Global internet freedom declining

According to new research released by Freedom House in the 2019 Freedom of the Net report, internet freedom across the globe has declined for the ninth year in a row. Research was conducted on 65 different countries across the world on the climate of their respective internet freedoms. Of the 65 countries, it was found that 33 countries saw net decreases in their internet freedoms, while 16 saw overall increases. The research in this study basically measured the level of censorship, freedom of expression and overall internet access present in the participating countries.

The study found that countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Estonia, Iceland, Armenia, Italy, France, and Germany are the best countries when it comes to internet freedom and overall internet access. Countries such as Iran, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia ranked among the worst in internet freedom. China, in particular, is ranked as one of the worst countries. In past years, the Chinese government was known to censor and prohibit much of the content that was available on the internet. This year in particular, however, saw an unprecedented amount of content being blocked on the internet due to anti-government protests in Hong Kong. The authors of this study concluded about the internet that “What was once a liberating technology has become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation”.

Estonia: A digital nation

Labeled “the startup nation”, Estonia is one of the most technologically advanced and digitized countries in the world. Starting in the early 2000’s, Estonia took steps to make services such as tax preparations and bank operations completely online to make the lives of their citizens easier. In 2014, they became the first nation to introduce an e-residency program. This program was introduced so that companies could open online bank accounts in the country, manage their businesses, and utilize the European Union’s single market system. Today, Estonia is home to over 55,000 e-residents from 136 different countries and have created over 6,000 new companies.

Ott Vatter, managing director of Estonia’s e-residency program, stated that every citizen has a digital identity and a physical ID card that they can put into their computer and can then have access to over 98% of Estonia’s public services. The whole reason behind making all public services available online was the fact that, as an ex-Soviet country, they lacked the people, knowledge, and resources to be able to physically provide these services to their citizens. They installed cable internet in every school in the small nation and began to educate the youth about the importance of information technology. Wi-Fi is also publicly available in most places throughout the country and fellow Baltic countries Latvia and Lithuania are planning to come out with their own e-residency programs within the next two years.