Ever since the World Wide Web was invented by Tim Bernes Lee in 1989, the internet has grown by leaps and bounds, and today ranks as one of the central phenomena in human life. Even though it offers a lot of benefits, its benefits are not purely unalloyed, but it is also associated with several unintended consequences (Otfinoski, 2007). On the positive side, the internet has been able to expand access to educational opportunities through e-learning or distance learning. This is because it offers enhanced access to educational opportunities both at a cost that is highly affordable, as well as in a manner that is highly convenient.
For example, it allows those with busy schedules to conveniently schedule their classes. Apart from enhancing access to educational opportunities, Fairlie (2004) writes that individuals with access to the internet generally exhibit higher school enrolment and completion rates compared to those without access to internet technology. The internet also offers a huge repository of data and knowledge, resources which researchers can tap into. Secondly, the internet has become an important channel through which employment opportunities can be accessed.
Sites such as Monster. com are daily helping to connect thousands of jobseekers with available job opportunities. Additionally, the internet is a powerful communication tool. Through the e-mail, instant messaging, and online chatting forums, people from many different parts of the world are able to send and receive messages and feedback from each other. The internet offers social networking forums such as Facebook and Twitter, through which millions of people worldwide share ideas and resources (Buchanan, 2002).
The internet also provides huge entertainment value for millions of people worldwide. Through the internet, it is possible to watch and download one’s favourite videos, music, and TV shows. One can also play or download one’s favourite game. It offers a platform through which users can shop online, which enhances convenience in buying and selling (Buchanan, 2002). The internet has also made significant contributions to business, with e-commerce helping businesses create new sources of competitive advantage.
Through direct marketing, organizations are able to cut out intermediation costs and lower costs. They are also able to access new markets without the added hassles of travelling across geographical boundaries. With more than one billion people connected to the internet, organizations have a potentially huge market made of billions of people, unlimited by space or time, which can be tapped into at the touch of a button (Rahman and Rasinghani, 2000). The internet has additionally brought about new opportunities that have birthed entirely new businesses and industries.
Some of these businesses that immediately spring to mind include the so-called dotcoms, some examples of which include Amazon. com and EBay. These have created employment opportunities, and become a source of livelihood for thousands of people (Rahman and Rasinghani, 2000). Even though the internet provides a lot of benefits to users, it also has a grim underside associated with it. Security risks related to the breach of data security and confidentiality, data integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation exist.
For example, by using “sniffer” programs, hackers can collect personal information such as passwords or credit card numbers from their unwitting victims, which they can use to carry out fraud. This is known as identity theft (Cheswick, Bellovin, and Rubin, 2003). Apart from the theft of sensitive personal data, data being transmitted over the internet is prone to being compromised, by for example being modified by malicious users. Other threats include spoofing, where one computer can sidestep the authentication of a system by impersonating it, thus gaining unauthorized access to data carried in that system.
Bugs in software and hardware resulting from design vulnerabilities, as well as malicious programs such as viruses, Trojan horses, and worms also present potential security threats that internet users are faced with (Cheswick, Bellovin, and Rubin, 2003). Apart from security threats that internet users face, the internet has also been associated with increasing the rate of sexual immorality, more specifically by exposing underage users to sexually explicit or pornographic material.
According to Rovou (2007), there are some 4. 2 million pornography sites, and that every second, 28, 258 people are viewing pornography. Yet another adverse consequence that has been associated with the internet is that it has led the creation of the digital divide, which is threatening to widen the disparities between marginalized groups (such as minorities and those with lower incomes) and the privileged ones.
For example, the internet offers educational opportunities (through distance learning), employment opportunities (through sites such as monster. com), and in recent times citizens of many country have been able to participate in many important national events through the internet thanks to e-governance initiatives. The fact that many people from the low income brackets and those from minority racial and ethnic groups have not been able to effectively access the internet as their counterparts from the dominant group has brought about concerns that the disparities between the two groups are likely to widen further, with the risk of the widening inequality causing social strife (Fairlie, 2004).
References: Buchanan, W. 2002. The complete handbook of the internet. Springer. ISBN: 1402072368, 9781402072369. Cheswick, RW, Bellovin, SM, and Rubin AD. 2003. Firewalls and Internet security: repelling the wily hacker. Addison-Wesley. ISBN:020163466X, 9780201634662 Fairlie RW, Pastor M, London R and Rosner R. 2004. Race, youth, and the digital divide: a research and policy initiative. Center for justice, tolerance and community.
Retrieved on 220 June 2009 from http://cjtc. ucsc. edu/PowerPoints/dd_wtgrant_slide_show_204. pdf. Otfinoski, S. 2007. Computers. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN: 0761425977, 9780761425977 Rahman SM, and Rasinghani, MS. 2000. Electronic commerce: opportunity and challenges. Idea Group Inc. ISBN: 1878289764, 9781878289766. Rovou, J. 2007. ‘Porn & Pancakes’ fights X-rated addictions. Retrieved on 20 June 2009 from http://www. cnn. com/2007/US/04/04/porn. addiction/