Four in five people believe that the internet is a fundamental human right, according to a global survey.
In a study conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC, over 27,000 adults across 26 countries voted. It also asked the opinions of people in countries with no access to the net.
It found that 87 percent of respondents felt the internet was a human right, and 71 percent of these people who don’t currently use the internet believed they should have the right to access it.
The International Telecommunications Union called upon governments of the world to “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water”.
In the survey, countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Turkey were the strongest supporters of net access as a right. More than 90 percent of those in Turkey agreeing that internet access is a fundamental right. This was more than any other European Country.
The BBC survey also questioned government oversight of some aspects of the net. The poll also found that most surfers felt that the internet should be regulated by governments. This was highest in South Korea, Mexico and Nigeria, but the majority of the Chinese and European respondents disagreed.
In the UK 55 percent believed that there should be some form of government regulation of the internet.
Nearly all of South Korea enjoys high-speed net access and 96 percent of those questioned there believed that net access was a fundamental right.
This survey will no doubt be interesting reading to the EU and the UK government.
Currently the Digital Economy Bill is in the stages of being pushed through parliament and could be law as soon as late April. The government has promised, as part of the Bill, for every household to have universal broadband in the UK by 2012.
The EU has recently launched the Internet Freedom Provision, whereby EU citizens are entitled to a “fair and impartial procedure” before any measures can be taken to limit their net access.
This is all well and good for those in Europe, but there seems to have been very little effort to help the African nations get fully connected. International bodies such as the UN are pushing for universal net access, but comparatively there has been little progress.
In figures published at the end of 2009, it is estimated that currently only around 25 percent of the 6 billion people on earth have internet access. On the African continent, less than seven percent of the population has access to the internet, according to ITU figures last year. Africa makes up just four percent of the worldwide usage.
Nelson Mandela, speaking in 1995 said: “In the twenty-first century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right. Eliminating the distinction between the information-rich and information-poor is also critical to eliminating economic and other inequalities between North and South, and to improve the life of all humanity.”
Finland and Estonia have already ruled that internet access is a human right for citizens.
“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.”