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Study shows that the “Internet is unavailable” to visually impaired users

A study published by Deque Systems - a digital accessibility company and conducted by Nucleus Research shows that 70% of Internet websites in certain industries such as e-commerce, e-government, news and information, etc. are unavailable to visually impaired users. According to the report, 7 out of 10 blind persons cannot access e-government services whereas 8 out of 10 users experience difficulty accessing news websites.The research therefore highlights the existing digital divide despite measures taken to make the Internet more accessible to visually-impaired users, and emphasises a missed market opportunity for the concerned websites given that they lose roughly USD 6.9 billion to accessible e-commerce competitors annually. 

The report found that well-known e-commerce actors including Amazon, Target and Best Buy lead the way in addressing accessibility issues in the e-commerce space. 

The effects of India’s shutdown of Kashmir’s Internet access. 

A news report has documented the effect of the Indian government’s shutdown of Internet and telecommunication services which has entered its 11thday in the contested region of Kashmir.

The report specifically highlights the case of one Masroor Nazir, a pharmacist in Kashmir’s biggest city, Srinagar, who claims he is unable to stock medicines, since he no longer has access to the Internet which is needed to order new drugs. He is also unable to meet requests from smaller pharmacies in the rural parts of Kashmir. The report continues with the impact on other critical services such as banking, where most ATMs are not working since they rely on the Internet to operate.

 

High cost of internet access leaving low-income families behind, report finds

A Canada based organization, ACORN Canada, is calling on the government to act to save the situation since their research findings are showing that the cost of internet access in the country is posing a threat of leaving low-income families without the means of taking part in the digital economy.

A
news report that gave the main highlight of ACORN Canada’s report dubbed “Barriers to Digital Equity in Canada” captured the need of making “digital equity” federal priority by the government.  According to the report, online access has become critical to “apply for jobs, complete school work, download government forms, pay bills and connect with family and friends.”   This makes the case for internet access as a basic human right that must be protected.

Among other things, the report suggested that the government should expand the
Connecting Families program, which was launched in 2017 to deal with the widening digital inequality in Canada

Algeria briefly blocked internet after online call to oust army

According to a news report, Algeria on 8 August, 2019 blocked access to the Internet briefly after an incident bordering on political security. The report which relied mainly on the observation made by the Internet rights group, Netblocks  noted that “YouTube and several Google services and websites have been blocked across Algeria on the evening of Thursday 8 August 2019 by state-run Algeria Telecom and other leading internet providers.

According to the report, the restrictions came after a video publication of an Algeria ex-defence minister addressing members of the National People’s Army was interpreted to be a call for the public to oust military leader Ahmed Gaid Salah.

Lawsuit filed with US Supreme Court to overturn web accessibility decision

Domino's Pizza has petitioned the US Supreme court to overrule a federal appeals court ruling which decided that 'accessibility standards apply to online services just as they apply to businesses covered by the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]' in what is called 'a model example of the fight between businesses and people with disabilities over the enforcement of accessible online services, even in the absence of set federal guidelines'. A main point of contention is that the US government has failed to establish set regulations regarding online accessibility measures, although the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium have been widely accepted since1999. The decision has wide implications for web accessibility due to the thousands of pending cases in lower courts, and the topic of online accessibility for a service that is widely known for its online delivery options.

Major Internet shutdown registered in Kashmir as crisis worsens

There has been a clear confirmation of loss of internet access across the Kashmir region as contained in network data shared from the Netblocks’ internet observatory. This occurrence is happening amidst increasing military presence and curfew imposed allegedly by Indian forces.

The report explains the internet blackout to be related to the imposition of Section 144, which limits public assembly, across Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir and Jammu. Other surrounding regions have also experienced significant disruptions.

The internet disruptions in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been recorded as the 51st blackout in 2019 has “raised concerns for the safety and wellbeing of residents as well as posing a threat to the fundamental human rights of free expression and free assembly.”

Evidence of internet disruptions in Russia during Moscow opposition protests

reportshared by the global Internet observatory non-profit organization, Netblocks, has provided technical evidence showing targeted Internet shutdowns on the local Rostelecom network  in Russia on 3 August 2019. Additionally, users of MTS and Beeline experienced 3G/LTE outage on their mobile devices in the same area where protesters passed by. Representatives of the operators denied any targeted shutdown, however, activists collected a range of evidence. The shutdown occurred around the same time demonstrators hit the streets of Moscow to protest against efforts by the authorities to stifle political expression and representations in local elections.  Netblocks confirmed their findings with a tweet as captured below:

Russia Internet disruption

 

Ethiopian prime minister says the country will cut internet as and when, since 'it's neither water nor air'

The prime minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Abiy Ahmed, in a news conference reported by the Africa News website has defended the blackout that the country has recently experienced. According to Mr. Ahmed, Internet in the country could be cut off forever, if that is what it would take to curtail deadly unrests incited by online communication tools.

The prime minister has been praised for the many reforms he has introduced, making the country one of the vibrant economies on the African continent. However, according to the report, many Ethiopians have been unhappy with the Internet shutdowns which have had negative impact on businesses and free speech. Mr. Ahmed’s response to his critics during the 2 August news conference is that even though Ethiopia needs the Internet to accelerate its development, it is “neither water nor air.”

Broadband chiefs fire back at PM's full-fibre internet pledge

The UK’s telecoms industry has outlined in an open letter to the new prime minister, four main challenges his government must address if he wants to achieve the “full-fibre broadband for all” by 2025. The main issues to be tackled as captured by a news report are;

  • Planned reforms to ensure that landlords grant access if a tenant requests fibre or other connections to be installed at his home.
  • Removal of the so-called fibre tax which applies business rates to fibre infrastructure thereby discouraging investment.
  • A requirement that all new homes being developed make a provision for fibre broadband.
  • Money must have devoted to ensure the training of more engineers who will carry out the work involved. This is also because Brexit could result in labour shortages.

FCC proposes establishing $20.4 billion rural digital opportunity fund.

The U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has in a press release proposed a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund aimed at expanding broadband access to unserved or underserved rural areas across the U.S. The proposal contained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking document, and open for comments, is considered by the FCC as its single biggest step since its establishment to bridge the rural digital divide gap that exists in the U.S. The FCC notes in its proposal that if it is approved, at least 4 million rural homes and small businesses that currently lack modern broadband service will have access to ultra high speed connectivity of at least 25Mbps/3 Mbps, with incentives for faster speeds.

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