There’s an ongoing debate about whether access to the Internet should be considered a human right or not. Whatever side you belong in, there’s no question that the Internet became everyone’s lifeline during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, when many people around the world were ordered to stay home as part of a global public health effort to prevent the spread of the virus. During this time, the Internet made it possible for many people to continue working, attending school, and staying connected.
For the 4.9 billion people who were online in 2021, life went on, albeit in a limited capacity within the digital sphere. However, the same can’t be said for the 2.9 billion who were on the dark side of the digital divide, unable to work, learn, and participate in the global economy. These are people in marginalized sectors who can’t even afford 3 hot meals a day, much less a monthly Internet bill.
As the pandemic has proven, the Internet is a powerful tool that can transform lives and entire nations. As such, everyone, regardless of their background, should be given access to this vital resource. This short guide will enumerate some of the most important arguments for universal Internet access.
1. The Internet Enables Economic Empowerment
The Internet is a gateway to economic empowerment. It opens up opportunities for individuals and communities to improve their financial well-being. For this reason, whether in a bustling city or a remote village, digital infrastructure development is always a welcome project, as it ushers in equal opportunity through the Internet.
Using different online platforms, for instance, a small-scale artisan in a rural village can market their handcrafted pieces to a global audience. Meanwhile, a talented freelancer can work with clients from different corners of the world, breaking free from geographical limitations.
With Internet access, people can explore online job markets and start their own businesses. It allows for remote work and other employment opportunities, eventually advancing an individual’s social mobility, which would otherwise not happen.
2. The Internet Ensures Access to Education and Learning Opportunities
Education can be the key to personal growth and societal progress. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to quality education. This is where the Internet comes in as a game changer.
Universal internet access means that anyone, regardless of their location or financial situation, can access a treasure trove of educational resources on the web. For instance, online learners can enroll in online courses and access books in digital libraries. Moreover, they can log into interactive learning platforms that have made education more accessible than ever. Whether you’re a student looking to expand your knowledge or an adult seeking to acquire new skills, the internet can be your classroom.
3. The Internet Provides Access to Important Services and Information
Access to essential services and information is a fundamental necessity, and the Internet plays a pivotal role in ensuring that this need is addressed for everyone. From healthcare and government services to financial information and legal resources, the Internet serves as a lifeline to vital information and services.
These days, it’s possible for a mother in a remote village who has a sick child to simply contact a healthcare professional via a telemedicine platform to ensure that her child will receive proper care. Another example is a farmer who can now access weather forecasts and market prices to make informed decisions about managing his crops. Indeed, universal Internet access bridges information gaps, making critical services and knowledge accessible to all.
4. The Internet Promotes Political and Civic Engagement
For democracy to thrive and flourish, a country needs to have an informed and engaged citizenry. In terms of political and civic engagement, the Internet has had a massive effect on these areas, reshaping perspectives and allowing greater political and civic participation in many places around the world.
Online news sources and government websites have become valuable tools for citizens to access information, while social media provides a platform for the masses to voice out their opinions. More importantly, grassroots movements have taken advantage of the Internet to mobilize communities and advocate for change. Ultimately, the ability to hold leaders accountable and the ability to actively participate in the democratic process are capabilities that universal Internet access helps uphold.
5. The Internet Promotes Social Connectedness
In an increasingly globalized world, social connectedness knows no borders. The Internet serves as a bridge that connects people across the globe, fostering friendships and cross-cultural understanding. Moreover, it has enabled families to keep in touch, though they might live in different parts of the world. For instance, international students can maintain their connection to their families and ease their homesickness through the use of video chat apps and social media. Even though loved ones may be far apart, the Internet provides a way for these people to connect and strengthen their bond.
Universal Internet access is not just a matter of convenience; it’s a matter of equity and human rights. Since the advent of this technology, it has contributed much to the growth of the global economy and in fostering innovation in various industries. Moreover, it has been a vital tool to connect people from across the world.
As we advocate for greater access to the internet, remember that it’s not just about technology; it’s about improving lives and communities. By bridging the digital divide, we can unlock the full potential of every individual and ensure a brighter, more connected future for all.