Internet Rights Are Also Human Rights

Internet rights broadband ICTs
Wednesday, 18 March, 2015 - 10:50

South Africa should work towards ensuring that everyone enjoys Internet Rights, as we commemorate Human Rights Day (21 March)

Saturday, 21 March 2015 will represent 55 years since Sharpeville Day when the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) led protest resulted in the brutal death of 69 persons and injury or loss to many of the residents of the township.
 
History and historians remain divided on the issue and in time will no doubt provide their own interpretation of these events.
 
This fight then for human rights and dignity should provide a new impetus for a new generation of free South Africans.  South Africa like other nations of the world is faced with a looming crisis in a globalised world. How do we in this age balance an open society and privacy?  How can South Africans reach out to their neighbours, brothers and sisters in the region, on the continent and the entire world, and begin to communicate with them?  How can we store all this information and yet make all of it accessible?  How can citizens make their leaders more responsive and engage actively to develop policies on an ever increasingly complex world?
 
South Africans will participate this week also in the International Week of the Library. Many events are planned and for-profit and nonprofit organisations are gearing themselves up to commit to ending illiteracy, develop a culture of reading and open libraries, establish book clubs and reading groups.
 
South Africans have in 21 years of democracy become reliant on information communications technology (ICT) and their various applications to end the apartheid legacy of poor communities between and among families, urban and rural, rich and poor.

A key right South Africans now need to challenge are Internet Rights. These rights must encompass our belief of human rights. Lacking cheap, fast reliable Internet access puts an individual at a significant disadvantage.
 
An initiative by the MEC of Education in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, at the beginning of 2015 to pilot the use of ipads in selected primary schools on the East Rand, needs to be applauded, as it is a brave and bold step to ensure that youth, especially from poor families, are not disadvantaged in the future. They too will have access and capacity to harness the World Wide Web.
 
Both Telkom and the Department of Communications need to break the logjam and establish broadband so that it can provide educational opportunities in low income households and ensure high speed Wi-Fi access as urgently as possible.
 
This is a government responsibility which can be shared with a private sector but it is ultimately a role and function that government should fulfil, to ensure that such access will begin to alienate poverty and redress the negatives of the past.
 
There is an important role that Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) beneficiaries (and now billionaires) need to play in providing collective assistance to targeted communities in a planned and coordinated and co-operative manner.
 
The aim of such philanthropy should be to ensure that poor communities are able to have access and provide ‘little data’ such that on open platforms such that ineffective or poor public services can be reported on, officials held accountable and politicians held responsible for poor services.
 
As we enter this new era of civil rights, with the use of new technology, we should remind ourselves that each generation needs new visions and insights into the struggles of the day.
 
A new word has entered the jargon of the development practitioners they call it intersectionality, by which they mean when different issues or themes meet each other. In the past it was called cross roads. We are at such a cross road now. Do we want to realise the potential of tomorrow today, or leave it to another generation?
 
It will be a fitting tribute to Robert Sobukwe and Collins Chabane to achieve this today.

- Phiroshaw Camay is chairperson at Community Education Computer Society. 

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