International Internet Day is celebrated every Oct. 29. “The internet” is a vast subject, and as we know, not everything the internet delivers goes in the plus column. But much of it is, so this year for International Internet Day, we focus on three areas where internet access has had positive impacts: in healthcare, education, and the arts.
Telehealth keeps doctors, patients in touch
A critical way in which the internet is changing things for the better is in the world of medicine. While the concept of “telehealth” has been around for decades, the rise of high-speed internet has made it possible for two-way, real-time communication between doctors and patients, doctors and specialists, and clinics and pharmacies.
Until recently, just a small number of people were taking advantage of telehealth and telemedicine services. But the global pandemic changed all that. Telehealth visits at the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020 were triple that of March 2019. Almost half of patients virtually visit their provider for at least some of their appointments now, compared with 11% in 2019.
Even though telehealth visits have leveled off since the height of the pandemic, they have stabilized at 38 times pre-Covid levels. Total investment in virtual health is increasing, even post-pandemic. It’s estimated that by the end of 2021, investment in telehealth will top $25 billion.
Viasat aims to be a big part of this growth, particularly in areas where broadband connectivity is lacking. Satellite can help fill those gaps. We’re already helping provide that critical link in such areas, and we’re looking to expand those capabilities even more when our upcoming global satellite constellation, ViaSat-3, is in place.
Equity in healthcare
All of this is good news for many rural patients, who can see a physician without driving miles to a clinic or doctor’s office. Instead of several hours on the road, a visit can be completed in 15 or 20 minutes.
“Over the past year as the COVID-19 outbreak took over the world, we saw families in unserved and underserved communities globally struggling to receive a telehealth diagnosis or treatment due to a lack of connectivity,” said Evan Dixon, Vice President of Global Fixed Broadband Services at Viasat. “We continue to seek out cooperative opportunities to provide value where we can be part of a global healthcare solution.”
The internet and education
The internet has also drastically changed the way students learn. Technology has gradually worked its way into the classroom, from students loading homework assignments on flash drives to full internet integration with coursework.
But that’s only in some areas. Many students around the world can’t get along without broadband to do assignments and keep up with homework. Online classes were offered, but weren’t front and center.
Again, the pandemic has changed all that. More than 90% of the world’s children suddenly stopped going to school and had to find another way to learn. One billion of those students logged on and continued their schooling. Distance learning, online classes, two-way communications with teachers and tutors, and accessing educational sources not available everywhere have transformed the teaching landscape for almost every student across the globe, especially in underserved areas.
Satellite delivery of internet services can be key for these populations. In Mexico, Viasat’s service is connecting thousands of students online — with more to come.
“Today, the internet offers the possibility of providing education to any area with the implementation of satellite technology, which has become the main agent to cover the existing broadband gap in the country,” said Kevin Cohen Viasat’s general manager of Community Wi-Fi for The Americas.
Connect artists and fans online
Entire sectors — like the music industry — have been transformed by broadband and social media. Most artists can’t make a living from what they love to do best, but the internet is altering some of those models.
Thanks to high-speed internet across the globe, artists are now getting their work before large audiences. And with innovative platforms like Patreon, artists are starting to be able to make a living from their talents. Patreon is a subscriber-based platform that basically pays artists to perform and create. Other platforms for podcasters, like Podbean and Acast, work the same way, usually with monthly subscriptions from followers to hear the latest installment.
Patreon co-founder Jack Conte says these platforms are game changers. “We’re going to get so good at paying creators, within 10 years, kids graduating high school and college are going to think of being a creator as just being an option — I could be a doctor, I could be a lawyer, I could be a podcaster.”
And, of course, many types of artists and entertainers make use of popular platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Etsy, Pinterest, and others to find their audiences and support their work.
Satellite-delivered broadband is crucial in all of these areas, particularly where traditional internet providers either can’t — or won’t — offer better service. Serving the underserved to stay healthy, educated, and cultured means better lives for everyone. And as we look toward the upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation of satellites set to cover the globe, we’re aiming to enable many more people than ever to attain a better life through improved connectivity.