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The internet, travel

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With Teri Sequeira:

Did you know that, back in 2016, the United Nations made a declaration that access to the internet was a human right?

Specifically, they made an addition to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to this effect.

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This declaration was, of course, non-binding, as many countries objected to this for mainly political reasons.

This resolution does make complete sense to countries wishing to uphold the right of their citizens to be informed and educated and build trust with them.

I have written in much detail about the benefits of internet access for all – not least in areas of education, health and agriculture.

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For many of us in white collar jobs and urban areas, the internet is our lifeblood. We use it to do our banking, to advise each other on traffic jams, to share our experiences – in the face of our limited press options.

We plan our social as well as business schedules around this. And most importantly – for those who like travelling – being able to keep in contact with friends, family and work colleagues is absolutely essential.

I recently travelled out of the country for a few weeks and was impressed by the way the internet has improved the quality of life of many people in the first world. Firstly, there is the issue of communication while in transit.

Addis Ababa and London Heathrow airports both offer free and fast internet access to travellers. I recall this is also true of Dar Es Salaam Airport last year, as well as most hotels and tourist centres. Think about it – in the event of a delay, or a long transit period, you are still able to work and communicate at will.

You can even verify flight delays online. This contrasted sadly with our Malawian airports – both Chileka and the new Lilongwe airport.

On both departure and arrival, the flights between Lilongwe and Chileka were delayed.

As transit passengers, initially, we were not informed whatsoever of any delay and I watched international travellers getting increasingly frustrated and restless at not having any access to their mobile phones for long periods.

Presumably, they could inform people meeting them of these delays. By the way, internet is now also available inflight, but at quite a substantial additional cost. Still, this is a start.

In London, I was struck by how the internet made travelling in the city so easy. Waiting for a bus, train or tube was simple – there are mobile apps that will tell you exactly when the next bus or train will be arriving.

Booking an Uber taxi to get where you want is amazing – once booked, you are advised online exactly what car registration is booked for you and can watch them approach on an online map. Waiting around becomes a thing of the past.

Imagine the number of productive hours saved. Map mobile applications allow you to select your destination and, using GPS, will map out your options for travel, including the time your journey will take, based on your alternatives. It will notify you when you have arrived at your destination. Wishing to book a table at a restaurant?

Go online and do this. While you are travelling there you can access their menu online – and in many cases – select your menu choices to be ready for when you arrive. Change money or make a large purchase?

In many cases, you are able to request an online receipt by furnishing your email address. This appears in your mailbox within an hour.

With tourism potentially a massive economic opportunity in Malawi – serious consideration should be given by both government and tourism service organisations to get Malawi on track with the rest of the world – with at least the offering of free internet services.

We need to maximise the digital opportunities offered us to take us out of our poverty-stricken status.

Teri Sequeira is Managing Director of SyncIT Solutions Ltd. He can be reached on teris@SyncITAfrica.com or terisequeira@hotmail. com

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