Where do emerging and developing nations stand on Internet freedom?

BY Colleen Shalby  March 19, 2014 at 10:33 AM EDT
Photo by Flickr user photosteve101

Photo by Flickr user photosteve101.

A new study says that a majority of people living in developing and emerging countries want their internet access unrestricted.

In their latest report released Wednesday, Pew Research Center asked 21,847 people from 24 emerging and developing countries how important it was to have internet access without government censorship. The survey, conducted from March 3, 2013 to May 1, 2013, found that a majority in 22 of these countries — with Venezuela (89 percent), Lebanon (86 percent), Chile (86 percent) and Egypt (83 percent) taking the top four slots — believed uncensored internet access was crucial. Uganda (49 percent) and Pakistan (22 percent) fell below the majority.

Richard Wike, Director of Global Attitudes Research at Pew, says the relationship between internet usage and support for internet freedom is closely linked.

“The higher the percentage of people who are online in a country, the greater the opposition to internet censorship. So as internet access becomes more and more common around the world, support for internet freedom is likely to grow.”

Pew said Pakistan’s support might be lower than expected given the county’s growth in internet activity, but the country’s low support for democracy might serve as an explanation.

Opinion of government seems to go hand in hand with Pew’s findings. How does frustration with government factor into a country’s support for internet usage? Wike pointed out that Pew conducted interviews in Venezuela shortly after Hugo Chavez’s death.

“This was a politically charged time, and as a result people may have been using technology to get information about politics.”

Other components that factored into a nation’s opinion, according to Pew’s report:

  • Age: “In 14 nations, people ages 18-29 are more likely than those 50 or older to believe an uncensored internet is important.”
  • Education: “Internet freedom has especially strong backing among the well- educated.
  • Income: “71% of high-income Kenyans say internet freedom is important, compared with 44% of people in the low- income category.”