In early June, the United Nations released a report declaring internet access to be a human right. The report states, “Given that the internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states.” This is a step in the right direction, and governments worldwide should take this as a cue to ensure internet access for their peoples.
Let’s face it. The developed world is almost dependent on the web. Over the last decade, the internet has gone from a popular pastime to an integral aspect of our everyday lives. Facebook, Foursquare, Google, and YouTube, (and one day, PolicyMic) are essential tools for many of us. Without them we are frustrated and somewhat lost. Everyday, more people are becoming “plugged in.”
Essentially, the developed world lives, or rather, exists, on the web; and there is very good reason for this: Our access to the web makes our lives a whole lot easier. As new start-ups continue to introduce ways to integrate the internet into our daily lives, we are lighter, faster, and more efficient. Bill Gates’ idea of “information at your fingertips” has never been more true and significant. Our ability to advance at pace is tied to our being online.
Whereas in the developed world “information is at your fingertips,” in the developing world information is often an elusive luxury.
Take my community in Panama as an example. Escobal is a poor community of 5,000 people, located in the most urban area in Panama. The community has seen its fair share of missionaries and development workers over the years. However, there has been a lack of emphasis on technology. We have long had electricity and running water, but internet access and computer education remain an unachieved but desperately needed resource. While the people in Escobal are aware of the internet and have a general idea of its capacity, the nearest Wi-Fi access is nearly an hour outside of town. Lack of access to the internet most certainly slows progress in Escobal, and further widens the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged. Although desired, lack of technological education and support prevent poor communities from being able to participate in all that is the World Wide Web.
The Panamanian government and the governments around the world have a responsibility to provide internet access in all communities within their borders. We depend on the state for basic public utilities such as water, transportation, and electricity, and it is now time that governments step up and insure internet access for all.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons