When We Come Together, We Are Richer for It Thumbnail
Growing the Internet 7 April 2020

When We Come Together, We Are Richer for It

By James WoodFormer Head of Content, Internet Society Foundation

These are unsettling and unprecedented times.

The speed at which coronavirus has taken hold around the world, and the dramatic changes to our lives that it has brought, would have been difficult for many of us to contemplate just a few short weeks ago.

Social (and physical) distancing measures that were merely a suggestion then have suddenly become a strange reality for millions of people, with entire countries going into complete lockdown, borders and schools closing, planes no longer flying, and normal social activity placed on hold.

The vital role the Internet is playing is clear for all to see. It allows us to work together while we are socially apart, quietly and quickly providing many of us with a way to continue our lives. It has allowed us to maintain at least some sense of the ordinary during an extraordinary time.

We are asking a lot of the Internet, but it is ready for the challenge. It is enabling companies to keep working, schoolchildren to continue learning, and families and friends to stay connected. Even virtual birthday parties and weddings have become a hit!

The Internet means that self-isolation may be a physical reality, but it need not be a lonely one. As we all do our part for the greater good, we can hold onto our routines, connect with our loved ones and community, learn, and stay informed – many of us from the safety of our homes. Let’s remember that the Internet makes this possible.

Coronavirus has brought these fundamental qualities of the Internet back into focus. It reminds us of what the Internet really means for our global society. It allows us to collaborate, communicate, and share across time and distance. 

Imagine what a world with coronavirus might look like without the Internet.

Yet for all its power, we cannot take the Internet for granted.

Core Internet infrastructure providers should be able to absorb the immediate increase in traffic caused by a surge in online activity. But the Internet still needs our help if we want it to be there as a lifeline for everyone in the future.

Nearly half the world’s population still has no access to the Internet. We must continue to expand its reach to everyone who needs it. And as we do so, we need to protect it against threats and vulnerabilities to make the global network as strong and as secure as possible.

There is a lesson in the Internet for what we face today. It teaches us that when we work together and support each other collectively and collaboratively – in “the Internet way” – we are richer for it. Achieving success in our mission for the Internet, as with our global response to coronavirus, will require us to come together to work as one, to support each other, and to collaborate. This is how the Internet has been all along.

Ironically, one of the byproducts of social distancing is a social cohesion many of us have not seen in our lifetimes. People are coming together to look out for each other, keep each other’s spirits up, and help where they can. Just as we are realizing the true value of the Internet in keeping us connected during this critical time, we are also appreciating the importance of a society that works together in the face of adversity.

In these testing and turbulent times, the Internet stands ready to play its part for everyone. The world can still tick along thanks to the Internet, but only if we work harder to bring access to more people, to strengthen security online, and to recognize that, like the Internet, we’re stronger together than we are apart.

Thank you Internet.

What are your stories? Share them with #IHeartTheInternet.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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