The Digital Divide – Should Internet Access Be a Human Right?

The Internet makes the world go round. It is a means to distribute and collect information, interact socially, do business and make a change. By the uprising of the Arab societies in 2011, the importance of the Internet’s role as facilitator of freedom and development got finally undeniable. However, an estimated 70% of the world population is still excluded from the use of information technologies (illustrated by the World Connectivity Map above). This inequality is referred to as Digital Divide.

“The term Digital Divide refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.” [OECD]

Underdeveloped regions and societies are struck in particular due to the lack of infrastructure, financial means and often political endeavor to spread Internet access. But especially in these regions, the Internet could decrease poverty and trigger economic growth by providing education and a platform for interaction. Consequently, the claim for internet access being a right rather than being luxury is growing.

Recently, a vivid discussion on making internet access a human right spread throughout the web. Proponents argue that this would be an essential step towards ensuring the freedom of thought and expression. However, the characteristics of human rights are against this claim, opponents say. Those characteristics correspond to the human rights’ nature of expressing objectives rather than technological means. To illustrate that, there is no human right on having a house or a health insurance in order to guarantee a humane living. The human rights convention rather contains general articles such as “The right to life”.

If the Digital Divide cannot be closed by drawing on human rights, what else could be done? In the end, it is the responsibility of international organizations, politicians AND private initiatives (such as the one presented in the video below) to lighten up the World Connectivity Map in order to bring wealth and education to the underprivileged.



  • Hoffmann, N. (2012). Warum Internetzugang kein Menschenrecht ist. In: Süddeutsche.de on Jan 16th, 2012
  • OECD (2002). Glossary of Statistical Terms. Internet source.
  • Ted talks: Aleph Molinari (2012). Let’s Bridge the Digital Divide. Internet source.

More Information:

  • Compaine, B. M. (2001). The Digital Divide – Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth. Cambridge: The MIT Press. (Fragments available at Google Books)
  • Council of Europe. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom. Internet source.
  • Mossberger, K., Tolberg, C. J., Stansbury M. (2003). Virtual Inequality – Beyond the Digital Divide. Washington: Georgetown University Press. (Fragments available at Google Books)

Image: Chris Harrison

Video: Ted

Author Spotlight

Julia Wild


Current position

. Researcher and lecturer in international marketing, business-2-business marketing and market research

Former positions

. Commercial project manager for civil engineering projects in South America and Asia

. Intern in the Commercial Office of the Austrian Embassy in Argentina

. Business development intern at an industrial logistics provider, Austria

. Project management intern at a market research agency, Austria

. Management trainee at a high-end hospitality chain, China


. Doctoral candidate in marketing

. Degree in business administration, Austria and Spain


Emerging markets, export management, industrial services, industrial marketing, market research, corporate finance, open innovation, strategic foresight, knowledge management, rural ... Read Full

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