Entries in broadband (2)


Broadband access furthers free markets and the United States is behind the curve

I spent the last two weeks in Estonia enjoying the free WiFi on my iPhone throughout the capital of Tallinn, including hotspots on the street to guarantee coverage literally everywhere. Finland last month already announced a 100 megabit per second broadband connection to be a legal right. Now today Techcrunch reports that Sweden has announced a new broadband strategy that promises that same level of connection to 90% of Swedish homes in the next decade (a much better policy than publishing personal tax data).

Northern Europe has it right. The internet opens up markets of opportunities -- from lending/borrowing to e-commerce -- to people otherwise left out of traditional systems. We've discussed online micro-employment opportunities, but the benefits extend to education, health, and the environment. The United States is falling way behind: Pre-arrival in Europe, I couldn't even access free WiFi in the first class Scandinavian Airlines lounge at Dulles Airport. Internet penetration in the United States is less than 75%. It's time to make access a priority.


Broadband enables access to employment through online markets

With $7.2 billion in stimulus money slated to go towards expanding broadband access and closing the "digital divide" in rural areas, debate is ongoing whether these increasing opportunities actually lead to job growth. Many commentators agree that access is not enough; adoption must be encouraged and training provided to take advantage of technology-driven jobs.

For large-scale growth, this is absolutely true, but access is an important first step. On a micro-level, broadband access can open up opportunities to create value in dignified and entrepreneurial ways. We are well beyond the home-based Ebay businesses. Here are a few sites where high speed internet access and only a little training enable individuals to be their own boss and generate income. No one will claim to become a millionaire this way, but micro steps in the right direction can be a powerful enabler, and online markets can connect labor to those who need it. How?

  • Sell your crafts on Etsy. The crafter marketplace has a whole section, "Quit Your Day Job", on success stories of artists who turned their online businesses through the site into a full time gig.
  • Expand your small business from a p2p loan. For small rural businesses, p2p loan marketplaces like Lending Club and Prosper can open up access to small loans that might make a big difference to their operations.
  • Perform Human Intelligence Tasks on Mechanical Turk. Mturk has thousands of opportunities to complete small tasks for money that often require little technical skill.

Nonprofits like Samasource show how providing marginalized people with basic technological training and internet access can open up diverse opportunities to earn a living wage. Rural communities in the United States with fewer traditional employment opportunities could benefit immensely from access to these online markets. What other online opportunities exist?