Leaving no one behind: Digital rights as human rights
Dr Marietjie BotesZoom
COVID-19 forced everyone to start using digital platforms which became portholes to people’s healthcare, economic, educational, and social livelihoods. However, digital technologies are not equally accessible, resulting in disadvantaged people giving up of these technologies. Some people were unprepared for an exclusive digital world and lack access to the internet, data, or technical skills to navigate digital platforms, making them vulnerable through their inability to access health-related information, news, or social support. Digitalisation reinforced existing inequalities by having disadvantaged people falling off the digital grid with serious impacts to their physical, mental, and social health. Digital rights are imbedded in socio-economic human rights and it is only through the realisation of these human rights that universal access policies’ goals will be attainable. Electricity, employment, and literacy are prerequisites to connect to a digital domain but job losses and illness due to COVID-19 resulted in disadvantaged people having no financial means to prioritise accessing information digitally, and making these people disappear into a void of disconnectedness and oblivion. Realising human rights will make digital rights possible, which requires the urgent attention of governments to ensure that no one is left behind.