Applying design skills to address social problems
An irrefutable fact is that, across the globe today, there are myriads of social problems that are yet to be addressed. It is sad to see a number of individuals suffer because of social problems that can be solved. Developed countries, especially those in Europe and America are far much ahead of the others when it comes to the invention of designs that are meant to eradicate or bring social problems to an end. On the other hand, the poverty-stricken developing countries have a long way to go in terms of innovations, as well as the invention of designs purposefully for the eradication or elimination of social problems. Apparently, one of the greatest challenges that the modern-day man faces is the application of design thinking outside the corporate sphere in the global civil society. It so happens that a few intellectuals have overcome the challenge and instead, have made it a great modern-day opportunity. There are a number of instances where modern-day man has used design to solve the social problems faced by other human beings in the world today. For instance, in the US, the mayor of Chicago (Daley) has capitalized on a design to eradicate education and transportation problems that are faced by the residents of Chicago. Studies show that the mayors of San Francisco and New York are soon following suit. Although the US is still at the early stages of using design to eliminate social problems, it should be noted that European countries are miles ahead in the same. Undisputedly, Britain, Denmark, and a number of Scandinavian countries use design to aid in the solution of major social and economic problems. Thus, there is a need for the US as a whole, as well as other global countries to use design in solving social and economic problems that deny humans of their hard-earned and desired happiness. The invention of designs with the aim of solving social problems should not be an issue left for the authorities. Every individual needs to come up with a design aimed at solving a particular social problem.
Lack of internet accessibility as a social problem
In the world today, authorities and governments are focused on solving social problems such as transportation, education, poverty, and insecurity. One of the most overlooked social problems worldwide is the lack of or the inability to access internet for people in certain sections in the world. Despite the fact that the world is moving fast technologically and that there are many countries that are developed and the economy in them is such that there is availability of affordable internet, there are other regions across the globe where the penetration of internet is questionable. Besides, if there is internet in the ‘click’ of regions, then the affordability of the available internet raises more questions than answers to the residents of the regions. Solving the problem needs the understanding of what internet accessibility and affordability entail. Internet accessibility is an inclusive practice that involves the removal of potential and existing barriers that prevent people, normally referred to as Internet users from having access to websites of their choice. Essentially, ensuring correct design, development, and editing of sites allows users to have equal access to information and functionality of internet websites. Unfortunately, this is one of the global objectives that are yet to be accomplished. Instead, there are people who easily the internet while others struggle to access it. Hence, there is a need to salvage the latter’s situation. On the other hand, internet affordability is the ability to purchase the right to have access to internet websites. As the cost of living worldwide goes up, several individuals lose hope of affording internet. The implication is that a good number of people have lagged behind in terms of socio-economic development.
The variation in the number of internet users from one country to another underscores the fact that lack of internet access is a social problem. The figure below shows the inequality in internet access across the globe.
Figure 1: Internet users worldwide by region
Source: International Telecommunications Union
From the figures above, it can be observed that the percentage of internet users in Europe and America is higher than that of the users from other regions such as Africa, Asia, and Pacific, as well as the Arab States. The variation in the percentage of internet users as seen is owed to the fact that America and Europe, considered as the first world continents, have put in the place technological advancements and designs that have solved the social problem of lack of internet accessibility and affordability. The greatest concern and worry among people is why the lack of internet access is considered as a social problem. Apparently, the lack of internet access is a considerable social problem because of the negative impacts it has on individuals. First, the internet acts as an exemplary resource that plays an integral role in the learning process for students. Through the internet, students can do their homework and do research, and other related material. The internet also gives students an opportunity of engaging in social interactions with their close friends through Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Thus, without internet access for a few individuals, there is a possibility that they could lag behind in terms of academic achievements as well as social interactions, and this underscores why lack of internet accessibility is considered as a social problem. It should also be noted that individuals who can neither afford nor access internet become socially disadvantaged. Moreover, they can become social rejects because of their inability to obtain information or communicate with their close relatives or friends. Bearing this in mind, the internet is a key component for ‘normal’ functioning of humankind, and there is a need for every person across the globe to have equal and equitable access to internet. In the next few years, depriving another person the access to internet will amount to a violation of human rights. In a bid to prevent this, internet access should be made free to all, and the achievement of this objective relies on the invention of an appropriate design.
Previous attempts to address internet accessibility and affordability
The identification of the lack of internet access and affordability as a social problem led to the emergence of numerous attempts to end the problem. In the recent years, various countries have strived to come up with strategies and ways of doing away with the problem of lack of internet access. However, the outcomes of the attempts have been both positive and negative. In other words, whereas some attempts have worked, others have failed miserably. In the United States, in a bid to ensure Internet accessibility in every region and state, the Federal Communications Commission through its Chairman Tom Wheeler, came up with a decision of ensuring equal internet access for every person within the country’s boundaries. In rolling out the plan, Chairman Wheeler together with FCC’s board decided to place broadband internet providers under a very strict regime. The strict regime’s major purpose was to ensure that equal internet access across the United States was put in place. Some of the decision made by the Federal Communications Commission was to ban the so-called paid prioritization, online discrimination, as well as blocking of internet sites by broadband providers. Apparently, the attempt to ensure free and equal internet access in the US by the Federal Communications Commission has seen to be successful. In addition, the attempt has received enormous public approval and interest from the citizens of America. However, the push for the adoption or embrace of the proposal has received criticism and resistance from the cable and telecom companies who have the perception that FCC is interfering with their affairs. The attempt to ensure free and equal internet access by the FCC was applied to organizations such AS Time Warner Cable, Comcast, T-Mobile, as well as Sprint, the latter being a wireless provider. In the attempt, the FCC aimed at ensuring that the common practice of broadband and wireless services providers of speeding up and slowing down web traffic was illegalized. Moreover, the FCC illegalized any decisions that the service providers would come up with to block web traffic. The attempt is considered widely as successful as it has ensured that internet accessibility and affordability within the United States is no longer a social problem for the citizens.
The other attempt to address the problem of lack of internet accessibility and affordability is evident in the United States when municipalities came up with broadband projects that that capitalized on the utilization of wireless services to supply broadband accessibility of the internet. Some of the municipalities that implemented the projects include Houston, San Francisco, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Unfortunately, the projects in the municipalities failed terribly. In follow-up of the failure of the projects, a company known as EarthLink came up with a proposal that would see the creation of state-of-the-art wireless systems across cities in the United States without any financial support from the cities. The projects established by EarthLink across US cities failed, and this is owed to the fact that the results of the projects were not as expected. In fact, instead of EarthLink’s projects solving the problems of lack of internet accessibility and affordability, the costs of the wireless internet was higher than the normal costs. Besides, the quality of the wireless broadband internet that was established by the company across US cities was poor. To make matters worse, the number of people who subscribed to the company’s wireless internet system across cities was very low, and this crippled the project.
The other attempt to end the social problem of lack of internet accessibility and affordability is the launch and development of broadband systems worldwide through the use of fiber networks. In contrast to the use of broadband internet, the use of fiber-optic networks across the globe has become very successful and efficient. The reason for the project’s warm reception worldwide is that it provides faster broadband Internet, and its capacity is more than that of the wireless broadband internet previously initiated in the United States. On the other hand, the success of the fiber-optic network projects across the globe is owed to the fact that they have the ability to provide dedicated, as well as faster internet connections to various homes. In as much as fiber-optics networks have helped address the problem of internet accessibility, its affordability remains a big menace to global internet users. There is a misconception that the fiber-optics networks are very expensive and are unaffordable for the common man. Nevertheless, the easiest way to solve the problem of affordability when it comes to fiber-optic networks is that municipalities or governments should step in and purchase the network for their citizens. With the challenges facing the previous attempts in ending the lack of global internet accessibility and affordability, the perfect and permanent solution to the problem remains the use of industrial design.
Design of product to address the lack of global internet accessibility and affordability
My project looks forward to coming up with a product that will make internet access available to a number of people across the globe who have no access to it. One fact that should not be ignored is that although internet accessibility and affordability are not a major concern in developed countries, there are other regions across the globe where the social problem is persistent. Besides, with the available internet, it is very hard for people to afford it because of the extreme levels of poverty. Therefore, the aim of my project is to come up with a product that will play an integral role in making internet available to poor households for free.
To start with, this project capitalizes on the fact that there are numerous places such as supermarkets, pubs, shopping centers, as well as other public places where Wi-Fi is available and can be accessed freely. Bearing in mind that the wireless internet in such places is not protected by passwords, the aim, or plan of the project is to ensure that the free internet is harnessed and channeled to every household, especially the poor households. This project intends to come up with a product, television dishes, which will be used by individuals living far from the sources of the free Wi-Fi to receive the wireless signals. The functionality of the television dishes should not be a worry to individuals who look forward to benefiting from the project. The purchase of the television dishes will be a responsibility of the individuals who focus on benefiting from the project. The television signal reception dishes are affordable owing to their low purchase prices. Once purchased, the reception dishes will be installed in homes in a way that they will converge together the Wi-Fi signals from various places to a single point, called the focal point. The aim of the convergence of the signals to a focal point is to make them stronger. Apparently, stronger signals will result in the faster internet for usage by the poor individuals. Once the signals are converged to a focal point, they will be incorporated with signal amplifiers and through this, people who live in places that are far from the source of the Wi-Fi will be in a position to use the Wi-Fi in case they will have the equipment installed at their homes. Apparently, the objective of the project is to ensure that internet can be freely accessed in poor households. It should be noted that not every person will be in a position to purchase or afford the television signal reception dishes. Therefore, for the case of people who may not be in a position to afford dishes or those who live far from the sources of the wireless signals, the project will build internet substations. The internet substations will play an integral role in the collection of the free Wi-Fi signal, their amplification, and retransmission at a higher power to the various households. Undoubtedly, through this project, a number of individuals from poor households will have free access to internet, and thus, will enjoy the myriads of benefits of internet. An image of the reception dishes that will aid in the convergence of the wireless signals as shown below.
Figure 2: Television signal reception dish
Adaptation for the use of the product around the world
This project looks forward to penetrating into various parts of the world, and this is an achievable objective owing to the benefits that accompany it. Thus, together with various governments, this project will come into terms of an agreement with various wireless service providers in various countries to create or establish more Wi-Fi sources. Currently, most of the higher educational institutions in most countries have free Wi-Fi. The project will begin by getting into agreement with the managements of the institutions of higher learning, and this will see the transmission of the wireless internet signals to various homes, especially those in serious need of internet yet they cannot afford it. The project will also work hand in hand with authorities of major cities to ensure that free Wi-Fi is availed in specific places in every city such as stadia, markets, and industrial zones. Thus, the several zones with Wi-Fi will make it easier for the transmission of the signals to various homes that are far from the sources of the wireless internet signals.
All in all, with the rapid evolution and change that the world is undergoing currently, there are various technological resources that humankind cannot live without. The internet falls among the technological resources that human beings cannot live without in the modern world. Arguably, Internet has gradually become part of people’s everyday life, and the lack of internet accessibility today makes people feel socially excluded and rejected. Besides, learners in various educational institutions are likely to lag behind in terms of academic achievement and performance if they are unable neither access nor afford the internet. People should strive as much as possible to get over the failed attempts in the provision of free and equal internet in various regions of the world. Instead, people should step forward and initiate as well as embrace industrial designs that could help the social problem of internet accessibility and affordability. As discussed, one of the potential industrial designs that could help people have free and equal access to internet is the convergence of Wi-Fi signals through the use of television signal reception dishes. People need to try out the project, as the accompanying cost is much lower as compared to the cost of installing modern Internet technology such as fiber-optic networks.