Earlier this month, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) predicted that on current trends 39 percent of the world would be connected to the Internet by the end of the 2013. Penetration in developing countries is expected to reach 31 percent by the end of 2013. And, in a sign of the growing centrality of the Internet to modern life, our global tracking reveals that majorities in most countries consider Internet access to be a fundamental right.
When we polled the public in 28 countries in 2010, majorities in all nations except Pakistan (46%) considered Internet access to be a fundamental right. South Korea was the country most likely to view the Internet in this light (96%), with Mexico and Brazil (94%), and Turkey (91% each) close behind.
In 2012, we surveyed women in the developing world on this topic, together with Dalberg and Intel, for the Women on the Web study. We found again that even among this underserviced segment, large numbers were inclined to view the Internet as a fundamental right. 64 percent of Ugandan women, 62 percent of Egyptians, 63 percent of Mexicans, and 46 percent of Indians felt this way.
The countries most likely to see the Internet as a right have generally younger populations and relatively young democracies. It is therefore possible that the Internet is associated with freedom of speech and ideas among a large demographic that has grown up alongside the Internet but in cultures with memories of times when those freedoms were far from assured. While a massive investment in infrastructure will be needed to accommodate the rise in “netizens,” these findings clearly demonstrate that in the eyes of the public, web access has taken its place as a universal value.