Monday, September 29, 2003

International Human Rights and the Internet

It's been a while since an update, but this won't be long. I've just begun researching a new project in the context of Universal Access, the UN term for giving access to the Internet to everyone. Fascinating stuff, full of practical developments, but driven by corporates rather than governments. The reasons are simple - the more people you have connected, the better educated people are, the more markets you have that are open to new products, and technologies. It's all about trade - this is a good thing.

However, the political will needs to follow. This is essential, because the Internet is about far more than trade. It has succeeded because of trade, but it has brought in its wake an opportunity for the disenfranchised of the world to begin to make a difference. It has presented an avenue for association, a vehicle for expression, and a tool for empowering the powerless. It is this, the wake of the revolution, that is the most important aspect of the Internet, for it brings freedom. It is also, of course, that thing that opressive governments fear. Therefore water or food, this technology is the lifeblood of an advancing civilisation. Without it, they will not grow. They will not develop.

As a political right, universal access is not so much unwanted as misunderstood. It is not so much deprioritised, but it is hidden behind the corporate action. The UN's own organs, the ICT Taskforce and the ITU ensure this. Not that this is deliberately obstructionist - priorities remain that the rollout must continue. That there is an obligation on the part of states parties to, in particular the ICCPR and the ICESCR, to comply and assist in facilitating access, must be stressed. Is a nation delivering on the founding principles of the UN, its bill of rights, or the treaties of the UN if it deprives its people of, or seeks to limit the reach of the Internet? It is not. This must be made plain.

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