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Giorgio Ungania

New Media & Technology Specialist, TEDx Dubai

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How we can use social media on a world scale to launch a global campaign to recognize Internet access as a basic human right?

Internet access is become as vital as access to energy or natural resources. Especially when looking at underdeveloped areas of the world it becomes clear that access to the shared knowledge via web can do wonders for the growth of these areas.

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    Feb 18 2011: Philip, I think Giorgio's point, however infrastructurally inconvenient to acknowledge at this moment, is nevertheless valid.

    As a related example, when the United States recognized that freedom from slavery was a basic human right (although at the time, only enforceable on Americans), the infrastructure to replace slavery was by no means in place. The civil war, and post-war depression in the South stemmed directly from this disparity of infrastructure and need. But that didn't (and doesn't) make it any more valid to enforce human enslavement -- and numerous international treaties explicitly lay this fact out.

    Your example of water is an interesting one. I would submit that access to water is, at least tacitly, recognized as a basic right -- this is the motivation behind the exciting debates on corporate control of water supplies, and for great films like Irena Salina's "Flow" about water rights around the world. Water rights haven't been explicitly codified in constitutions as a basic right, but I think that these changes will come as the heralds of the predicted water wars over the next 20 years. The civil war wasn't the first or last conflict to arise out of rights/infrastructure disparities.

    As for internet access, the upside is that unlike water or slavery, it's much easier to distribute and redesign for maximum impact with minimum cost. For example, a minimum level of connection -- say low-bandwidth SMS interface with text-based databases -- might be established globally. This low-bandwidth connection, like free speech, or accommodation for childhood, or any of the other rights outlined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, wouldn't give the best possible access to the fullness of the internet. But it would give all the crucial benefits.

    If you don't think you can get a lot of mileage out of low-fi networking, there are a couple million Egyptians and Tunisians who would disagree...

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