Saskia Rowley
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Affordability a major hurdle in ensuring equitable access Today, access to the internet and mobile phones is critical for people everywhere. Still, 40% of the world’s population has no access to the internet[i], with countries such as India (50%), Ethiopia (81%), and Brazil (29%) having significant portions of their population classified as “unconnected”[ii]. In terms of mobile telephony, while access has increased significantly—there were an estimated 5 billion cellphone users as of 2019, only 45% of mobile phone users in developing countries have access to a smartphone.

Last year – and even as recently as January 6, 2021 – saw anti-democratic tendencies and misinformation magnified by social media in several countries, contributing to near breakdowns in the rule of law. It is time for stringent regulation of social media companies and online platforms as part of a more concerted plan to curb abuse, hate speech, and cyber-bullying.

Stars on the digital Walk of Infamy are being awarded to world leaders. Former US President Donald Trump, current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro have each received one. They have been admonished by Twitter and Facebook for posts that violate public interest policies and rules about misleading information.

Public safety and national security are two advantages of facial recognition technology. Law enforcement agencies use the technology to identify known criminals and to find missing children or seniors. Airports are increasingly adding facial recognition technology to security checkpoints. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security predicts that by 2023 97% of travellers will be subjected to facial recognition.

Using smartphones to track and trace during the Covid-19 epidemic creates a smokescreen for wider surveillance measures that may infringe people’s right to privacy. Human rights activists are concerned that such data can be used to discriminate against migrants, refugees, and on racial grounds.

Fifty-five years after the death of the French author Albert Camus, and at a time when Ebola was raging in West Africa, the British journalist Ed Vulliamy wrote a glowing tribute about one of the writer’s best-known books first published in 1947. “Of all Camus’ novels, none described man’s confrontation – and cohabitation – with death so vividly and on such an epic scale as La Peste, translated as The Plague.”1