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When access almost means no access at all!

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What happens when access is there but threats to safety hinders you from competing in the exchange of information and ideas via the Internet? As strange as it may sound to some, apparently that’s one challenge that some young people in South Africa face in what would have been their key to new opportunities and being part of the Information society.

Mobile technology penetration is high in South worldwide including especially among school-going youth to such to an extent that access to information is supposed to be on the tip of their hands. However this privilege is enjoyed by few. Challenges such as creating and distributing information that degrades some ICTs are increasingly reflecting physical spaces, with all the social ills faced by women and the girl child. Women continue to suffer harassment and stalking in on-line spaces.

The site, Outoilet which was blocked last year for promoting child pornography, has apparently made a comeback recently. According to a local newspaper the Citizen “Outoilet resurfaced last month as a mobi-site and while it is still new and has very little content, it has set up chatrooms of hundred of schools that were included on the old website. They include Jules High School, which was the focus of attention after a video of a young girl having sex was posted and was being sold on the site.”

The Jules High school alleged rape incident became a widespread across the country, distributed widely using the digital media. the young girl involved in the traumatic experience had to undergo court appearances and later a diversion programme. The incident has added to a number of reasons for young girlsto shy away from the Internet, in fear of being or subjects to be exposed to harmful content or being pestered to share their personal information with strangers.

So what does universal Internet access and Digital freedom mean to me? Could it mean not having the power to access useful information? Could it mean continuous violence faced more especially by women on on-line spaces? Could it mean limited access, if any, at all as one become very cautious of what might happen once they are on-line? How much of a freedom is it if you do not really feel free?

What does Internet access really mean? Does it mean the power to download any information, pornography or not whenever you can? What does digital freedom really mean? Does it mean the right to freely upload naked pictures and videos of people without their consent?

I am not saying that Internet access is bad, but one should be cautious about the down-side of it. There are great benefits to having access to the Internet that many do not have the privilege to. However, we should be considerate of some of the challenges that others face when they have access, challenges that hinders on an opportunity to be in touch and help in the socio-economical development with the rest of the world.

Cyber-bullying like physical bullying and other forms of abuse is escalating and we should put an act against it. It negatively affects the victims to such an extent that in this case, the rights given by Internet access are limited if not violated.

http://www.citizen.co.za/citizen/content/en/citizen/local-news?oid=19949...

www.womensnet.org.za

www.girlsnet.org.za

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In a time when freedom of expression and equal access to knowledge and ideas has become synonymous with access to the Internet, World Pulse is asking women worldwide: What does "Universal Internet Access and Digital Freedom" mean to YOU? This month, we invite you to raise your voice by writing about the everyday obstacles you face and risks you take in accessing the Internet, or how you have used it to change lives and bring about positive change in your community. Click here to learn more about this campaign and how to participate.

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Farona's picture

Interesting !

Thank you so much for sharing this account here. I was very unaware of the event.

I am saddened by the event that took place in Jules High school, can only imagine how traumatic this must have been. You raise incredibly important question – does digital freedom mean anyone can download child pornography? Or tapes uploaded without one’s consent. I would like to more about legislations/laws in the country regarding the digital world.

How are schools reacting? Are they implementing any programs to protect young teens at school from this kind exposure?

Over the last month, you and other PulseWire members from around the world expressed your views on the importance of Internet access, and the barriers they face. The testimonies address real barriers—like cost—where paying fees at an Internet café can mean skipping a meal that day, or battling frequent power outages can make blogging one post, a multi-day task. Women have also shared security risks faced in connecting online—from the dangers of walking to and from Internet cafes to government censorship. Yet despite the challenges and risks women endure, what has emerged is that the benefits of Internet access outweigh these challenges, and connecting to the web has enabled friendships across oceans, access to fellowships and funding opportunities, and a venue for any woman—anywhere—to have a global voice.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, emphasized the vast benefits of Internet access in his report to the Human Right Council arguing that access is a universal human right, and urging governments around the world to pass laws protecting the freedom of internet access and information. "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," - Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur and author of the report.

This Action Blogging Campaign will not be the last of our efforts to advocate for universal access to the Internet. Here at World Pulse we hear your concerns and are committed to addressing them. As an online community of women leaders, we want to make sure that women’s voices and their specific concerns about this important issue are heard.

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