This Man Says He Knows The Secret to Defeating Inequality Once and For All

"Internet access creates democracy more than it breaks it." #globalgoals

This fall, the United Nations is preparing to launch its 17 Sustainable Development Goals—an extraordinary action plan to solve the world’s biggest problems by 2030. Over the coming months, we’ll be connecting with The Local Globalists: 17 nonprofit founders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators who are working every day, wherever they are, to turn one of the U.N.’s #globalgoals into reality.

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.

“I’m not good at being realistic,” jokes Kosta Grammatis, the 30-year-old activist and founder of the internet advocacy group A Human Right. Though he says it with a self-deprecating smirk, you’ll believe him after he tells you the scale of what he boldly advocates for: He wants every single person on the planet to have access to free, uncensored internet.

It was 2009 when it first struck Grammatis that the very thing that had enabled his growth as a thinker and global citizen was out of reach for most people: 4.4 billion of them, to be exact. “I can’t even imagine my life without internet—I’d built a lot of projects using the internet as my educational background instead of teachers and schooling,” Grammatis said. “It struck me that if we’re expecting people to be active participants in the global world we live in, we have to help them help themselves.”

A Human Right started with a focus on implementation, with projects including the installation of the first fiber optic internet cable; providing the internet to remote, indigenous communities; and placing a satellite over developing countries in conflict zones to provide internet access when it may be down. However, in the past two years, Grammatis has shifted the focus of A Human Right to advocacy—promoting the why of universal internet rather than the how.

This was not, Grammatis was quick to explain, a sign of the movement slowing down. Rather, it was simply ramping up in a different way.

“When we first started this work in 2009, nobody was talking about it. Now the biggest players in the game—Facebook, Google, Elon Musk, Richard Branson—all have initiatives,” Grammatis said. “Though they have different approaches, all these initiatives are pointing to a future where internet access is universal. There are so many ways that future can unfold, but I’m excited and optimistic that all these players are working together to solve this big, big problem.”

While Grammatis does not have direct involvement in any of the above initiatives (though he formerly worked under Musk at SpaceX), he says that any plan that results in blanket, free coverage for all with a distributed control mechanism is something he advocates for. While critics might wonder what a child in the developing world would do with internet if she lacks a device to access it, Grammatis says that misses the point. When it comes to a target demographic, there isn't one. He likens his vision as being similar to GPS, which is a service provided by the U.S. government to the entire planet, and available for use free of charge by anyone with a receiving device.

“Just how you can see GPS being used today in so many applications that we couldn't envision before it existed, the idea is that humanitarian organizations and governments can say, ‘This service exists now, let’s leverage it.’ It would open the floodgates for a bunch of things that couldn’t even be imagined before.”

Grammatis’ advocacy takes the form of frequent media appearances and speaking engagements to promote the idea that the internet is a human right—not a privilege reserved for the developed world. In 2014, he also founded a startup called Oluvus (full disclosure: GOOD founder Ben Goldhirsh is an investor), which will sell internet access under a “freemium model” in the U.S., and then use the proceeds to support connectivity projects in parts of the world that remain unconnected.

Whether he’s talking about business models or outer space, it’s clear that Grammatis is apt to think big. But he’s also able to thoughtfully respond to some of the specific criticisms of the universal internet initiative. He’s the first to admit that the internet doesn’t exactly appear on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But when he does so, he often counters with the fact that there are plenty of people whose basic needs are met—but whose creative or intellectual potential isn't reached due to lack of access.

In addition, though he sees the concern of creating a “walled garden”—i.e. Facebook or Google providing a universal internet service that’s based primarily on their own products—he sees these early attempts by major players as pioneering efforts, rather than finished models.

When it comes to surveillance concerns—that the internet is what has allowed governments to create surveillance states—Grammatis is quick to point out that, “it is also the internet that brought to light the fact that we’re living in a surveillance society…. I believe internet access creates democracy more than it breaks it,” Grammatis adds. “It just introduces new problems that we have to address.”

Criticisms aside, Grammatis sees a clear link between universal internet access and reducing inequality. And that’s precisely why he advocates so doggedly for it to become a reality.

“The way that the international community can now apply pressure on issues around the world is facilitated by internet access—if you don’t have that, you are no longer able to participate in the global stage of democracy that’s going on now,” Grammatis said. “There’s a whole new level of participation that internet enables globally, and everyone should be a part of it.”

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet