Gitex 2021: Should internet access be made free for basic needs?

The senior official spoke of how critical online services became during the Covid-19 pandemic

The internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity, and the digital rights of individuals are as important as human rights, a senior official said on Tuesday at Gitex Global.

While speaking at the Vision UAE Projects of the 50 at Global Gitex, Dr Mohamed Abdel Hameed Al Askar, director-general of Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, said the world is now talking about the fifth revolution and the role of artificial intelligence (AI) as well as its impact on human beings.

“Digital regulations are still not mature and are even being discussed at the UN level. They have not matured as much as human rights,” he said.

“The internet is not a luxury. Every individual in every country should have the right to access the internet. Discussions are also being held that the internet should be free for basic activities, such as buying groceries online or ordering anything for the children at home. Meanwhile, activities such as live entertainment can be paid.”

Highlighting digital rights, he pointed out that a lot of countries are digitally matured; however, there is a huge step that needs to be taken with regard to privacy rights. In addition, countries need to ensure that digital ethics are maintained and freedom of expression is not misused and misrepresented.

Al Askar said that when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, there was a huge need for everyone to have internet access in order to use online services. “We provide all the basic needs to individuals through digital channels. It’s no longer luxury. Everybody has a right to get services through digital means.”

Elaborating further on digital rights, he said individuals have the right to learn the new digital language. “Since we are living in the digital age, it’s a basic right that people should be educated on how to talk digitally. In addition, consumer rights of people should be protected digitally for everyone from anywhere.”

Finally, Al Askar stressed that digital services should be optional. “Consumers should have the right to choose to use the services or not. We should not be forcing anyone (to embrace the digital life). Importantly, individuals should be protected against cybercrimes,” he added.

waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com

Waheed Abbas

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