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Communications major Kellye Coleman ’12 explores people’s perceptions of the Internet

Kellye Coleman ’12 wanted others to be aware that access to the Internet isn’t a guarantee for everyone. That’s why the Communications major volunteered with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center to research global opinions on the future of the web and if access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right.

Her project, “Human Right? Access and the Future of the Global Internet,” meant attending the Internet Governance Forum in Kenya last September to collect opinions on whether Internet access truly is a basic human right.
Coleman joined classmates and alumni, as well as Associate Professor Rich Landesberg, in compiling responses for Imagining the Internet’s database.

“It was a multi-stakeholder conference,” Coleman says. “Individuals who have any sort of investment in the future of the Internet — which is everyone on the planet — can come and discuss these Internet-related issues.”

Among those who attend the annual forums are individuals in the technology, business, nonprofit and civil sectors. Conference attendees were divided in their responses to the question. Coleman found that slightly more said they believed Internet access in and of itself was not a human right.

“Some people asked, ‘Should we put access to Internet in the same realm as access to food and water?’” Coleman said. “Others said that the Internet is just the vehicle for information. Who knows whether we'll access the information through the Internet in 20 years? It could be a completely different medium.”

She hopes that from the information she gathered at the conference, Coleman will be able to make others aware of the reality that not everyone in the world has the opportunity to access the Internet.

“It’s important for people to understand that access to the Internet is something we take for granted,” she says. “There are regions of the world where that’s not something that’s easily attainable. Whether that’s because of location, money or governments that don’t want that kind of thing to happen, it’s important for people to understand that that is the case — even if it’s just for people to be able to have an appreciation for what they have.”