you would have to keep changing. China for example have even been found to track and block TOR outlet nodes which is not an easy task in itself.

So this is the problem, the internet is arguably the greatest advance in communication since the telephone. Yet for many it’s still dictated and controlled by the people who run the country they are in. Most democratic governments have no need or inclination to block access to the internet and social networking sites but for many regimes it’s often a priority. An invention that should bring us closer together and make our rulers more accountable is often just another inequality that some people have to suffer.

Gay Equality Takes a Huge Step Forward

The day was the 29th March, and the event may have passed you by – but for all gay couples it was an important date.  For many it represents a landmark in the country that for many epitomizes a fair, equal and tolerant society – the United Kingdom.  It’s important because it now pretty much represents legal equality with heterosexual couples, which when you think about it makes perfect sense.  For gay people living in fear in countries like Russia, Uganda and many strict Muslim countries, such a situation seems almost surreal.

It’s a great day and one that does our country great credit.  Of course many gay activists will rightly argue that although the gay community now have legal equality, there is still a great deal of social inequality and prejudice around.  I think though it’s something that will be achieved slowly and gradually, not with aggression and protests.

Let’s face it the British people are pretty tolerant and accepting, well mostly.  They tend to appreciate what is fair and what is right in their own time.  There are obviously some very anti-gay opinions out there, but mostly these belong to older generations and such are slowly drifting form the public mainstream.  They will continue to have an negative impact of course, but the effects will slowly diminish.

As it stands today, I think the social stigma has reduced drastically – many  teenagers are quite happy to admit their sexuality, although it is of course still incredibly difficult for many.  The way for continued change in my opinion is through education of our young people.  There is little to be gained from rallying against ingrained bigotry in the older generation, the battle should be fought in the classrooms and when necessary in the law courts – strategically of course.

But that’s enough for this piece, it’s been a great week for Gay rights in the UK.  But there is still an awful lot of inequality for other members of society and of course throughout the world.  I spoke to a young man who was trying to run an internet based business the other day, who was facing huge obstacles.  The reason was he was based in Nigeria, a country famed for it’s internet scams and fraudsters.  His problem was that living in this country he was tarred with the same brush and blocked and restricted at every digital turn.

It doesn’t sound like the same thing but this inequality has huge effects on millions of people online, discrimination creeping into the digital world.  There are technical solutions to his issue of course where people can use proxies based in different countries like Russia or the USA if required.  Digital inequality exists all over the world and it also has a huge impact on peoples lives – it might sound trivial that Viooz is blocked in my country, but that may have impacted the income of many families.   But still it shows that equality is not restricted to any single cause or sector of society.   It exists everywhere, and we are better placed to fight it as a whole rather than on specific issues.

University Fraud Scandal – North Carolina

It’s been ongoing for a while now, but the academic fraud scandal in the University of North Carolina is beginning to gather pace. Slowly pieces of information supporting the allegations have been leaked out to various sources with the latest an essay of the namesake of this site.

To summarize the story briefly – it is alleged that the University’s academic courses taken by the athletes in the University have been little more than a charade, with students having to do virtually no academic work at all to pass their courses. In support of these allegations the last tidbit of information has come from a former tutor who has released a paper on Rosa Parks.

The paper was part of the final exams and received an excellent grade of A- and here it is –

On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. “Let me have those front seats” said the driver. She didn’t get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. “I’m going to have you arrested,” said the driver. “You may do that,” Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them “why do you all push us around?” The police officer replied and said “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

 

That is it, in it’s entirety – there is nothing missing. But there’s not only a problem with it’s brevity, the fact is that it’s very likely pinched from the first page of the Rosa Park autobiography. An amazing piece of academic research I’m sure you’ll agree ! For an assignment to be given n A grade, it should represent the highest level of attainment that can be reasonably expected of a student at that level. The phrase outstanding promise is also used in the registrar’s guidance.

We humbly suggest that the student should really do Rosa Park a little more justice in his assignment. It does give fuel to those who believe that the many sports/academic courses are merely facades and that there is no real academic content to these degrees. There’s some interesting commentary from various journalists available on the American online networks, if you’re outside the US you can access them by using this tool.

There is a notion that all these scholarships are not worth considering from an academic viewpoint and stories like this one from North Carolina are becoming more and more regular. But on the side note and the reason we posted this article, if you are looking for information on Rosa Parks check out the information on this site and there’s also a good article on her via the BBC website.

For information on accessing UK TV sites like the BBC abroad – please follow this link.