Why 2/3 of Humanity Has No Internet

Students will face the reality of global information access, namely that 4.2 billion people cannot access the Internet. 


What students will learn

  1. What varying degrees of Internet access exist around the world, from completely open to censored to non-existent.
  2. The reasons that these different levels of access exist around the world.
  3. How Project Empathy uses satellite broadcasting to deliver information in a one-way fashion to every place on Earth.

Lesson topics

Overview of Global Information Access

First, it is really interesting to have students think about what their pre-conceived notions are about access to various essentials around the world. Indeed, what are "essentials?" Food, water, health care, education... see what list the students come up with and then use some back of the envelope reasoning to make guesses. For answers, the World Health Organization has a number of excellent infographics. Perhaps information access is not an "essential" that students come up with. However, it is interesting to note that all of the more commonly listed essentials can be solved with access to the right information.

Have students watch the "Last Book Burning" video produced by Outernet. This will help illustrate the scale of the problem of information access around the world.


Task the students with making their classroom a representation of the world of information access where every student in the classroom represents 100% of the world's population. How many of the students have open Internet access? How many have their Internet monitored or lightly censored? How many have it heavily censored? How many have none at all?


Explanation of the Project Empathy/Outernet broadcast system

It is important to understand how Project Empathy uses Outernet's technology to overcome the global Internet access barrier. We have found that using FM radio or broadcast TV is an easy way to explain how Outernet shares data from space. In essence, we have created one-way distribution platforms for audio (FM radio), for video (broadcast TV), for text (newspapers and magazines) but not for data. With all of the above examples, once you have the consumption device, the content is free to receive (the consumption device for newspapers would be the paper itself).

Students may wonder about the difference between Outernet and Project Empathy. You could compare this to Comcast, a company that focuses only on providing the means to access information (analogous to Outernet), and Khan Academy, a non-profit that uses the Internet infrastructure to deliver education services (analogous to Project Empathy).

You should feel free to tweet @ProjEmpathy or @ThaneRichard during class if there are unanswered questions about how Outernet works. 


Outernet website: https://outernet.is/
LA Times article explaining Outernet: http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-g-outernet-explained-20140808-htmlstory.html
Gizmodo article: http://gizmodo.com/what-is-the-outernet-and-is-it-the-future-of-the-intern-1659647614



If you have additional materials that you think would add to this topic, please write to me, thane@projectempathy.co. This is a collaborative project and we hope that, through more participation, we can make it even better.