Web access is 'a basic human right'

Web access

Four out of five people canvassed in a recent survey conducted by the BBC World Service believe internet access is a fundamental human right.

The survey polled some 28,000 adults in 26 countries around the world, with 79 per cent responding that web access was no longer a privilege but a right, with a country's technological infrastructure deemed just as important as more traditional utilities, such as roads and water.

The proportion was still higher among those who already have internet access, with 87 per cent saying it was a fundamental right, but even among those without internet access, seven out of 10 said they thought it should be a basic right.

In terms of specific countries, South Koreans were the most supportive of universal web access, with 96 per cent saying it was a right not surprising considering the country already has near-universal web access. In Europe, nine out of 10 respondents in Turkey supported the notion.

The United Nations is increasingly pushing to have net access declared as a universal right, with Finland and Estonia among those in Europe having already passed laws to that effect.

"The right to communicate cannot be ignored," said Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). "The internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created."

Dr Toure added that the emergence of a global "knowledge society" meant "everyone must have access to participate".

While the majority of those canvassed in South Korea and Nigeria believe governments should not play a role in the regulation of the internet, 55 per cent of UK respondents felt differently provided the degree of regulation was limited an interesting aside given the current debate surrounding the proposed Digital Economy Bill.

The EU's recently adopted internet freedom provision requires member states to "respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens" before taking any measures that may affect their citizens' access to or use of the internet.

When asked about their chief concerns surrounding the internet, familiar topics rose to the surface across the globe: the risk of fraud, concerns over privacy and the widespread availability of violent or explicit content.

The survey was conducted by international polling firm GlobeScan.