People who invested time, money and skill to invent information communications technology (ICT) and offered it in mutually volitional transactions to eager consumers are being villainised instead of canonised. Previously, information was acquired from teachers, parents, colleagues, newspapers, books or libraries. Rich people made "trunk calls" via manual "switchboards" on "party lines". The poor "posted" long-forgotten things called "letters".
Now, virtually everyone on the planet carries the world’s information in their pockets and teleconferences with anyone anywhere. There are more active cellphones than people.
Yet two businessmen pulled off an amazing coup by getting widespread support for their selfish business interests. They did so by popularising disinformation to the effect that data charges relative to cost are excessive and by launching their spectacular #DataMustFall campaign. Project Isizwe runs an online petition demanding "free WiFi in public spaces". What people who demand "free" or "cheap" stuff have in common is the pretence the benefits they demand are not at the expense of society, and that society is not primarily poor people.
ICT is one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments. Access to it is a fabulous privilege, not a right.
The best way to keep up with the technology explosion and extend cheap access to all communities is to reinstate traditional human rights, slash network licence fees, allow free competition, release wasted "spectrum", have the Treasury, not consumers, fund free internet for schools and encourage investment by discontinuing the nationalisation threat. In short, government is the problem, not the solution.
• Louw is executive director of the Free Market Foundation.
This article was first published in Business Day on 9 November 2016