While those in Boston were working day and night preparing the new Web site and speaking with the press, I was with Tim Berners-Lee and Daniel Dardailler in Sharm-el-Sheik, at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting, to participate in the launch of the Web Foundation and to organize a workshop on the Web Foundation. This workshop was very useful, and helped me to understand where we should focus as we ramp-up WF operations. The savvy and enthusiastic participants had lots of questions and comments. Four major points emerged:
- There is a need for actions at levels of technology, awareness, capacity-building and tool. It was interesting to hear different messages from different participants. Some believe strongly that there are gaps in the Web technical ability to support access for all, particularly in terms of support for people reading and writing in certain language support and for people with low-reading skills. Some others think that the issue is not technology, but more a lack of awareness and capacity building. This is very interesting. We believe that actions are needed at both levels, and this discussion support our belief and program structure.
- The importance of vendor-neutral technical leadership: Some participants welcome the Web Foundation as one of the first organizations with a strong technical background, and that could help non-governmental and civil society organizations that do not have this expertise to identify and implement the most relevant standardized, interoperable ICT solutions.
- The importance of organization to connect and link existing initiatives: Many participants mentioned that this community-organizing function is lacking now. Many projects have no visibility on where to start, or are reinventing the wheel in their corner while others have done similar work in another corner. It is critical today to connect the different initiatives together, and offer them a place to share, collaborate and exchange.
- The importance defining a clear and strong Web Foundation position: We had a series of questions on the role of the Web Foundation compared to the World Wide Web Consortium and the Web Science Trust, but also as compared to other organizations working in the field, or researchers working in technological solutions for social development. I believe it is critical for us to explain better where we focus our action, and why we believe we are filling a hole not covered today by the other actors working in the technology for development domain.
Another key discussion was around intellectual property, and the importance of open source and free content, not only at the tools level, but also in the different materials and tools developed by the thousands of projects in the field. This is an area we will surely investigate further.
This workshop was very instructive, and gave us good feedback on where to focus. It convinced me to that we should start as soon as possible to establish communication channels between the Web Foundation and the community at large to receive comments, and views on our programs and actions. Above all, the positive energy expressed by all participants are very promising for the future.
Now, we are off to Kenya and Uganda!