Throughout this pandemic, we have faced a lot of problems. And what makes most of those problems? The internet. From the past year, COVID-19 has clearly shown us that the internet is no longer considered a luxury, but a necessity. It is the number one mode for education, communication, business, and entertainment. The internet itself has become a basic necessity.
In the first period of lockdowns, we have been highly dependent on the use of the internet. Up until now, there has been continuous growth and demand for the use and its development. It has become vital for our everyday activities. It is often the only way to keep in touch with our loved ones especially for family members who tend to work abroad. In some tragic instances, it has become the only way to communicate with our loved ones who are required to quarantine in the hospital.
But, home internet access also played an important role needed during non-emergencies like work opportunities. A lot of people have lost their jobs during the first months of the pandemic. Working from home gave some businesses the opportunity to continue their business and work for having business internet in their home. Like in education, in government, and to practically exercise our political rights. If we have doubted what the internet can do before, only a few will have doubt this statement now. As we continue to progress and face this challenge, a right should be part of means-tested welfare benefits. This should be covering basic online access as well as needed equipment for those who cannot afford it.
In the UK, there are no such rights for this matter. About 10% of British households have no access to the internet. Some of those responsible for paying their household’s communication services say they have had difficulties paying their costs since last year. Considering the crisis, it has been proven that this is no longer acceptable and should be treated differently, as said in Ofcom’s Access and Inclusion Report in 2018.
The Role of the Internet during Lockdowns
Since lockdowns were implemented to flatten the curve of the SARS-CoV2 virus, most sectors of education moved through conducting online classes. Later on, this was recognized by the government that this created a gap for those who do not have internet access. Digital poverty, as they say, a promising provision of the needs with Internet access through local agencies like G4 WiFi and other digital services for disadvantaged learners.
This was also pushed in higher-level education, universities to teach and continue tutoring online, which lead to different problems for students who do not have access to the internet. During those times of lockdown, most people are only able to work when they have direct access to the internet. Those who do not were, unfortunately, unable to grab opportunities that would allow them to work in an online platform.
Importance of Internet in Non-emergency Times
Compared to those who have secured internet access, to those having less opportunity for exercising their political rights in the digital world, like the power to speak, or access government information freely. This suggests that internet access has become one of the needs also to political equality and involvement.
Promoting the Right to Internet Access
In our everyday life, online access has been our routine. We use the internet every day for important activities. The pandemic has taught us how to live digitally. What if we were given this type of situation, how will we keep things in balance? Most of us could not imagine what life would be without the internet, how they would work, shop or connect with the people they love. Providing basic online access would make a significant difference to people’s lives.
Being able to study, work, or access government information is extremely important, this should not limit us from our normal ways of caring and communicating. And this has been stated by Ofcom, that those who do have the privilege to access the internet, do not have equal opportunities to fully embrace society. This leads to the conclusion that the UK government should make internet access a basic right. “Digital exclusion” is another way of picturing social and political exclusion where no society should tolerate.