Jonar Nader criticises the Australian Government’s Stay Smart initiative as a waste of time. Jonar wants governments to act to assist its citizens against scammers and hackers. Merely sending warnings to users does not help much, simply because commentators have been warning the users for years. Users need their government to be tough and to track down the criminals. Jonar speaks with Walkley-Award winning journalist Ghassan Nakhoul. This broadcast is spoken in Arabic.
Below is an English transcript of the Arabic interview.
Radio Program ‘The Youth & The Future’
An interview with Jonar Nader, commenting about the Australian Government’s Stay Smart initiative.
Is the website newly established by the federal government to protect the personal computers going to be effective?
Why is no one arresting and stopping people who spread computer viruses and spam emails on the internet? Is it true that one day we will have to pay to send an email?
The Federal Government launched a website to help people by providing information on how to protect personal and small to medium size businesses’ computers from different kinds of attacks they frequently face. The website is www.staysmartonline.gov.au
But, is this website going to achieve its purpose? This is what we are going to discuss with the Thinker and Electronics Expert, Jonar Nader.
Host: Jonar, What do you think about this government initiative?
Jonar Nader: You and I always talk about how good information is. That information is power, and if you provide people with ideas and information, they will be stronger, and it will be difficult for others to scam them. But why does the government provide such information when there are many radio stations, magazines and millions of websites where such information is available. This is a basic thing, so why does the government waste time and money in doing what is already done? I don’t think the government should be giving us information we already know, or can find easily somewhere else, I want the government to do what they should do, and the best thing to be done is arresting the ones who abuse people, and putting laws in practice to punish them and to send them behind bars. Launching this website is like as if we have many criminals and thieves in the streets, and instead of the recruiting and placing police officers to stop them, we advice people not to carry cash or wear jewellery.
So why does the government spend money and time on such a matter? We need the government to do what is overdue for the last 20 years. If the case is about a minister that has nothing to do, so he orders the establishment of an information website, then I think this minister is on vacation and does not know what is going on.
Host: So you think that this website is not going to help? And actually, if you look at the advice on the website, you will see that they are more like warnings.
Jonar Nader: I have visited the website, and spent a lot of time navigating it in order to make sure that I am not missing something. I was shocked by the waste of time. I mean the internet occupies a lot of our time, the amount of spam is very large, the scam and online theft is overwhelming, viruses are everywhere, and all that we need is a strong person who can stop the those who are responsible, instead of telling us that they exist and that we need to be careful.
Host: But they are saying that the website will help protect people and personal computers, because they do not have the necessary means to protect themselves.
Jonar Nader: But what is this website that will help people to protect themselves?
Host: So what do you think is missing, and what should the government do, as long as they have all these abilities?
Jonar Nader: Everyone should do what he can, and what is within his powers and responsibilities. The government responsibility in case we got hurt is not to tell us to be careful, we need actions, and we need them to do the right thing.
We are not paying attention to what is going to happen with regards to the internet, in the past, when we use to send an email and wait for few minutes or for ten minutes, it was acceptable, and we were thankful that we are able to send a letter within the same day. However, emails are a one way communication tools, and the internet is now being used in everything, business, hospitals, and everything else. For example, the doctor can be in one city, and a patient with a critical case is in another city, and the x-ray results must reach to the doctor’s computer, and the doctor must send back his comments in no time.
In the past, the email had no data; it was only plain text, now we send videos and recordings etc… In the past, there use to be libraries, and now the electronic library that your son might have at his PC is larger than what existed in the city hall at the age of Shakespeare. The technology that got us to the moon is now at your finger tips, the PC and the mobile phone that we use now is more advanced than the computer which sent people to the moon.
I think that in five years from now, the information that you and your children will download and upload will be larger than the size of the information in all of the emails being sent and received in all of Australia. After 10 years from now, all the internet transactions that take place now in Australia, are going to be done by only 20 people. That is why if you wanted to calculate the infrastructure requirements, you will find that we are hitting a brick wall. That is why if you asked me about what the government should do, I think the government should understand what is going on in the population, technology and E-Crime rates. Because when it was ok to wait for an email to reach its destination, now it is not, now we even use the mobile as a computer, and people who download movies and music cannot wait.
Internet in these days is like electricity, the society cannot survive if the electricity keeps cutting off every five minutes, and then people will have to wait for half an hour to get it back.
Host: You mean that the government should strengthen the infrastructure?
Jonar Nader: Actually, there is an argument around this point, some say that it is not the government responsibility to strengthen the infrastructure, and I say it is. Because if we are going to wait for the corporations to do that, then we will wait forever, simply because telecommunication companies and internet provider companies do not care about consumers and all they care about is how to maximize profit. So, they will not try to expand the infrastructure, they will try to expand the customer base.
Let’s take the doctor for example; you call the clinic to book an appointment, and they give you one at 12:00, you arrive half an hour earlier to be polite, and you still wait four 2 hours before you get to see the doctor. The reason is, the doctor instructs his secretary to book a patient every five minutes, to make sure that he does not waste a single appointment in case a patient canceled or was late.
It is the same case with the internet providers, because they have clients waiting to send their emails, videos or even hospital and airport information, and the more the traffic, the happier they are, because every second counts, and now, the current infrastructure is proven very profitable.
So, what will happen in this case, they will wait for the government to take action, because the government is supposed to have long term thinking, although the reality is that in our democracy, we have no long term thinking government, we have governments who only give promises to be elected.
So what do you think would happen if the doctor’s waiting room had 100 people waiting for an hour instead of 10? Then, whoever pays more will get in first.
Host: And you think that the same thing will happen with the internet?
Jonar Nader: Yes, this is what will happen with the internet. And you can see now that there are different internet subscription packages, the more you pay, the better the subscription and the internet speed. And did you know that the line used for the download is different than the one used for the upload? For example, I might be able to download a picture in 1 minute, but it will take me 10 minutes to upload it.
So, internet providers will look for whoever pays more, even if you told them that you have a hospital, and that information you need is very important, they will simply tell you ‘Fine, then pay us more, and we will give you priority’.
On the other hand, when I send an email now, I don’t pay any charge, but it will cost me electricity bills and internet bills, however, in the future they might even charge me per email, because the infrastructure is weak, the government is not doing anything about it and the corporations does not care. So they will give priority to whoever pays more. Just like in the Australian Post, where they have the Yellow Bag, or the Express Mail that costs more, and because people were using it too much, they developed the Platinum Bag that costs even more.
The same thing happens in the airports; since I travel a lot, they tell me that the frequent flyer gets priority in the luggage handling, so what happens with the people who travel at the business hours? When obviously, most of them are business people and frequent flyer? So who will get the first priority?
Host: If we go back to the email issue, is it possible that it will start to cost money like mobile SMS?
Jonar Nader: Yes, because if you were a business man, and need a priority, then you wouldn’t mind paying for it especially that we are all used to having emails delivered the same day. In the past, when we needed to see a photo, or have a certain paper signed, the fastest way was ‘Ansett Airline’ that used to deliver the mail within one day, and used to cost around 500 dollars. Then came the fax, but the courts had a problem with signature on the faxed documents, and there were things that could not be faxed. That is why people were very happy with the emails, but things didn’t get faster and better for free, for now we have to work faster to keep up, which is something that we got used to.
There will be time when due to the increased traffic online, and the governments doing nothing about it, causing business problems, which gives the corporation the opportunity to charge more.
Host: So, is it possible that online search and browsing will be for a charge as well?
Jonar Nader: Now, when we use the internet to search for Jonar, or Ghassan, you get the results back in no time. Searching for my name or yours happens in a neutral way, meaning that there is no preference in the speed between the search for your name or mine, but if I paid the internet provider in order to have the search results for my name appear faster, then they will give priority to searches for my name over yours, and will make such results appear faster, and when you come to know about it, you wouldn’t like it, and you will tell the internet provider that you have a radio show, and that it is important for you that people will get results faster when searching for your name, or when listening to your radio station online, their answer will be ‘pay us more!’
So, there are two things here; first are the fees that will be in place against sending emails, and the other is the neutrality in receiving information. Which means that internet for the poor is going to be so slow that they will not use it, we know that because we research matters like this, and we ask people about the period they are spend on a specific website before they move from it, we found out that some of them would only wait for less than a second before moving from the webpage if it I didn’t load fast enough or didn’t catch his attention.
The same thing happens if you are listening to some break up broadcast, or video, in this case you will not spend a long time with it.
In the past there use to be the Sydney Bridge alone, and people got so excited when the government opened the tunnel, because it will reduce the traffic jams. However, everyone was used to pay on the bridge only one going from north to south, while with the tunnel we are paying on both directions, and I think we will be paying the same on the bridge soon.
It is the same with the internet, the corporation will take advantage of any opportunity to make you pay, because they know we need the internet, and we will pay to use it if we had to, and not because the infrastructure is weak, or because the corporations who is happy with the traffic that is making them richer without having to worry about solving any problem.
Host: So, Stay Smart Online is only an advice providing website and nothing else. This particular government said that they are going to strengthen the Broad Band. Do you think this would help?
Jonar Nader: This is a very good talk. But it is like saying ‘Elect us, and you will have better education’, or better health care. This means nothing, because it is only election talk. When they say we are going to spend more on education, ask them what does that mean for my son? So when they say something like strengthening the Broad Band, it is like someone is putting his hand on your face stopping you from breathing and is telling you ‘elect me, and I will let you breath for a second’
The Broad Band is a line, and what they mean is that they are going to enlarge this line, just like adding lanes to a street.
Host: But it is part of the infrastructure.
Jonar Nader: Yes, but you have to do the right thing from the first time. If there was a bad traffic jam, and you add a lane to the street, what benefit will you get if you will face the jam when you enter the city if you have not solve the bottle neck.
That is why we cannot say that enlarging the Broad Band without being fully aware of the traffic online. And we have to ask what the benefit is for our kids? Is it only a split second extra speed?
Host: Thank you for your time Jonar.
Jonar Nader: Thank you Ghassan.
Host: The thinker, the critic and electronics expert Jonar Nader. And with this, we end this episode of “Youth and the Future”.