The right to information is a basic human right for every citizen, and the internet is an effective medium to access information. The internet is considered one of the most democratic forums, where the expression of one’s views knows few barriers and borders. But this does not mean that the freedom of speech and expression on the internet is absolute and unrestricted.
Transparency International’s 2010 Index rates Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore the highest when it comes to granting their citizens the right to information. Finland became the first country in the world to make access to the internet a legal right for all citizens in 2010, and now the Netherlands has followed suit. Although it is one of the world’s largest democracies, India is also one of the few countries where most state information lies with governing bodies rather than being available publicly.
In India, 70% of the population lives in 638,365 villages, represented by 245,525 panchayat offices, mostly located in the remotest regions of the country. However, rural India is not able to access information due to a lack of infrastructure and means to do so. At the same time, many do not know that they have a right to access information.
According to the 2011 census, the literacy rate in India is just 64.32% – with illiteracy most prevalent in rural areas. This is the case even though the government introduced the Right to Education Act in 2004, which promised free elementary and basic education to all children. Yet 35% of the population is still illiterate, and only 15% of Indian students reach high school. Because of this it becomes more important to provide them a medium to access information in a way that they can understand.
Advocating the need for a citizen’s basic right to demand information that affects their societal well being and existence is a mandatory requirement of any democratic society. And it is a citizen’s basic right in a democratic society to demand information which is held by governing bodies who are elected by the people to serve the people. Because of this, movements like the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, Save the Right to Information and India Together have been advocating for the internet to be used to secure the right to information as a basic human right.
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