What do you need on the Internet?

You may have come across Maslow’s heirarchy of needs before. It is a theory that all humans have needs which must be met in order to satisfy the requirements of physiological needs (anything that the body needs in order to continue to function, ie. food, water, sleep etc), safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

How do these needs translate in a digital world? Is there an equivalent set of needs that need to be fulfilled? Check out the following diagram from Flowtown which looks at the Heirarchy of Internet needs and make up your own mind.

Heirarchy of Internet needs

Heirarchy of Internet needs

Digital divide

There are still over 20% of Australians who have not ever used the Internet.  10% is due to factors such as age (too young) and cannot be ameliorated. But 10% are not using the Internet because they do not have computer or Internet access or more importantly the skills to go online. These people are the socially and economically excluded and are missing all the benefits we take for granted from the online world.

This is particularly hard for the economically disadvantaged as Internet access has been shown to create substantial economic savings to users.

Libraries have always been the prime location for challenging this digital divide. Those who do not have work or home access have been able to use the Internet and in some cases been able to take free classes on its use.
In the UK, there is a new charity called Race Online 2012 which aims to 

give Britain’s socially and digitally excluded equal access to the life-changing power of the internet. Our goal is a 100% online and networked UK.

One of the ways they help is to get people to assist other people online. Even if it is just to take someone who hasn’t used the Internet before and put them before this online tutorial.

In Australia, we need to keep addressing this issue also. There are still far too many elderly Australians who feel excluded by technology. Considering the advantages of participation online to assist with loneliness, isolation and lack of mobility (even if it is just online shopping) they are the group most likely to benefit from the Internet.

If you know someone who doesn’t have access to or skills in the Internet, why not find a way to help.

Internet as a right

A BBC poll of people in 28 countries has found that 79% of people now believe that access to the Internet is a fundamental human right.
The vast majority of people living in the most developed or Internet literate countries such as Japan also say that they could not now live without the Internet.

Other interesting poll results show that information is still the most sought after commodity and that censorship by governments is widely and sensibly feared – Here is where librarians come in …

ISP court determination

A landmark decision on the role of ISP’s and their legal responsibilities has been made by the Australian courts today. ISP’s, the court has found are not liable for their users use of the Internet.

See the story in the SMH here

You may wonder why this is of relevance to Libraries, well because as has been shown by the UK Digital Economy Bill, a public institution that gives users Internet access would also have been as liable to fines and disconnections as an ISP. Thus Libraries could have found themselves liable for all the actions of their public users, which would have made providing access impossible.

Of course Libraries already take some responsibility for their users, but in the same way it is impossible to maintain a watch on a photocopier to check that a user doesn’t photocopy more than 10% of a book, it would have been impossible to check the copyright actions of every user on a public Internet terminal. Admittedly it would be impossible for a public user to download a movie (because of the size and time constraints), but there are many copyright works which are smaller and more accessible. There are a large number of brand new books that are in copyright which are available on the Internet, controlling the download of these reasonably small text files would be difficult.

All libraries can do in this matter is to draw attention to copyright law by signage and education, as we have done with photocopiers for many years.
We should be wary of any further legal attempt to find companies and public institutions liable for the uncontrollable actions of their users or customers.

Internet and Libraries

Cybersmart poster for libraries

The Internet censorship debate continues across library land. A very good post by the President of ALIA is available at: http://www.alia.org.au/blog/?p=146
Obviously librarians are opposed to censorship of items which are not actually illegal, as is being proposed, but while we believe in a free Internet, it is also especially important for librarians to remember their primary role as guides, teachers, facilitators in all things Internet for the public.

We have responsibilities on both sides of this issue. We oppose unnecessary censorship out of principle, but must on the other hand give the public and expressly our library patrons the tools and knowledge to make the Internet a safe place for them and their families.

Public libraries in general all have Internet use policies that prohibit illegal or nuisance Internet use, in tandem with that they should also give practical guidance, training and direction on how to avoid risk and potential harm. Our role in doing this has been recognised by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

Libraries play an important role in providing internet access and advice to children, their parents, and other library users. To help library staff in this role, ACMA has developed a range of resources about how to manage risks so that library users have safe and positive experiences online

You can see some of the resources that they have developed in conjunction with ALIA at: http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/Libraries/Downloadable%20resources.aspx

For public librarians and for those who work in public access areas the Cybersmart Guide for Library Staff is also useful. Available at: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/115943/20100203-1020/ACMA_CybersmartLibrariesGuide.pdf

While we are here, ACMA also promotes the Safer Internet Day which is on 9 Feb. The slogan for the day is: Think Before You Post
Now that really is something everyone should keep in mind. What you post on the Internet today will probably outlive you given that there are numerous web archives, and that search engines routinely makes copies of the entire web, and individuals also portions of it, and many companies retain ownership of content which you have uploaded (such as Facebook). Of course this is no reason to panic and never post anything, it is just to be aware of what you are posting.

Think before you post online poster

The Great Australian Internet Blackout

The campaign against censorship steps up this Australia Day week with a campaign appearing across numerous Australian websites coordinated by http://www.internetblackout.com.au/

Librarians have a dog in this fight as they are the guardians of information and the champions of access.

The Australian Library and Information Association therefore has a statement on online content regulation at
http://www.alia.org.au/policies/content.regulation.html which says:

Libraries and information services facilitate and promote public access to the widest variety of information, reflecting the plurality and diversity of society. The selection and availability of library materials and services, including online content and services, is governed by professional considerations and not by political, moral and religious views.

Libraries and information services support the right of all users to unhindered access to information of their choice regardless of format.

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)

also has this to say:

The global interconnectedness of the Internet provides a medium through which this right may be enjoyed by all. Consequently, access should neither be subject to any form of ideological, political or religious censorship, nor to economic barriers.

Welcome to the Internet age

Where the average U.S. citizen spends up to 68 hours per month using the Internet both at home and at work (with almost 5 and a half hours spent using Facebook),  a statistic that is rapidly catching up to TV viewing time.

Where there were approximately 8.4 million active internet subscribers in Australia (as at the end of June 2009, according to the ABS).

Where broadband access has been declared a legal right in Finland, with providers having to supply all users with access speeds of at least 1 Mbps, with the aim of increasing speeds up to 100 Mbps by 2015.

What’s next for connectivity? How else will Internet usage impact on our habits and lifestyles?