Over the past decade, internet usage has raised rapidly. As of 2019, more than half the population of the world (approximately 4.1 billion people) has access to the internet (ITU, 2019). The internet has been transforming our way of life and steering the 21st century. Its usage has been evolving and constructing how we, as a people and as individuals, deal with issues. Its roles are weaving thoroughly to our day-to-day activities, and its usage is so broad and impactful. In consideration of these ‘facts’, the internet should be made freely available to everyone.
Countries provide public services (such as healthcare, education and public transportation) to its citizens, irrespective of their living standard. Some of these services are made freely accessible because of its importance. Today, the internet has become a binding medium to reach or fully practise those services, meaning its availability has to be made accessible.
For example, amid massive epidemic outbreaks like Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), among everyone instructed to stay at home includes students. Around the globe, due to the closure of educational institutions, over 849.4 million children and youth are impacted (UNESCO, 2020). Imagine the number of students not being able to access online classes or educational resources due to not having internet cost coverage.
Social media platforms are one of the most common tool people choose to express themselves. Not only because it is easy to use but also sometimes its the only practical way to express, share and communicate. Imagine someone living or travelling abroad, where the single source to stay connected to loved ones is through the internet. Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram allow users to stay connected with friends and family, as well as it created a virtual base where millions of users can discuss and share all kind of issues. Moreover, these platforms influence on developing brains of adolescents: social media effect Social-skill development and interpersonal interactions of teenagers (Sherman, L. E. et al. 2016). In light of these, it is understandable why it essential to provide proper internet access to everyone disregard of their age or living standard.
Online journalism has revolutionised how people read news and keep themselves informed about critical information. Governments or responsible agencies can warn residents of imminent threats, and online sources can report breaking news to thousands of people in mere seconds (Anttiroiko 2006). However, probabilities are higher that these highlights will be missed by those who do not have proper internet access. Countries with a higher poverty rate will probably not have an effective result in delivering information online due to the majority being unable to afford the internet, which results in social inequalities (Norris 2001). In these cases, it is vital to provide internet service like any other public service. Providing necessary information is prominent to a nation, for its economic prosperity as well as to its people’s survival.
Some human rights, including freedom of expression and data protection and freedom of information (which is an extension of the former), are closely associated with the internet. We rely on it to practise some of these fundamental rights (Szoszkiewicz 2018). The usage of the internet is frequent and multi-purposed that it has become an incentive for the practice of some human rights.
In the Oral Revisions of 30th June the UN decided:
“to continue its consideration of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet and other information and communication technology, as well as of how the Internet can be an important tool for fostering citizen and civil society participation, for the realisation of development in every community and for exercising human rights, in accordance with its programme of work.”
Despite why the internet should be free for everyone, it is understandable why one might think otherwise. Such an intricate plan to succeed the tremendous cost and work that involves might even make it nearly impossible. Not to mention the availability of essential resources (capital incentives, technology and research) to accomplish such a huge feat. In a world full of unlimited wants and scarce resources, one might suggest that there are far more critical works to be prioritised in an economy. Quite reasonably, it is true. Proper healthcare facilities, education, military, public finance and judicial system are substantial for a healthy economy. Arguably, an open form of government where the people has a say on how the country should work is also a priority. However, for all these systems to function, the internet plays a huge role. Without the internet, it will be challenging, if not impossible, for a government to deliver these services. Further, if a part of the population is unable to afford the internet, it will be somehow a barrier to the development of a country.
Over billions of active internet users, the numbers are increasing every day. It keeps changing the world, and how we as humans live, think and behave. Freely providing internet access will be a necessity, if not now, soon.