Affordable Internet access around the world should be a basic human right as it is essential for freedom of expression and economic opportunity, according to the results of a global survey released by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).
The survey was conducted by research company Ipsos with 23,376 Internet users in 24 countries between October 7 and November 12, 2014.
Research was conducted in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.
According to the results, 83 per cent of users surveyed agreed that affordable access to the Internet should be a human right, while 81 per cent said the Internet is important for their economic future and livelihood.
CIGI global security & politics program director Fen Hampson said the results show how important the Internet has become for freedom of expression, social communication, knowledge and freedom of association.
“Right now, one third of the world's population is online but two-thirds of the world's population is not. Unless the rest of the world is brought online, a world of Internet ‘have and have-nots’ will not only contribute to income inequality, but also stifle the world’s full potential for prosperity and innovation,” he said in a statement.
The survey also asked Internet users about privacy and online monitoring.
According to the results, 74 per cent of users were concerned about private companies monitoring online activities and selling the information for commercial purposes.
Sixty-two per cent of respondents were concerned about government agencies from other countries monitoring their online activity, while 61 per cent were concerned about their government monitoring them online.
Turning to Internet governance, 64 per cent of users were concerned about governments censoring the Internet.
In contrast, 47 per cent of respondents said they would trust their own government to play an important role in running the Internet. However, 57 per cent of those surveyed would like to see a combined body of IT companies, engineers, non-government organisations and institutions that represent the interests of citizens play a role in running the Internet.
Meanwhile, 48 per cent of users believed their government did a good job of making sure the Internet in their country was safe and secure.
The survey also asked users about cyber security. According to the results, 72 per cent of respondents were concerned about institutions in their country being cyber-attacked by a foreign government or a terrorist organisation.
Meanwhile, 78 per cent were concerned about a criminal hacking into their personal bank accounts and 77 per cent of users were concerned about someone hacking into their online accounts and stealing personal information such as photos and private messages.
According to Hampson, these results highlight that there is a “gaping trust deficit” in the Internet as people around the world worry that their online identities and communications will be compromised or stolen by cyber criminals.
“Unless trust is restored in the Internet through creative governance innovations its real potential to promote human development and global prosperity will be severely compromised,” he said.
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick
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