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Photo courtesy of Nnenna Nwankma

Photo courtesy of Nnenna Nwankma

We must put people at the heart of the Web

Web Foundation · November 12, 2015

At the 2015 Internet Governance Forum in Brazil, Africa Regional Director Nnenna Nwakanma shares her vision for the Web we need to empower sustainable development. This is the full text of her speech as delivered.

“My name is Nnenna.  I come from the Internet. It is good to be back in Brazil again. Early last year, we were in this beautiful country for NetMundial. I promised I was going to come back, and I did. I came back for FIFA Mundial and I had the opportunity to see more of the country. So for me, it is great to be back, to explore “Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development.”

“I tell you something.  When I was a 3 years old, I had a clear idea of the best human invention on planet earth. It is the lollipop. It has the sweet on the outside and gum at the heart. In many countries, you still have them. I bought some from Praia Tambau, here in Joao Pessao. You can get three for less than one Brazilian Real.”

“Over the years, though, the Internet has taken over, as we all know, as the greatest invention in human history, allowing for unprecedented commercial, social, cultural, political and civic activities. The Internet has become our greatest tool and our reliable channel for human development. Yet over 60% of the world’s population (4.2 billion people) – most of them women or rural dwellers – are still offline. Internet penetration in Africa increased just 1.7% between 2013 and 2014. To bring these last billions online, the high cost of Internet access in the developing world must be reduced. At the Web Foundation, we believe it is the right of everyone, everywhere to access the transformative power of the Web.”

“The newly-adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals include an important pledge to harness information and communications technologies (ICTs) to advance women’s empowerment, as well as a commitment to connect everyone in Least Developed Countries to the Internet by 2020. This is about people like myself, so I am excited by this:

  • Connectivity for men and women
  • More people online, expanding business opportunities for the private sector
  • Citizens and administrations online to enhance participation and service delivery
  • Broadband access that allows for delivery of e-governance, e-health, e-learning and e-commerce etc.

“Simply put, the Internet makes life sweet.”

“Like the lollipop the heart of the Internet is built around a gum: humans. Like someone has rightly said, people before power, profit and politics.  It is built around:

  • Respect for Human Rights
  • Freedom
  • Openness
  • Network neutrality
  • Human diversity

“That is why it is our responsibility to safeguard the sweetness of the Internet in all our activities as stakeholders, while at the same time, maintaining the principles at the heart of the Internet. Like these lollipops of mine. The Web We Want is very simple: the same rights that people have offline should apply online. That explains why very soon you will hear about our global campaign for Internet rights, championed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and a drafting group of globally acknowledged eminent personalities.”

“At the Web Foundation, and for me personally, we believe that all the people, should be free and able, to access all of the Internet, all of the time. And you will hear this from us, from me, as long as we live and the web exists:

  • All of the people
  • All of the Internet
  • All of the time

“Thank you.”


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