On CNN International: Is Internet access a fundamental right?

On CNN International: Is Internet access a fundamental right?

(Thanks to the Women’s Media Center for capturing this appearance.)

One of the things that I didn’t discuss in this segment–simply for the sake of time and to make a direct point–is that Internet access on its own will not significantly change anyone’s life. I have a whole chapter in my book about this; I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from that chapter:

On top of looking at the pure numbers, we also tend to take on a blunt-force-object view when it comes to Internet access and factors like economic status and education. We assume that if people just get “onto the web,” our problems of jobless- ness and lack of education will be solved. Unfortunately, such a one-dimensional view is not true, nor is it helpful for problem solving. As [Josh] Breitbart notes: “From reading some reports, you might forget that poverty preceded the Internet. You might think that getting poor people online would magically make them wealthy.” Addressing the problems of Internet access and its relationship to societal and structural challenges requires us to understand their interdependent relationship.

The chapter then goes on to explore the work of people like Estzer Hargittai; I go on to summarize:

So, beyond providing access, we must take on the challenge of figuring out how to ensure that those online, with all of the different social and class elements involved, are developing sophisticated skills for getting the most out of the Internet. (And to those doing this work: Note that it’s not just a matter of making sure the have-nots can do what the haves do; Breitbart points out, “[It] means, instead of trying to get people to use the Internet the way that we use it currently, we should be trying to adapt the Internet to work for more people.”)