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Africa and the Internet: a 21st century human rights issue?

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Last week the UN declared Internet access a basic human right. To many in African countries, which are still grappling with challenges ranging from health, infrastructure, unemployment, etc., this declaration may be difficult to relate to.

I am taking part in the Internet Freedom Fellows program funded by the US Department of State and managed by the US Mission in Geneva. The fellowship follows up on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge to find innovative ways to promote the use of the Internet in support of human rights. While in Geneva earlier this week, I took part in an event where Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, US Representative to the Human Rights Council, reiterated Mrs. Clinton’s statement that the Internet is “the public space of the 21st century.”

Many in Africa are yet to see the Internet as a basic right. Yet Ben Scott, Clinton’s policy adviser on innovation whom I had a chat with called the Internet “the first truly 21st Century human rights issue.”


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