How many people do not have Internet access?
D-Stories | Culture

How many people do not have Internet access?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown have underlined an increasingly objective fact: Internet has become essential in everyday life.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown have underlined an increasingly objective fact: Internet has become essential in everyday life.

Not only is it absolutely necessary in many jobs, but it can also facilitate several basic daily activities, such as communication and the research for information. Without a domestic connection thousands of students would not have been able to take their classes from home, and this would have created fractures in the educational system.

Is the time ripe to talk of the “right to access Internet”?

In December 2003, the first World Conference of the Information Society took place in Geneve, sponsored by the United Nations with the participation of delegates from 175 countries. Focus of the conference was the growing importance in a globalised world of information and communication technologies (ICT), the digital revolution, and the growing digital divide among different countries and social classes. The conference underlined the United Nations’ will to

United Nations' conference

“declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Information Society and its related technologies are also considered an essential bulwark in defence of the freedom of information and expression, furtherly supported by a UNO resolution that condemns the disruption of Internet access by authoritarian regimes as a violation of human rights.

The Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte discussed the fundamental role of Internet in a modern democracy, and he even proposed to include in the Constitution the right to access Internet, similarly to the proposal of the jurist Stefano Rodotà.

The proposal

“If it were up to me, I would modify the Constitution with the right to access telematic networks. The concept of substantial freedom as expressed by the third article of the Constitution declares that the Republic must remove economic and social obstacles, which hinder the full development of a person and his/her actual participation in the political, economic, and social organization of the country. Today, the most concrete and effective tool is Internet access. We must make some efforts, we have also allocated funds to offer telematic networks to every student”.

Access to a computer and the Internet is also envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goals, especially by goal number 9. To build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation also means to invest in a network accessible to everyone, above all to the poorest bracket of the population and to developing countries.

Internet connection is still scarce in some parts of the world, especially Africa, where the penetration rate (the percentage of the population with Internet access) is still under the 50%. The growth of the last twenty years, however, has reached significant figures. According to the estimate of the World Bank, access to broadband connectivity across Africa by 2030 will require an investment of 100 billion dollars.

“Broadening internet access means creating millions of job opportunities”, says Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Infrastructure. Because Internet access is synonymous with communication, but it also facilitates universal identification, a more efficient supply of government services, and it enables the creation of jobs in the service sector.

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