The IACHR publishes the Practical Guide How to promote universal access to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic?

March 26, 2021

Washington, D.C.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the framework of the Coordination and Timely and Integrated Response to the crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic (SACROI COVID-19) and in collaboration with its Special Rapporteurships on Freedom of Expression (RELE) and on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) presents the third edition of the series of practical guides that address issues related to human rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this process, the IACHR today publishes Guide No. 3 How to Promote Universal Access to the Internet during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Within the framework of its SACROI COVID-19, the Commission proposed the elaboration of practical guides conceived as innovative tools to contribute to the respect and guarantee of human rights. Through these guides, specific public policy recommendations are developed to guide the practices and decisions adopted by States in dealing with the pandemic situation.

In the current context of the health emergency generated by COVID-19, access to the Internet with minimum quality standards is essential. Given the measures of isolation and/or physical distancing applied in most States, the need to accelerate universal Internet access policies, expanding the infrastructure that supports it, facilitating access to suitable devices and promoting digital literacy becomes more evident. The lack of access to the Internet in the context of the pandemic affects, impairs or delays the guarantee of all human rights that are currently exercised totally or partially by this means. This guide makes recommendations to States, identifying both opportunities and challenges of connectivity with respect to human rights.

In its Resolution 1/20, the IACHR established as one of the obligations of the States in the face of the pandemic that of "guaranteeing the broadest and most immediate access to Internet service to the entire population and developing positive measures to rapidly reduce the digital divide faced by vulnerable groups and those with lower incomes". The OAS General Assembly also stated that information and communications technologies (ICTs) are crucial for economic development and poverty reduction.

Thus, as a cooperation tool, this guide is an effort by the IACHR to provide technical assistance to States, regional bodies, social organizations and other institutions for institutional strengthening and the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policies aimed at guaranteeing access to Internet services to all people in the countries of the region in the context of pandemics. This Guide includes practical guidelines aimed at focusing state and private efforts on universal access to a free, open and inclusive internet depends primarily on the positive measures that States are obliged to adopt to achieve, with the participation of representatives of academia and civil society.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate arises from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 074/21