The Internet is a self-supporting industry and I believe it was actually created to make the world smaller...and it worked! Needless to say, there are people around the world who are denied this new tool of social expression and a critical battle is under way for control of access to information, means of communication and networking technology. Against this backdrop, the human rights group, Amnesty International called on the United States and other nations to promote Internet freedom.
Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the pioneer of the global Internet that we are familiar with today was created in 1969 to create a communications network of scientific research and data shared between scientists and research institutions. Developed by ARPA of the United States Department of Defense, it began as a Cold War project becoming the world's first operational packet switching network that was immune to nuclear attack.
The Internet got a boost in the late 1980s and over time the connections between army bases, universities, and science centers grew, establishing an ever-expanding web of computers to further provide information to people allowing them to communicate even better among the masses.
The Internet has become the modern town-square. The ensuing Middle East turmoil and the crisis in Egypt are two bold examples that it is one of the most powerful tools of the 21st century capable of fueling democratic change. On the flip side, our Web neighbours living under repressive regimes are being eliminated, yielding serious consequences. Therefore, and perhaps inspired by these effects, the United Nations has declared the Internet a human right. Frank La Rue is the UN Special Rapporteur and expert on freedom of opinion and expression. On June 3, 2011 he presented his report on freedom of expression and the Internet to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in which he stated, "Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States..."
We live in the Network era and some countries have taken steps to advance networking freedom worldwide. Estonia legislators passed a law in 2000 that declared access to the Internet a basic human right; in 2009, France followed and in 2010 Costa Rica reached a similar decision. Last year, a BBC World Service study found that four out of five adults thought Internet access was a fundamental right; South Korea and Mexico were the two countries with the highest percentage of respondents. China, with all its current Internet controversy scored above the general average.
We are becoming more and more dependent on cyberspace for both out most basic needs and our most critical functions and in order for all sectors of our wired society to have a voice, we must maintain a peaceful and workable global network. Advancing Internet freedom is a challenge and no one country can do it alone. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's "freedom to connect" must be a "ground-world-wide" priority creating a "space-world-wide" neighbourhood that is available, accessible and affordable to all. Will there be a triumphal march across our "super information highway" Only time will tell.