In July 2016, the United Nations declared access to the Internet to be a human right vide resolution A/HRC/32/L.20. An addition was made to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), that provides; “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to...seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media...” However, internet shutdowns have been rampantly resorted to by various governments to restrict inter alia; dialogue and information dissemination.
Internet and technology have increasingly become key enablers for people to exercise and enjoy a number of human rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression and information. Furthermore, the COVID-19 era has seen the internet become a crucial tool for many commercial, educational and social activities online; and thus key for enjoyment of social and economic rights.
According to The Global Network Initiative, among other consequences, government-mandated network disruptions negatively impact human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals, cause economic harm, increase insecurity and make it difficult for journalists to access government information and conduct independent reporting which concerns have only become more acute in the context of the ongoing pandemic. See http://bit.ly/3cbmLxV
Lessons should therefore be drawn from the pandemic concerning the fundamental importance of the internet to the well-being of the general public. My recommendation is for governments to adopt a human rights approach in enabling access to the internet in full compliance with international standards.