With 4.54bn active users – or 59 per cent of the global population – the Internet has become a vital utility for learning, communicating and conducting business. So much so that Internet users must now show responsible behaviour of consumption, similar to water consumption.
“If you waste your Internet bandwidth at home, you may prevent others who urgently need net access from valuable data,” says Prof Dr Nabil Sahli, head of the Department of Computer Sciences at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech).
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we should stop thinking selfishly if we want to survive. If we do not provide the same healthcare and prevention measures to all, the virus will spread in the community. Similarly, if we take all the bandwidth of the Internet for ourselves we will prevent others from even small data packets,” he says, adding that consequently, they will have difficulties in learning, communicating with others or doing business online. Read on –
Q – So man has evolved to a stage where we now need to ration and use the Internet responsibly, much like our food, water and electricity consumption!
The coronavirus has taught us some important lessons. First, Internet has become a public utility and should be seen as important as water and electricity. Each single house should have access to Internet with a reasonable speed.
Most of us will try not to waste water or electricity for fear of high bills. Similarly, those of us who have limited Internet connection, where the ISP charges per amount of downloaded/uploaded data, will use Internet with moderation. However, what about those who have unlimited
Internet access? Most people will not waste tap water even if it is subsidised because they know that water is a vital resource. In the same way, people with unlimited Internet access should not waste Internet bandwidth.
Q – Have we reached this stage too soon?
Let us say that we were not prepared for such a stage now. Internet expansion has been quite fast when compared to other disruptive technologies. Nevertheless, we have not yet reached the maturity stage where all is perfect. We are facing increasing challenges: the Internet of things (IoT) is exploding and we need to connect every single object to the network. Users are streaming more and more videos, which requires a lot of bandwidth. This is, of course, apart from all the security issues that we face with the Internet.
Q – How does Oman’s Internet facilities/infrastructure compare to other countries?
People will be surprised to hear that Oman is quite advanced in terms of Internet facilities/infrastructure. For instance, Oman is now starting to offer 5G services via Omantel and Ooreedo. Only 35 countries have launched 5G. Most European countries have not yet started 5G services. Nevertheless, Internet fees in Oman are quite high compared to the international standard.
Q – How would you describe Internet usage in general in Oman?
I do not have statistics, but I guess we are heavier users. Most people have mobiles connected to the Internet. In 2017, around 80 per cent of the population had access to Internet. I guess now we are close to 90 per cent if not more. In addition, people here watch a lot of videos on Youtube, Netflix…
Q – Educational institutions around the world struggled for years to put courses online. The same institutions managed to offer the same programmes online within a few weeks of the coronavirus outbreak.
We were all feeling comfortable with the traditional teaching. None of us were asked to offer courses online, but we have been using blended learning techniques for several years. Throughout the past weeks, many educational institutions have been trying to find solutions in a very short time in order to teach as before. It was not as smooth as planned. Nevertheless, we have been working very hard and most of us have learnt a lot from this experience.
Q – Your tips to reduce Internet bandwidth wastage?
I don’t think users with limited Internet access will waste. They should only be aware which applications can quickly finish their data packages. People with unlimited Internet access should not waste bandwidth by not letting their YouTube stream while they are off, for example. The Internet is becoming a vital resource pretty much like water and electricity. ISPs have limited bandwidth by neighbourhood. If you waste Internet bandwidth in your home, you are preventing others from valuable data.