In 1948, when 56 nations gathered in Paris, France, for the approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there was no internet, and none of the nations would have envisaged that one day there would be a debate on whether or not to make access to the internet a fundamental human right. However, since the latter part of the 20th century, the internet has come to life and grown at an incredible pace. It has now become an integral part of our day-to-day lives in every country in the world.
How has the internet become so important that it is considered in an argument on whether or not access to it should be designated a fundamental human right? The answer is not far-fetched; it is the fact that the internet comes in handy in daily usage in the modern world. With access to the internet, our potential in life can be fully harnessed. Do we bestow the status of a fundamental human right on access to the versatile internet?
WHAT IS FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT?
Fundamental human rights refer to the rights which accrue to every person by virtue of their existence. Fundamental human rights are non-negotiable and should be enjoyed by everyone without any disturbance to the extent that they do not constitute a threat to the fundamental human rights of others.
However, whether at the international or state level and whatever term is used to describe it, fundamental human rights remain inalienable rights for everybody in the world. Other features that fundamental human rights thrive on are its universality, indivisibility, interdependence, and interrelatedness.
ACCESS TO AND COMPONENTS OF THE INTERNET
Access to the internet refers to when the internet is readily available for one’s use at a particular time. Essentially, one requires hardware, software, a telephone line, and a computer.
DOES ACCESS TO THE INTERNET QUALIFY TO BE A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT?
Access to the internet has become fundamental to human existence. Therefore, it should, as a matter of urgency, be made a fundamental human right. The internet has all the qualities of fundamental human rights, to wit: universality, inalienability, indivisibility, interdependence, and interrelatedness.
Fundamental human rights apply to everyone everywhere in the world. As long as you are human, you are entitled to fundamental human rights irrespective of age, gender, racial, religious, social, cultural, economic, or other status or bias. In the face of fundamental human rights, we are equal and are universally guaranteed these rights without discrimination. Nonetheless, these rights have been guaranteed because the people want them and accept them because they are necessary for their good living.
Everybody has used the internet at one time or the other, either directly or indirectly. It is estimated that the earliest we could get the internet to reach everywhere in the world would be by 2050. This feat could have been achieved earlier, considering how fast it took the internet to get to where it is and the various projects, like Starlinks, that are attempting universal internet availability. Do you know what else could make it faster? Yes! Designating access to the internet as a fundamental human right all over the world could significantly increase the pace at which its accessibility is improved.
Also, Fundamental Human rights abound because the factors needed to enjoy them are supposed to be universal. However, this does not mean that there are no places where some of these things are lacking, but generally, there is overwhelming availability, and we strive daily to ensure total protection and enjoyment of these rights. Hence, one would understand the argument against making access to the internet a fundamental human right because it is not universally available yet.
However, this is a temporary setback. Besides, all other rights still face minor infringements, even with the universal application. Life is universal, so cutting it off under whatever guise will be a violation of one’s right to life. But somewhere in Ukraine, an armed invasion by Russia has deprived a lot of people of their rights to life and consequently led to the deprivation of some other rights. Somewhere in the Middle East, Israel is currently raining bombs on Gaza because of an attack by Hamas, and a lot of civilians have lost their lives as a result of these attacks. In the same vein, education is supposed to be universal, so preventing a child from getting the basic form of it at least will be a breach of that right. However, some parts of Africa do not readily have access to basic education, but every day it gets better as improvements are made, and many more will have access to it.
In recent times, the world has become a united front connected by the internet. The internet, through the various applications and social media created in it, has served as a means of mass protest against the deprivation of fundamental human rights anywhere in the world. During the Black Lives Matter movement, after the murder of George Floyd, the whole world joined in the solidarity march, asking for justice and better treatment of coloured persons in the United States. That was not the first of the deaths of a person of colour in the hands of the cops in the United States or anywhere else in the world, but George Floyd’s death gained enough traction because of the internet through which the whole world kicked against it. That unity was only made possible through the internet.
In 2020, the Nigerian youth took to the streets of the country in the historic Endsars Protest, asking for an end to police brutality and better conditions of service for police officers, among other things. The need for this protest arose from the incessant abuse of the fundamental human rights of citizens, including their right to life, by the Nigeria Police Force, especially by their Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protest was organised, coordinated, and funded through the internet using mostly Twitter. The internet gave the protest widespread publicity and traction. Even the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre, the climax of the Endsars protest, was live-streamed on Instagram by one of the protesters. Without the internet, the live stream would not be possible. This overwhelming evidence of the live stream and other internet-enabled evidence has made the denial by the government of the incident at Lekki Toll Gate sound like child’s play.
Notably, access to the internet possesses all the characteristics of a fundamental human right. It has become a tool that almost everyone in the world needs, and those who do not have access to the internet have been left behind, and it would appear that they are the ones enslaved in our generation. Hence, all hands are on deck to reach them all. Therefore, it is very important that access to the internet be declared a fundamental human right so that the process of it reaching everyone would be faster.