Letter: Internet inequality

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Oliver Burkeman (Network, 17 August) takes a hammer to crack a nut. He reports statistics showing what is already obvious: that people who can access the Internet tend to be more prosperous than those who can't. He implies that this is bad and that a more egalitarian Internet is called for.

Burkeman descends into the downright silly in bemoaning the high cost of Internet access in sub-Saharan Africa. Pandering to class envy in this way adds nothing to our understanding of the Internet phenomenon. One might as well pontificate about the paucity of Rolls Royces among the poor.

Such simplistic reporting also ignores the fact that people's tastes vary. Many of us aren't interested in computers. We may, for example, prefer to spend our discretionary income on 20 cigarettes and a couple of pints of beer a day, rather than to save up for a computer.

An egalitarian Internet may seem ideal to some, but this is naive. Internet access is just another consumer good which, like all such goods, will be purchased by those who a) can afford it, and b) are interested in buying it.

No one has a "right" to it, any more than they have a right to having a free copy of The Independent delivered every day.

JOHN A MOTTRAM

Pensby, Merseyside

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