Dan Berninger has launched an ambitious program (for which I've agreed to sign on as a supporter), called the 550 Challenge
. The idea is straightforward: see if we can work towards getting every single person on the planet connected to the internet by February 3, 2018 -- the 550th anniversary of Johannes Guttenberg's death:
The 550 Challenge - the world borderless by February 3, 2018 - promotes the expansion of Internet access to include everyone on earth by the 550th anniversary of Johannes Guttenberg's death. Gutenberg died on February 3, 1468 in relative obscurity before the printing press got credit for ending the Dark Age and setting in motion 200 years of accelerated progress in art, literature, and learning known as the Renaissance. The 550 Challenge seeks to realize the promise of the Internet as the basis for a new Communication Renaissance.
With economic turmoil around the globe, and various governments putting together all sorts of "make work" projects to try to boost the economy, Berninger (and those of us who have signed on) argue that nothing can help the economy like increasing communication among everyone on the planet:
A dramatic expansion of communication seems likely to prove more affordable than infrastructure projects, energy related interventions, and war. The nature of communication technology tends to shape the course of human affairs, because communication represents a key input to the global economy. Half of all energy gets consumed by moving people from one place to another, so improving communication can help addresss global warming and geo-political tensions generated by energy consumption.
A telephone call does not require a Green Card or engage the TSA, so communication technologies can lessen the dislocations associated with immigration, emigration, and the arbitrary power of birthplace over opportunity. The Arab Spring illustrates the threat communication poses to tyranny and utility for linking people across lines of conflict. Risks exist with any technology just as roads benefit people seeking to rob banks as well as the general public. The 550 Challenge merely asserts connecting everyone offers less downside risk than the disconnected status quo.
Connecting everyone on earth within six years seems ambitious, but it requires merely sustaining the existing pace of cell phone and Internet expansion. The process of connecting people may require first finding sources for food, water, and shelter as well as navigating dangerous conflict over borders, but the challenges nonetheless do not compare to the World War's of the 20th century both of which played out in less than six years.
It's an ambitious program, but the world needs ambitious programs, and this is one that seems worth supporting and doing anything we can to help it achieve its goals.