Children Call for Universal Internet Access as a Human Right
During a session of the Council of Human Rights of the United Nations, children from around the world gathered to demand universal internet access as a human right. Mariana, a child from rural Colombia accompanied by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted digital inequalities and stated that less than a third of households in her community have internet access. This session was the first time in the history of the UN’s human rights body where the majority of panelists were minors.
With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet access has become an essential need for education and daily life. Nidhi from Malaysia produced a podcast where he stated, “they don’t even know how to use online tools safely or preserve your personal information…This makes them ‘vulnerable.'” The accumulation of personal data is unethical and in violation of children’s online space.
Volker Turk, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed the importance of giving children a voice in their ideas of the digital world. He noted that 2.2 billion children and young people under the age of 25 still do not have access to the Internet at home. “Perhaps the time has come to reinforce universal access to the Internet as a human right, not a privilege,” said Turk.
The rapid pace of progress in technology and the Internet has both promise and risks. Turk acknowledged the instant connection with others, knowledge, and learning at our fingertips, but we must also take into consideration the digital divide and the means to protect minors in that scope. Children worldwide are advocating for their rights to have equal opportunities to access the Internet as an essential tool for their education, communication, and daily life.