80% Say Internet Access A Right

Nearly half of those surveyed in an international poll said they did not think they could cope without the Internet.
Nearly four in five adults across 26 countries, including the United States, believe Internet access is a fundamental right, a survey released Monday showed.

Not surprisingly, a larger percentage of Internet users believe access is a right than non-Internet user, 87% versus 71%, the poll, conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC World Service, found. Countries with the highest percentages included South Korea, 96%; Mexico, 94%; and China, 87%.

The survey of 27,000 adults also found that nearly four in five of the respondents said the Internet had brought them greater freedom, and nine in 10 thought it was a good place to learn. Slightly more than half said they enjoyed spending free time on social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace.

Nevertheless, the survey found that people were evenly split when asked whether the Internet was a "safe place" to express opinions. Forty eight percent said yes and 49% no.

Those countries with the highest percentage of people who did not feel they could safely express their opinions online included Germany, 72%; South Korea, 70%; France, 69%; Japan, 65%; and China, 55%. In contrast, countries with the highest number of people who felt they could safely voice their opinions included Ghana, 74%; Kenya, 73%; and India 70%.

The poll also found that most Internet users believe it should not be regulated by governments. More than half, or 53%, agreed "the Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere." Countries with the largest majorities included South Korea, 83%; Nigeria, 77%; and Mexico, 72%.

Also, 44% of the people surveyed said they did not think they could cope without the Internet. Countries with the highest percentages included Japan, 84%; Mexico, 81%; and Russia, 71%. Those countries with the lowest percentages included Brazil and India, both 29%; Turkey, 27%; Philippines, 21%; and Pakistan, 19%.

That aspect of the Internet most valued by the highest percentage of survey respondents, 47%, was the ability to find information of all sorts. Second was the ability to interact and communication with people, 32%. The Internet's role as a source of entertainment, as a tool to locate, research, and buy products and services; and as a forum for creativity and sharing of content were far less commonly mentioned as its most valuable aspect.

The poll also found that fraud caused the most concern among the highest percentage of respondents, 32%, followed by violent and explicit content, 27%; and threats to privacy, 20%.

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James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
Shane Snider, Senior Writer, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author