Defining a technology hierarchy of needs

Speaking at the Internet of Everything conference in Barcelona today, Cisco CEO John Chambers described broadband as a basic human right.

This is an interesting, and somewhat provocative, idea. While there’s no doubt ubiquitous internet is an essential service in an advanced economy and increasingly critical to most industries, calling it a basic human right is a big call.

Perhaps we need to consider there is a kind of technological order of  services, something similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.


In the tech sector  the most basic is electricity as without power all this technology is useless.

Sitting above this are the core infrastructure like the cables, ducts, telegraph poles and subsea cables.

Then perhaps there is the internet itself including the routers, switches and base stations which keep the internet running.

Above those are the connected devices — the smartphones, the robot mining equipment and the internet fridge.

Processing all the data these devices generate is the job of the data centres and cloud computing services which make the internet of everything work.

So perhaps to describe broadband as a fundamental human right is overstating things when a large proportion of humanity doesn’t have access to reliable electricity or drinking water.

What’s interesting watching John Chambers talk is how passionate he is about the Internet of Everything, so much so he’s betting the company on it.

It’s understandable that John Chambers and Cisco would consider broadband internet to be one of life’s essentials as it is critical for the company’s growth and survival but for humanity we should remember that some technologies and services are more essential than others.


About the author

Paul Wallbank is the founding editor of Networked Globe and has nearly twenty years experience of working in and reporting on computers, the internet and the future of our connected society.