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Delivering Digital Equality: The Web Foundation’s 2017 – 2022 Strategy

Web Foundation · February 10, 2017

Our Focus

“This is for everyone.”

This simple message is what Sir Tim Berners-Lee the inventor of the web, and founding director of the Web Foundation shared with 900 million people during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. It reflects the web’s past in particular, Sir Tim’s decision to gift his invention to the world for free. More importantly, it summarises his hopes and desires for humanity’s future that the web and other related technologies become equalising forces that benefit all of us.

True to this vision, the Web Foundation has chosen to focus our 2017 – 2022 strategy on delivering ‘digital equality’ using the open web to build a more equal world. Why? Because despite the wave of creativity, innovation and collaboration unleashed by the web, the reality is that today, the web is not for everyone. In fact, the digital revolution is creating new patterns of privilege and discrimination. It is causing job losses and wage polarisation as well as productivity gains; it risks taking away our privacy and autonomy even as it gives ordinary citizens new powers; it is isolating us in filter bubbles as well as connecting us across borders; and it is amplifying voices of fear and hate just as much as voices for tolerance and rationality.

We must act now to close the divide between digital haves and have-nots or we risk losing the web’s potential to serve humanity forever. To do this, we must work harder to ensure that everyone has the access, skills, and freedoms to appropriate and control new technologies for their own benefit. We must also make sure that control of the web is not held by a few governments or companies.  

Our Approach

Of course, this is a huge challenge. So how will we advance this on a practical level? By playing to our strengths, namely our respected original research, our diverse international team, our ability to bring many actors together to build consensus, and our capability to use our voice and that of Sir Tim to focus attention on the most important issues. For the next five years, we’ll use these strengths to double down our focus on policy advocacy pushing for shifts in government and corporate policies and actions, working closely with partners and allies wherever possible. While the landscape is ever-shifting, priority policy areas will include affordable access, gender equality, net neutrality, open data, online privacy and the impact of algorithmic decision-making.  We’ll work globally, but will continue to have a particular focus on countries in the Global South.

Our Goals

We are targeting wins in three specific areas:

1) Power: All People Can Make Their Voices Heard Equally
We will fight to ensure people’s rights on the web are legally protected. This means enshrining in law your right to freedom of expression and privacy online and ensuring that you have control over the collection and use of your personal data.

We will also push for policies that encourage a greater diversity of voices and content online. This means ensuring that the rights of women and excluded groups to participate in online life without harassment, intimidation or surveillance are protected, and that strong, clear net neutrality policies are in place that enable independent websites and small start-ups to thrive.

2) Accountability: Citizens Hold Governments and Companies to Account
We will continue to push for policies that open up key information online, and equip public interest groups to use this data to hold governments and companies accountable.

We also want to see stronger transparency and accountability in the use of digital resources and tools such as computer models (algorithms) that help determine the information and opportunities available to citizens. Hand in hand with this, we will continue to push for responsible policies around the collection and use of personal data by governments and companies.

3) Opportunity: Women and Other Excluded Groups Gain Economic and Social Opportunities and Resources
Digital equality means more inclusive public services and fair opportunities in the digital economy. Examples of policy outcomes we will be pursuing here are affordable broadband for all; expanded and enhanced free public WiFi schemes and digital skills programmes; and increased financial inclusion for women through digital financial services

The road ahead

The goals we’ve set are ambitious, but now more than ever we must be bold and challenge the interests that would seek to limit, control and fragment the free and open web. We will work to improve internet and technology policy at the national, regional and global level and measure our success not only by the number of new web users who come online but also by the number of web users who enjoy protections of their digital rights.

We will need strong partners and dedicated web champions fighting alongside us around the world. In the past three years, we’ve been fortunate to work with over 150 incredible organisations from over 50 countries. Collaboration and working in coalition will become even more central to our work in the years ahead.

We’d love to hear your feedback on our plans, and learn more about how you’re supporting the free and open web for everyone. Please leave a message in the comments below, send us an email to contact@webfoundation.org, or tweet us @webfoundation.

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  1. Elongima Bundu

    February 16, 2017

    I believe this is a very good approach which can help bring onboard the marginalized group which are the young women and girls that I always Left behind to checkup with the current technology advance of our time as it is sweet, cheap to reach out to the actual victims of political and system decay. Sierra schools of Technology (SisTec), which is now Sierra Sustainable Technology (SisTec) is the only organization in Sierra Leone that provide and advance Free ICT classes for young people especially young women and girls. last year, we implemented FAST Campaign for Web Foundation on FAST Internet which we invited Mobile companies, ISP, Network regulators, government and internet users to update the bandwidth of their internet facilities.I really hope the digital equality campaign can pay attention to Africa especially in Sierra Leone which they are now restrict people to internet right.Best regards,SisTec founder and CEOwww.sistecsl.org 23288734405

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    1. Nyta Mann

      February 16, 2017

      Very good - just get in touch when there's something you feel you need to explain.

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      1. Sharique Hassan Manazir

        February 16, 2017

        HelloGreetings for the day.I really appreciate your work and the proposal to make internet accessible to everyone.I feel one more thing you all can do is to start and advocacy group on the same line worlwide with help of experts and scholars .RegardsShariqueSTS Research ScholarCentre for Studies in Science PolicyJawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew Delhi,India

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        1. Mike de Sousa

          February 16, 2017

          Hi, I applaud your efforts to encourage digital rights for all.For my part I provide open access to art music and poetry: http://www.100Artworks.TodayI also publish 'The Rights of Living Things' which shares some of the principles you outline and suggests a few more:http://www.therightsoflivingthings.earthKeep up the great work!Kind Regards,Mikewww.mikedesousa.com

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          1. teresa lopez

            February 17, 2017

            desde la republica dominicana, me dedico a diseñar proyectos que promuevan la tecnología para solucionar vulnerabilidades, y asi atraer mas gente aprovechar las tic. estamos dispuesta a coordinar esfuerzos con web fundation

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            1. Sarah Lambert

              February 22, 2017

              We really need these strategies to be supported, and for them to work. I encourage you to link with the Commonwealth of Learning, which shares very similar goals with regard to equality of information and education particularly with countries of the global south - their programs have a strong focus on girls and women and blend both physical infrastructures and services with those relying on technologies.

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              1. doukoua gode

                February 24, 2017

                faciliter l’accès à un monde numérique équitable et sûr aux populations les plus défavorisée , contribue à au développement durable et au progrès de l'humanité.

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                1. Kathy

                  March 14, 2017

                  I wish companies could not ask for your birth date, when all they need to know is that you are over 18 or 21too much info is asked for and not needed but if you don't give it you can't participate.If they can make people with contests have them open to everyone, they can make them not be allowed to collect certain info..

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                  1. gero iyambae

                    March 17, 2017

                    Hola me gusto mucho el articulo, y me gustaria poder aportar en este plan estrategico

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                    1. Isabella Shane

                      March 22, 2017

                      As of now March 2017 is the internet really still open and free. Are there behind the scenes forces slowing down certain sites and steering people to others based on consumerism. In other words do corporations own the internet?

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