[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small. See the ships sailing along, and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.” – Psalm 104

In 1651, an Englishman named Thomas Hobbes used the metaphor of the powerful, even unassailable aquatic giant of biblical lore to present the concept of the commonwealth. If we live as individuals, caring only for ourselves, he said, our lives could only be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

But if people can find their way to compromise with one another, to accept that respecting mutual rights is better for one and all, a person could “be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself.” Hobbes contended that this commonwealth of like-minded people becomes strong enough to be unassailable – or at least better able to defend itself than any individual ever could. Leviathan emerges where only shoals of darting, frightened minnows existed before.

The Internet lends itself very well to such imagery. Individually, we are tiny minnows awash in a vast, sometimes unfriendly sea of information. Acting alone, we can find some good in it, but we are largely defenceless against the greater forces at work. If we join forces with our like-minded brethren, though, we can achieve great things. Not the least of these is a degree of safety, comfort and predictability in how we experience the Net.

Sometime very soon, Vanuatu’s Internet marketplace is going to be liberalised. The approach will be similar to that used to bring competition into the mobile telephony market. But there are a few significant differences….

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