Introduction: Human Rights, Social Media and Development

March 20, 2013 · Posted in ICT · Comment 

Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), there has been a fair amount of progress made regarding the global implementation of the rights and freedom of both groups and individuals. Article 19 of the UDHR (UN, 1948) , The Right to Freedom of Information, states that 1) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference and 2) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice. (UN, 1966).

Recent discussions now also include the Right to Internet Access as a fundamental human right. Several countries have adopted legislation that make internet access a right by requiring the state to ensure that it is broadly available and/or preventing states from unreasonably restricting an individual’s access to information and the internet. These include France, Costa Rica, Estonia, Finland, Greece and Spain.

We live in an era where freedom of information is expected and often taken for granted. For many a world without electronic communication is hard to imagine. Internet based applications such as social media and related tools play an increasingly important role not only for organizations and official agencies but also for grassroots groups and individuals. The Internet has rapidly become one of the key elements of what is termed the ‘Global Information Society’ – a channel for people to participate in the production, dissemination and sharing of information, and a space where their voices can be heard.

It has even been said that the possibility of achieving development without the Internet is equal to the possibility for industrialization to occur without electricity! (Castell 2001, p. 269) With this being said, however, there are a number of obstacles and restrictions including the “digital divide” which has not yet been bridged or the continued censorship of information and development of censorship tools.

Our blog aims to explore the following questions:

  • What global implications does the right to internet access have?
  • Is social media a viable tool for development practices despite the digital divide?
  • Is social media an improvement on community media or do the affluent and/or educated still act as the voice of the marginalized?
  • Who benefits most from the Right to Internet Access?



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