It might not seem like it’s on the same level as running water or liberty, but should free internet access be a basic human right?
Yes, a new scientific paper has argued, because people unable to get online can’t influence the global players who rule their lives.
Particularly in developing countries, people are denied the rights to free expression and freedom of assembly if they can’t access the internet.
The study was published by Dr Merten Reglitz, lecturer in global ethics at the University of Birmingham.
He said: “Internet access is no luxury, but instead a moral human right and everyone should have unmonitored and uncensored access to this global medium, provided free of charge for those unable to afford it.
“Without such access, many people lack a meaningful way to influence and hold accountable supranational rule-makers and institutions. These individuals simply don’t have a say in the making of the rules they must obey and which shape their life chances.”
Dr Reglitz added: ‘Universal internet access need not cost the earth - accessing politically important opportunities such as blogging, obtaining information, joining virtual groups, or sending and receiving emails does not require the latest information technology.
“Web-capable phones allow people to access these services and public internet provision, such as public libraries, can help get people online where individual domestic access is initially too expensive.”
Dr Reglitz claims that exercising free speech and obtaining information often depend on internet access.
Around the world, several nations and organisations have declared internet access a human right. The Indian state of Kerala has ruled universal internet access a human right and aims to provide it for its 35 million inhabitants by 2019.
The European Union has launched the WiFi4EU initiative to provide “every European village and city with free wireless internet access around main centres of public life by 2020”.
Global internet access is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with the UN demanding states help to deliver universal Internet access in developing nations.