Access to Open Internet Seen as Basic Right, Study Finds

A global survey commissioned by the BBC World Service finds people regard access to an unrestricted Internet a basic human right.

A worldwide survey of nearly 28,000 people in 26 countries by the BBC World Service found openness and accessibility to be critical components of the World Wide Web. The survey, conducted by GlobeScan, found 79 percent of people surveyed said access to the Internet was a basic human right and 87 percent of those who used the Internet felt that Internet access should be "the fundamental right of all people." More than seven in 10 (71 percent) non-Internet users also felt that they should have the right to access the Web.

The survey also suggested the Internet has had a positive impact on people's lives around the world. Nearly four in five (78 percent) said they felt it had brought them greater freedom, nine in 10 (90 percent) said they thought it was a good place to learn, and just over half (51 percent) said they now enjoyed spending their spare time on social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace. "Despite worries about privacy and fraud, people around the world see access to the Internet as their fundamental right," said GlobeScan chairman Doug Miller. "They think the Web is a force for good, and most don't want governments to regulate it."

The poll also showed that most Internet users feel that the government should not regulate the Internet. More than half (53 percent) of Internet users agreed that "the Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere"-including large majorities in South Korea (83 percent), Nigeria (77 percent) and Mexico (72 percent). Forty-four percent admitted that they did not think they could cope without the Internet. Similar reactions were found in Japan (84 percent), Mexico (81 percent), and Russia (71 percent), while fewer felt they could not cope without the Internet in Pakistan (19 percent), the Philippines (21 percent), Turkey (27 percent) and Brazil and India (both 29 percent).

Asked what aspect of the Internet they most valued, people most commonly identified the ability to find information of all sorts (47 percent), with its next most popular aspect being the ability to interact and communicate with people (32 percent). The Internet's roles as a source of entertainment (12 percent), as a tool to locate, research and buy products and services (five percent), and as a forum for creativity and sharing of content (3 percent) were less commonly mentioned as its most valuable aspect.

The poll also found that fraud was the aspect of the Internet that caused people most concern, with 32 percent saying it was what worried them most. Fraud emerged as a greater public concern than violent and explicit content, which was mentioned by 27 percent, and threats to privacy, which were the major concerns of one in five people (20 percent).