In the wake of the past six weeks, the world has bared witness to one of the most historically unforeseen epidemics of national revolt across the Middle Eastern and North African world.
What began with daring insolence in Tunisia rapidly spread like droves of locusts to Egypt. Upon seeing the Egyptian's overwhelming unity and strength in numbers, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Morocco and Algeria's people have come together in epic proportions to protest their oppressive regimes, massive unemployment, political nepotism and virtual abolition of civil rights. One of the major problems that haunt these massive displays of civil unrest is the attempt made by governments to stifle or to swiftly cut off access to the World Wide Web.
Which begs the question: Should the Internet be considered an essential human right just as food, clothing and shelter are? I happen to think so. And though we may not need the internet to survive the way we need water or food, life in the Information Age is practically dependent on the internet for a number of obvious reasons.
According to a BBC World Service poll released March 8th, 2010, four out of five people around the world agree on this issue, that having access to the Internet should be a safeguarded human right. And the reason is simple: Today, connectivity is equal to expression.
"The Internet is a medium," said Arvind Ganesan, Director of business and human rights for the Human Rights Watch Organization in Washington, D.C. "People should have a right to express their opinions on the net," he said.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reinforces Ganesan's statement.
It states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
We should be outraged at many of the circumstances that have led to the revolutions we're seeing sweep across the Middle East. But when their governments and dictators hinder peoples' access to the Web, we should be appalled at such audacious attempts to conceal their corruption.
We need to realize and advocate that the Web is far more than just surfing your Facebook page or watching viral videos on YouTube. We need to realize the truly powerful aspects of the World Wide Web and stop wading through endless bogs of smut. What good is a universal human right guaranteeing the most decadent and self-absorbed activities? What makes the Web worthy of being an inalienable human right is it's ability to give every individual on this planet a platform to communicate with the world. We should consider ourselves blessed to live in a time when six billion people can express themselves in a matter of moments!
The Internet is our safeguard against tyranny, and our united voice against oppression. More so, the Web has made it possible to usher in a new era of transparency in the dealings of governments. One case in point is whistleblower and enfant terrible Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.
Assange is living proof that with courage, determination and ingenuity, normal people can reveal extraordinary things with the World Wide Web. The implications of organizations like WikiLeaks are far reaching, but can be summed up as simply as this: Those who intend on working in the shadows of obscurity and secrecy will be exposed, and their secrets are not safe.
Perhaps the most pressing reason for universal access to the Internet is the concept of emancipation of information. Surfeited with knowledge, there is little we cannot achieve.
If every person on this planet can be guaranteed access to the Web, this would help ensure that everyone is given the equal opportunity to enlighten themselves and break free of the quicksand of ignorance. And no one will argue that an educated person is better equipped to deal with the harsh realities of life.