Here is a post from Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, on the Web’s 25th birthday.
Today, 12 March 2014, is the Web’s 25th birthday. Why is today significant for all of us? Because, really, the Web is humanity connected. Put simply, the Web amplifies the power of people. Millions of people have helped to build the Web, and the power to harness it for good is now within the grasp of everyone who is connected. In the past 25 years, we’ve seen the Web make a positive difference in ways large and small.
Here are just three examples which go beyond the well-documented economic benefits of the Web:
When typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, thousands of volunteer data scientists around the world swung into action to produce real time, annotated maps so that emergency efforts could be faster and more effective. The web and social media empowered local government and local communities to take charge of the relief effort – they crowdsourced funds, organised volunteers, matched donations to needs, reunited loved ones, and made sure no one in distress was ignored – all online. And, a web portal was launched to track donations so ordinary Filipinos can hold agencies accountable for spending those funds well.
When Ghanian social entrepreneur Bright Simons decided to tackle the deadly issue of counterfeit drugs in Africa, he used the power of the Web and mobile phones. Now, people can text a code printed on the box of the medicine they are considering buying to find out if the drugs are genuine or if they could cause harm. This has saved countless lives and the model is now being considered for global roll-out.
In Uganda, Barefoot Law uses social media and the Web to spread information and offer online consultations about complex legal issues in a country with a challenging human rights environment. Recent topics covered on their Facebook page include women’s rights and the right to privacy online – advice ordinary Ugandans may not have been able to receive through any other means.
25 years since the birth of the Web, we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of the social benefits the Web can deliver. However, all of the progress we’ve made is under threat. 60% of the world’s people still can’t get online, often owing to cost. Corporate giants are trying to control the Web, breaking the principles of net neutrality or forcing us into walled gardens, where we experience only a tiny slice of the Web through a ‘filter bubble’. And worst of all, many governments are trying to turn the Web into a tool for surveillance and repression. This loss of privacy online violates our human rights, breaks the contract between the Web and the user and threatens the very foundations of democracy.
What we must remember though, is that it is within our power to force a change. We all built the Web, and so we can all define its future. So let’s use this anniversary as a spur to action – let’s demand national bills of rights in every country to put the power of the Web back where it belongs – firmly in the hands of the people. I urge you to support the work of the Web Foundation, and to sign up to participate in the Web We Want campaign
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below or via #web25 on social media.