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During a pandemic, accessing the Internet can be the difference between life and death

The United Nations recognized Internet casa access to be a human right in July 2016. During the coronavirus epidemic, it became evident that having access to the Internet and digital technology can be a lifeline for many individuals worldwide. Health information can help halt the spread of disease and save lives, while numerous web services can help us usually live when our activities are restricted. Governments and telecommunications, and Internet service providers (telcos and ISPs) must do all possible guarantees and facilitate people’s access to the Internet following international standards.

Access to the Internet and digital technology has become a requirement in the daily life of most people. We can use technology to work, shop, communicate, and access essential services. Technology is increasingly becoming a significant facilitator for the practice and enjoyment of many human rights, including the right to free expression and information.

When there is a public health emergency, access to the Internet becomes an even more important instrument for defending our health and various human rights, including our social and economic rights, during our daily movements. During this period, people’s lives by a lack of Internet connection. The Internet allows us to gather and share critical information about the epidemic and combat it. It aids us in comprehending and scrutinizing the conduct of our governments. And, with around 20% of the world’s population socially isolated or living under quarantine circumstances, technology enables us to work, shop, and communicate. Various daily activities have moved online, ranging from the delivery of health care to education programs that allow for homeschooling.

The lack of infrastructure or adequate connections usually leaves the poorest areas behind, and the digital divide fully shows its discriminatory consequences.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the following factors may contribute to a lack of Internet connectivity:

The populace is arbitrarily kept offline in certain nations through government-enforced Internet shutdowns. For example, the Bangladesh government has argued that security considerations warrant the cutoff of mobile internet access in Rohingya refugee camps since 2019. Similarly, the Myanmar government has ordered Internet shutdowns in nine Rakhine and Chin townships. Internet slowdowns in Kashmir and Jammu prevent segments of India’s populace from receiving timely information about the virus.

Poor identity strategically:

If the digital infrastructure is correct, people may be disconnected or unable to access services that need a high-quality internet connection. However, the presence and accessibility of suitable infrastructure might vary significantly within an area or country. For example, in the United States, while the vast majority of households in urban areas have access to high-speed broadband, approximately 27% of rural Americans do not. Even in well-connected areas, a high-speed connection may be out of reach for a large number of low-income people. Due to the current infrastructure, around 30% of the population in Italy, one of the nations most hit by the coronavirus, does not access high-speed internet.

Expulsion of certain populations:

Historically, some groups have access to the Internet and digital technology. In Mexico, indigenous and peasant populations, who account for over 25% of the people, suffer barriers to Internet access. Not only is there a lack of Internet infrastructure, but there are also economic, social, and cultural constraints. Displaced groups, such as those in refugee camps, sometimes struggle to gain appropriate access to all vital utilities, including water, power, and, by extension, the Internet.

The Role of States, Telecommunications Companies, and Internet Service Providers

In these conditions, states, telecommunications companies, and Internet service providers must implement different measures to guarantee that people have an adequate connection and access to the Internet.

Some governments and businesses are already taking steps in this direction. For example, in the United States, several ISPs have waived data caps to accommodate people’s new needs for working and learning from home. In Uruguay, ANTEL (the state telecommunications firm) stated on March 24 that beginning in April, 120,000 homes will receive free 50GB of data to browse and work from home. This was in response to the Government’s request that this work program. A presidential decree in El Salvador ordered the suspension of Internet and power payments for three months; however, the requirements for receiving this benefit are unclear.

There have been vague directions that those who can continue paying should do so. In Colombia, the Government enacted a regulation recognizing telecommunications services as vital and establishing that they cannot halt their provision due to nonpayment. The Peruvian telecommunications body, OSIPTEL, has issued a similar regulation for the duration of the emergency status. South Africa’s telecommunications authority has asked cell operators and pay-TV companies to free their services during the coronavirus emergency. The International Telecommunication Union has announced the creation of a new platform to assist governments and the private sector in ensuring that networks remain resilient and that telecommunication services are accessible to all.

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