Food, Water, Internet?

9 03 2010

Internet browser logos.

I remember when my mom and I first got the Internet when I was a kid. I must’ve been about 10. I remember spending hours and hours on our slow dial-up connection, holed up on the computer in the living room, playing on sites like Neopets (no mocking, it was cool when I was 10). I’d sit in front of that glowing little screen for hours, playing games, and later, searching out new information.

From then on, I’ve always had access to the Internet.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up without such technology then to be thrust at it later in life, expected to understand every complicated, complex and confounding detail. Knowledge of computers, and of course, of the Internet, is arguably becoming a crucial part of our society. That’s probably why a number of countries are looking at making Internet access a fundamental right.

A few months ago, Finland became the first country to make it official. Broadband Internet access is now a legal right for the nation’s 5.2 million citizens.

BBC News recently did a poll on whether or not people think the Internet should be a fundamental human right. They surveyed 27,000 adults in 26 different countries, and found that almost four in every five people believe that the Internet should be a fundamental right.

“The right to communicate cannot be ignored,” Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), told BBC News.

“The Internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created.”

Toure also told the BBC that he believes governments should “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water.”

“We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate,” he said.

A reader poll on Mashable suggests similar viewpoints. Over 80 per cent of over 2,000 respondents indicated yes, that they believe Internet should be a fundamental right, in one of three ways: “yes, it is an essential right all its own,” “yes, mainly because the free flow of information is necessary to preserve other liberties” and “yes, for another reason.”

Universal access to the Internet would certainly help level the playing field as far opportunities are concerned. The access to information, the potential to learn and grow, could be the same for everyone.

I think the Internet is about information, whether it’s sharing it, trading it or using it. It’s about connecting with fellow human beings, even if they’re hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. It’s about telling the world what you know, and seeing what they make of it.

The Internet means never really being alone, and always being able to find an answer to your question. It’s about sharing the information that matters, so that injustices are dealt with and democracy can persevere. The Internet is freedom.

What do you think:

Should Internet access be a fundamental right?

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4 responses

9 03 2010
Kara

I don’t think it should be. We can live without the Internet whereas we cannot live without food, water and air. We can find information elsewhere by being more resourceful (Hello encyclopedia, hello library!) We can still hear about worldly events by tuning into the evening newscast, listening to the radio or picking up the daily newspaper. We can still communicate to people through letters and the telephone.

I believe that the Internet, while convenient, has distanced us from society. We email people instead of call because unlike real-time conversations, emails can be edited until you perfect what you want to say. We’re Facebook Friends with people we’ve only met once for 5 minutes and pride ourselves on the fact that we “know” 350 people.

So, Internet as a fundamental right? No. Internet as a convenient societal tool? Yes.

9 03 2010
Kendall Walters

Interesting perspective. I fully agree with you that the Internet is not necessarily something that should be placed on the level of needs like food and water, however I think that in our increasingly globalized society, it’s becoming necessary to be able to connect in new ways with people in other countries.

There have been several resistance movements in a variety of oppressive countries that have used the Internet (social media in some cases) to get their message out, making the Internet an important tool of democracy.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

10 03 2010
Danielle

Part of me thinks sure everyone should have access to the Internet, yet I can’t help but think that other things have priority such as clean drinking water, and shelter. And as far as I’m concerned those are just two things that too many people are living without.

16 03 2010
Venezuelan President Plans to take a Virtual Broom to the “Web” « Poli-Tweets

[...] think that if the Internet was a fundamental human right, Chávez would certainly be halted in his tracks. However, since it isn’t, do you think he will [...]

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