Should the Internet be a basic right now in the Caribbean, or in the future?

In light of recent statements on the Internet by a prominent Caribbean leader, we discuss reasons why the Internet should be made a basic right sooner rather than later.

n an address to the Jamaica Employers Federation two weeks ago, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, was reported as saying that globally, it could be another 10 to 15 years before access to the Internet is considered a basic human right. He further noted, “this is so because transactions are going to be moved mainly towards a digital platform” (Source:  The Nation)

During his speech, the Prime Minister highlighted a few situations in which government services and transactions in Jamaica were not being done digitally, and the need for the State to drive the requisite efforts to implement digital systems. However, while the Prime Minister’s sought to frame himself as being prepared to lead the charge, he seemed to be out of touch with the importance of the Internet, and the current state of play in the world today. Below, four key points are discussed.

1. We are already in the digital age, the Internet age

From all reports on Mr. Holness’ speech, there is a sense that the digital age is still to come. However, the digital age began with the availability of personal computers in the 1970s. Since that time, the cost of computing  devices have decreases considerably, whilst their processing power and sophistication have increased exponentially. Hence today, individuals owning, or at the very least having access to a computing device is the norm.

Further, the digital age is also widely recognised as the onset of the information age, which was bolstered considerably by the development of the world wide web in the late 1980s. We are nearly 30 years into having Internet access as we know it, which has been driving innovation and also transforming the way we live and work. Suffice it to say, we are already neck-deep into the digital age and so we, in the Caribbean, should be more concerned about not falling even more behind that we already are.