Connectivity is a crucial right

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Every person on campus has access to WirelessCanes. We can surf the Internet using laptops and connect to Wi-Fi on our smartphones. We also have hundreds of computers at our disposal.

UM students don’t need to worry about the cost of Internet, how much data they can use, or how to go about gathering information. But five billion people on this planet can’t say the same.

Two weeks ago, Facebook asked the question heard around the world: Is connectivity a human right? Founder Mark Zuckerberg thinks it is, and that’s why his company has set out on a long-term mission to connect everyone on the planet via the Internet.

Adopted by the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to … seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media …”

Most people in the United States use the Internet everyday – perhaps every hour – to seek out information and communicate with others. It’s considered an extension of free expression. Take that away from Americans and there would be an uproar. But they also have their basic needs met.

People in developing countries are concerned less about access to the Internet and more about access to clean water, food and shelter. Thus, this may not be the most pressing issue of our generation, but it is one worth addressing.

Zuckerberg says that the global knowledge economy – one that is based on intellectual capital – is the reason why this effort is so important. The Internet creates jobs and company gains, contributing to the gross domestic product.

More importantly, Internet technology, social networks in particular, helps us connect and communicate more effectively. This leads to greater understanding of and respect for other cultures. It also makes people aware of problems in the world and gives them the ability to learn how to fix them.

It’s easy to see why certain governments around the globe would be opposed to such an idea. Knowledge is power. And undemocratic institutions would be fearful of an increase in knowledge.

Consider the Arab Spring. Media outlets and political experts say that the Internet spawned the revolutions in the Middle East. Access to foreign messages and the ability to share these new ideas on the Internet sparked protests.

This is a perfect example of why connectivity should be increased. Knowledge may be power, but knowledge is also freedom: the freedom to improve the world around you, through innovations that are a boon to the GDP or starting your own revolution.

Yes, Facebook, connectivity is a human right. We’re thankful for the Internet access that allowed us to log onto your webpage, read the letter from Zuckerberg, and gain the knowledge to realize that.

 

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

 
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