Just over a week ago the United Nations underlined the right for everyone to have access to a resource that many take for granted: the internet. As I have often commented on this blog over the years, lack of Internet access is not simply restricted to those that live in developing countries. Nine million people in this country have never even accessed the internet, either at home or elsewhere. From the Los Angeles Times:
“Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states,” said the report from Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations, who wrote the document “on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
Obviously, putting access to information on the same footing as water is a significant and welcome move. Access to information is absolutely vital for the wellbeing and prosperity of all individuals. One wonders, however, what councils across the UK make of this development.
For many across the UK, a public library is the only place they can connect to the internet. In the North East alone, connectivity stands at only 59% of households. Closing libraries in areas such as the North East will surely result in access to the internet being cut off for many. In essence, by closing public libraries, councils across the country will be violating tax payers’ human rights, according to the United Nations at least. Is this likely to force them to change their minds about the extent of the closures? Probably not. Having said that, it may well be worth writing to your councillor and including a link to the text of the report. You never know, it might just prick their conscience.