We live in a connected world, and the news travel at incredible speed. Many of the networks we know are based on the idea of information as a product to be consumed, and that involves people, businesses and organizations, each with a different set of characteristics. But not everything is under the same umbrella, because, in case nobody’s saying it, some people are out in the rain. If you think for a second that everyone should have their basic needs attended to and do a little research on how people are actually living, you’ll find that there are hundreds of millions without a home and over a billion and a half living in inadequate shelter, facing problems like plumbing and electricity distribution shortage; statistics showing that 1 in 7 people in the world are hungry, while a third of all food goes to waste; that healthcare is not a universal benefit in many places, which has been discussed in countries like the United States, in the attempt to pass into law a free plan to ensure people can get treated for their conditions using taxes to cover expenses; people who don’t feel safe where they live, due to violence that has a country like Brazil leading global crime rates; among many other factors that need improvements, such as the access to information and culture, freedom of communication and work opportunities, all of which most people would agree that shouldn’t be a privilege, but a right.
There is, though, a level of privilege in being among the mega wealthy, and while some people wouldn’t like to hear it, the executives in companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon or even Facebook seem to be struggling to decide what to do with their trillions of dollars. Whether it’s a software used globally, a service for your daily communication, an easy place to go to when you need to make a purchase or a circle of trust connecting your real life with the digital, there’s some organizing principles which most people don’t fully understand, but it’s their profits that make us have strong opinions about what they’re doing. Microsoft has a number of investments in social programs and research; Google, aside our e-mails, owns YouTube, almost a synonym of video and what happens on the internet for longer than a decade; Amazon reinvented retail in many ways and Facebook made us reassess who we are and how people really see us; but when you look at the deeper problems, you’re likely to think it’s not about what they’re doing at all. When we think about principles and values, outside of our families, we think about who we’re going to vote for and what can be done to close the gaps in development and quality of life – for everyone, not just us. But we tend to focus on minor issues, and while these companies are responsible for efforts in the right direction and contributing with a better society, people also want to know what a copyright is, what data really means, why certain kinds of labor grant so little pay and how our information is used in connection with sales, all themes they had to go public about. I know there are many other aspects in the tech giant narratives, but without transparency, their decisions might just change how we’re living our lives without anyone to point out a different model, which should always exist, according to every economist alive or dead.
You may have a friend who speaks about individual freedom and accountability as a basis for any democracy in the world, but we’re in the age of digital role models. If someone shares a fake article, sells a malfunctioning product without warranty, spreads malicious programs to compromise personal information, exposes our privacy without consent or prior knowledge, attacks our personal honor and dignity without a repercussion, we might just think anything goes. But we need to look outside the web, and realize we’re also enjoying certain privileges in terms of what’s being offered to us, while so many lack the basic right to be part of the process – which configures what people have called digital exclusion. While the internet is a few decades old, cities date back from centuries, and we need to understand that it takes time, but also a little bit of courage and organization, to change the game for social equality, which means we need to help each other to make the world we want to live in a reality for the many, not just the selected few.