Broadband is a human right: it gives voice from the Middle East to Minnesota

In 2011, the United Nations called the Internet access a human right. Here is what they said…

The Special Rapporteur believes that the Internet is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies. Indeed, the recent wave of demonstrations in countries across the Middle East and North African region has shown the key role that the Internet can play in mobilizing the population to call for justice, equality, accountability and better respect for human rights. As such, facilitating access to the Internet for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible, should be a priority for all States.

They were talking about demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa. But I think it fits Falcon Heights, Minnesota as well.

Last week in Minnesota, an African American man (Philando Castile) was shot and killed by a police officer after being stopped for a broken tail light. After he was shot, his girlfriend posted a video from the scene retelling what had happened seconds before.

She had the power in her hand to record and livestream the events as they happened. She had the (wireless) broadband required to upload a video. (Upload speeds matter when you produce info!) And via Facebook, she had a critical mass audience to view the video. (Ubiquity matters!)

Sadly she did not have the audience in time to save a life but because of her brave actions and technology, we have a record of what happened or at least a partial account. And as Governor Dayton pointed out, that record means we have to recognize that “racism exists” in Minnesota. Her story, Castile’s story, captured and shared can make a difference.

I first saw the benefit of livestreaming from citizens (or citizen journalists) with the UpTake at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities in 2008. Demonstrators were arrested. Cameras were confiscated. But the evidence had already been uploaded.

Fast forward 8 years and most of us have the power to do that – and some have the wherewithal to do it even on our darkest days.

Now it’s up to each of us – individually and collectively – to decide what to do with the information. But thanks to technology, broadband and tech literacy skills and the courage to use them we know more. We have heard an important voice.

This is what the UN is talking about when they call broadband a human right – it’s the right to be heard. Supports the need for ubiquitous coverage and digital inclusion efforts.

This entry was posted in MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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