Four in five people across 26 countries of the world, including India, believe that access to the Internet is a fundamental right, according to a recent poll.

The survey of more than 27,000 adults in these countries found strong support for net access on both sides of the digital divide.

“The right to communicate cannot be ignored,” Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), was quoted as saying by the BBC News.

“The Internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created. We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate,” Toure said.

The survey conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC World Service, found that 87 per cent of users felt Internet access should be the “fundamental right of all people” while more than 70 per cent of non-users felt that they should have access to the net.

Overall, almost 79 per cent of those questioned said they either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the description of the Internet as a fundamental right - whether they had access to it or not.

Countries like Mexico, Brazil and Turkey most strongly supported the idea of net access as a right, the survey found.

More than 90 per cent of those surveyed in Turkey - the highest in any European Country - stated that the Internet access is a fundamental right.

In South Korea - the most wired country on earth - 96 per cent (highest) of people believed that net access was a fundamental right.

The survey also disclosed that the Internet is rapidly becoming a vital part of lives of many in a diverse range of nations.

In Japan, Mexico and Russia around three-quarters of respondents said they could not cope without it.

Most of those questioned also said that they believed the web had a positive impact, with nearly four in five saying it had brought them greater freedom.

Nations like Finland and Estonia have already ruled that Internet access is a human right for their citizens.

International bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access.

However, many web users also expressed concerns. The dangers of fraud, the ease of access to violent and explicit content and worries over privacy were the most concerning aspects for those questioned.

A majority of users in Japan, South Korea and Germany felt that they could not express their opinions safely online, although in Nigeria, India and Ghana there was much more confidence about speaking out.

The survey also noticed divisions on the question of government oversight of some aspects of the net.

Web users in South Korea and Nigeria strongly felt that governments should never be involved in regulation of the Internet. However, a majority of those in China and the many European countries disagreed.