Lebanon, the Internet and literacy

The slow bandwidth, lack of broadband, free wi-fi spots and a proper and affordable pricing structure are dramatically contributing to the drop of literacy in Lebanon.

Yes, even Facebook and illegal torrents are tools of education. Not that I encourage illegal activities… but really, where else will you learn “things” in Lebanon? Certainly not the media! Surely not expensive books! And absolutely not from your entourage.

Before the advent of Internet, TV used to teach us a lot. English was perfected by many through TV series and movies. Documentaries were our hungry minds window to the world. Hell! Even news were good to watch back then. Books were cheap, magazines were about fashion instead of sick outfits, about innovations instead of cheesy gadgets, and about world human happenings instead of modern days copycats.

And one day, we woke up and all was gone. TVs started beaming brain-damaging endless soap operas, sci-fi movies where the only fiction is the director. And whenever there’s a worthy channel, you have to pay loads of cash to see it or… hack it.

Books became for the wealthy (as if they needed education to buy an outrageously huge and hideous pinky gold ring), and if you manage to land on an affordable one, it’s always about Lebanese politics, and the only way to rationalize this one is through a sarcastic joke about the origins of the word politics: ‘Poly’ meaning many and ‘ticks’ meaning blood-sucking parasites. Magazines? Don’t even ask! They contain more Botox than Zaza Gabor’s lips and more slimy-dripping silicone than Silicone Valley, and if they don’t, well… they’re simply “flat”!

So, today we have the Internet! Some will argue that the internet contains the same crap mentioned above. Well yes, true, but the good stuff is a URL away. Your call!

When one school somewhere in Lebanon gets connected and furnishes its classes with laptops instead of books, it’s national news, a scoop. Well, on one side it’s a relief from the usual “I shot the sheriff but did not shoot the deputy” headlines, but on the other… Come on! We’re now bragging about how late we were??!

Before connecting schools and finding enough bandwidth to make it run, how about we start with getting homes connected? It’s sickening to find ministers and politicians throwing the blame at each other in a weird ping-pong, over who’s responsible! Hello! Read the blogs, follow Twitter, look at Facebook. WE DON’T CARE WHO’S TO BLAME! Denial is far from being just a river in Egypt you know… Don’t know who said that, but I’ll marry her if it’s a “she”!

Bandwidth is available, the infrastructure is available, everything is ready but it takes a little bit of, Ahem!… brain… and… balls! Here I said it. Another sarcastic joke is due: God gave men enough blood to make only one of two function at the same time… so that’s probably why, broadband will take some time….

Most of what I know today, most of the information I had and that developed into knowledge was acquired from the Internet. My children (and yours) acquired their knowledge from the internet. And all that was achieved with the slowest of connections you could have anywhere in the world!

If we were to count on parents, society, schools and the whole educational system over here to provide knowledge to our children, they’ll end up talking politics, weather, coffee cups fortune-telling and some weird and totally misleading history material.

We want people to know about Facebook, but also about Zuckerberg, Apple, but also Steve Jobs, Obama, but also Kevorkian. We want them to know about big movies, but also about YouTube amateurs. We want them to know about Twitter but also Foursquare. We want people to harness the power of the internet to the maximum. We want them to bleed it dry. It is amazing that in some North European countries, Internet access became a citizen’s right, just like electricity and water, while here, it is still a luxury… like electricity and water!!!

The rich get richer, and the poor poorer… This needs no elaboration in Lebanon, but the danger that lurks inside does. The rich is motivated by money, while the poor is motivated by knowledge. Underprivileged people “know” that to make money, they need knowledge, not education; knowledge. They can’t afford education, because the country leaders simply won’t avail it, but knowledge should be accessible to everyone. It costs less to avail bandwidth than to build schools, and over here… It even educates better!

Ok, it’s true,  I love being sarcastic. I love criticizing the leaders, not “our”, “the”; they’re surely not my leaders, and you know why? I refuse to be led by someone who’s knowledge-meter is below freezing! I always wondered what do they do with their Internet at home besides playing online poker or watch… Ahem! (again) indecent and decadent material? Oh come on! Don’t tell me politicians read the news on the Internet! They made the news and trust me, even they don’t want to read their own crap.

So, do you want to create a nation? Do you want to build a country with its feet on the ground but a soul in the stars? Do you want to see yourselves and your children become beacons of knowledge? Ask your government to open up the bandwidth pipe and lower the Internet prices. Ask your politicians to avail free wi-fi spots all over the urban areas. Tell them that politics don’t make countries… Countries make politics

Only then will you “really” discover the difference between orange, yellow, green and blue. You’ll find out they are just colors… Nothing more… Nothing less.

12 Responses to “Lebanon, the Internet and literacy”

  1. 1 Octavia
    September 21, 2010 at 16:41

    So wonderful to read a genius!! What a wonderful piece.. Smart, deep and very funny. A rare combination these days!! Thanks Eby for the great food for thought and the heartfelt laughs!

  2. 2 Samir Hafza
    September 21, 2010 at 17:45

    Hey, good words; good thoughts. But I’m afraid you’re barking up the wrong tree.

    I came here with a mission to improve, educate, make all the changes I could. Unfortunately, all I got was whiffs of smoke from cigarettes and water-pipes!

    Don’t mean to be so gloomy, but as my friend has said, “Lebanon has expired.” And I am marrying her.

    P.S. It was I who invented the expression, “Denial…and I don’t mean the river in Egypt.” So since I am a male, you’re out of luck. No, no, just kidding.

    Thanks for your article. Don’t despair. Many of us have already.


  3. September 21, 2010 at 19:25

    Thank you Samir for your comment. Over here, we all bark under “any tree” if we manage to find one still 🙂

    I came back to Lebanon in 1999 with lots of hope… I still carry it waiting to distribute…

    I’m so glad to finally meet the “man” behind the famous “denial” adage 🙂

    As for despair, it’s a bit too late for me too… So all I can do is vent!

    Thanks again

  4. 4 Samir
    September 21, 2010 at 22:49

    Many thanks for this high standard paper written by a Lebanese. I am happy that people like Ibrahim and Samir (not myself 😉 ) chose to go live in Lebanon. It would let the possibility open for me to go back one day… Lebanon needs a modernity as “lebanifically” (@Samir 2010) personalized as this paper is. I trust you guys and people like you can do it. Go ahead. I am proud of you. Samir

  5. 5 Rania
    September 22, 2010 at 00:46

    thank you for your thoughts… there are no words to express the joy of reading what you wrote… Sadly, here’s an answer to your wishes http://www.smex.org/2010/09/قانون-الإعلام-الجديد/

  6. 8 marcel
    September 29, 2010 at 21:45

    this is an excellent article! I am french educated, and that i learned all my English from Television and books, without having to take any courses!
    I have read somewhere recently that a minimum of free 1MB internet connection has become part of citizen rights in Norway. That is the way one build a nation

    • September 29, 2010 at 21:58

      Merci Marcel. En effet et en Norvège, il est devenu le “droit” de chaque citoyen d’avoir accès à l’Internet. Tout comme toi, moi aussi je suis d’éducation Française, et j’ai perfectionné mon anglais “parlé” à travers la télévision et autres moyens audio-visuels. Indéniablement, l’éducation et la technologie sont liés par un cordon ombilical très intime.Il est malheureux que dans un pays comme le Liban, l’Internet est toujours perçu comme un luxe.

      Pour ton info, quand l’Internet fut introduit au Moyen-Orient il y a une bonne dizaine d’années, le Liban à lui seul accumulait 42% des internautes de la région entière. C’est navrant de ce retrouver désormais au bas de la chaîne.

      Merci encore une foi pour ton commentaire.

  7. October 7, 2010 at 15:48

    “Denial is far from being just a river in Egypt you know…” lol

    When will this country learn that investing in it’s people is the best investment they can make?

  8. 11 Rikkles
    October 7, 2010 at 16:01

    The problem are many and varied, from politicians holding on to control of telecoms to rake in the commissions, to fully 80% (yep) of LB’s bandwidth being consumed by YouTube. That’s not a bad thing per se (lots of informative stuff on YouTube) but it shows how much more bandwidth we need. We probably need 100x the current bandwidth. And as long as there’s rampant corruption and a culture of always waiting for the next war, we ain’t gonna get far.

  9. December 30, 2010 at 08:10

    This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives indepth information. Thanks for this nice article. GBU 😮

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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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