Web threatened. Join us and fight for it

Original author: Tim Berners-Lee
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Today ( March 14, 2018 ed. ) The World Wide Web is 29 years old. This year marks a key event in the history of the web: for the first time we are experiencing an important moment - more than half of the world's population wants to be “online”.

Opinions of people about this amazing news are divided into two types:

  1. How do we connect to the Internet the remaining half of humanity?
  2. Are we sure that the rest want this?

There are quite a few real factors that threaten the web today, including the ones I described in my last letter - from disinformation and questionable propaganda to the possibility of personal data leakage. But I still insist that the web is a free, open, creative space. For all.

However, this is only possible if we put everyone online and see that the web works only for the benefit of people. I founded the Web Foundation to fight for the future of the world wide web. And this is what we should do:

Nullify the digital divide

The difference between people who have access to the Internet, who do not have it, is aggravating the existing inequalities - inequalities that represent a serious global threat. Not surprisingly, if you are female , low-income, live in a rural area, a low-income country, or in a similar place, you will most likely always be offline. Today, being offline means not being able to learn and earn money, not having access to valuable services, and not having the right to vote in democratic debates. If we do not invest in reducing this inequality, the last billion people will not be connected with the world until 2042 . We leave the whole generation behind.

In 2016, the UN announced that the right to access the Internet is the same right as the rights to clean water, electricity, shelter and food. But until we make access to the Internet accessible to all, the billions will still be deprived of this basic right. The goal was set - the UN recently approved the minimum Internet access threshold proposed by the Alliance for Affordable Internet : 1 GB of mobile traffic for less than 2% of the average monthly income. However, in reality, we are still far from achieving this goal. In some countries, the cost of 1 GB of broadband mobile Internet still costs more than 20% of the average monthly income.

What is required for real achievement of this goal? We need to support policies and business models that expand access for very poor people by creating public access, for example, public networks and WIFI.

We must invest in providing reliable access for women and girls, expanding their opportunities through digital skills training.

Make the Internet work for the benefit of people.

Today, the worldwide network that many people connected several years ago did not recognize. What once was a rich selection of blogs and websites has shrunk under the powerful weight of several dominant platforms. This concentration of power allows multiple platforms to track which ideas and opinions are reviewed and approved.

These dominant platforms firmly stay in place, creating barriers for competitors. They find new companies, buy new ideas and hire the best talents in the industry. Add to this the competitive advantage their user data gives, and we can expect the next 20 years to be much less innovative than the previous ones.

Moreover, the concentration of power between only a few companies has led to the use of the Internet as a weapon, a tool for achieving personal goals. In recent years, we have witnessed conspiracy theories in social networks, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts, which provoked social unrest, interference with elections, and identity theft.

In search of answers, we looked at what these platforms are. Companies owning them are aware of the problems and try to eliminate them - every change they make affects millions of people. Responsibility - and sometimes the burden - when making such decisions falls on the shoulders of companies, the goal of creating maximum profit, and not the public good. The situation can be mitigated by a socially-oriented legal or regulatory framework.

Attract more people to the discussion of the future web

The future of the web depends not only on those who are online now, but also on those who are still not connected. A modern, powerful digital economy requires rigid standards that balance the interests of both companies and online citizens.

This means that we care about the connection between the development incentives of the technology sector and the interests of users and society as a whole, as well as consulting with various sectors of society in the process.

Although the problems associated with the global network are complex and large, I think we should treat them as bugs: problems with codes and software that were created by people — and can be fixed by people. Create a new set of incentives and code changes will certainly follow. We can create a network with a creative and supportive atmosphere.

Today I want to challenge all of us - we should have more ambitions for the web. I want it to reflect our hopes and be the embodiment of our dreams, and not reinforce our fears and differences.

Internet activist John Perry Barlow once said: “in order to invent a future, you need to anticipate it” ( Editor's note. Perhaps there is a reference to the phrase erroneously attributed to Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it” ). Maybe it sounds utopian, maybe it seems impossible after two years of failure, but I want us to imagine this future and build it.

Let's gather the brightest minds from business, technology, government, civil society, art and academia to fight to protect the web. In the Web Foundation, we are ready to do our job in this mission and create the network that we all want. To make this possible, let's work together.

Translation: Katya Shikhova

About #philtech
#philtech (технологии + филантропия) — это открытые публично описанные технологии, выравнивающие уровень жизни максимально возможного количества людей за счёт создания прозрачных платформ для взаимодействия и доступа к данным и знаниям. И удовлетворяющие принципам филтеха:

1. Открытые и копируемые, а не конкурентно-проприетарные.
2. Построенные на принципах самоорганизации и горизонтального взаимодействия.
3. Устойчивые и перспективо-ориентированные, а не преследующие локальную выгоду.
4. Построенные на [открытых] данных, а не традициях и убеждениях
5. Ненасильственные и неманипуляционные.
6. Инклюзивные, и не работающие на одну группу людей за счёт других.

Акселератор социальных технологических стартапов PhilTech — программа интенсивного развития проектов ранних стадий, направленных на выравнивание доступа к информации, ресурсам и возможностям. Второй поток: март–июнь 2018.

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