Should Surfing the Web Count as a Human Right? The View From South Africa.
Monday, December 16, 2019
By Ryan Lenora Brown
Should internet access be seen as a human right?
To answer that question, activist Onica Makwakwa likes to begin with a story.
In 2015, South Africa’s capital Pretoria began setting up free Wi-Fi hotspots across the city. Local media interviewed a teenage boy from Atteridgeville, a poor black community on the city’s fringes, who regularly walked four miles roundtrip to use the nearest hotspot.
Why is this free Wi-Fi so important to you? they asked.
“I live in a shack,” Ms. Makwakwa remembers him replying. “But when I’m on the internet I’m no longer a kid living in a shack.”
The internet, in other words, opened the world to him. Today, roughly half the planet’s population is online, and the gap between the vast universe they can access there – from information to employment to digital money – and the analog existence of the other half is opening wider every year.
Photo courtesy of John Hogg / World Bank.