Ten years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Rosemary Leith established the World Wide Web Foundation to advance their vision of the open web as a public good and a basic right.
We’ve come a long way in the past decade. 50% of the world is now online and billions are able to access information and use technology to solve problems in their communities.
The Web Foundation too has grown — from five people to a global team of 30 who work to create a safe and empowering web for everyone. Our powerful research, advocacy and groundbreaking partnerships have helped make the web more affordable for millions of people, positioned gender at the heart of global digital debate and influenced policy across the world.
We are proud of the progress we’ve made — but we know our work is nowhere near done. Half the world remains without access and there are too many unacceptable risks for those who are online. It is more important than ever to fight for the web we want.
That’s why, on November 25, we’ll launch the Contract for the Web — a global plan to protect the web as a force for good.
As we look to the challenges ahead, we want to pay tribute to our founders, colleagues and partners, past and present, who have worked so hard and have marked up some terrific achievements in this past decade.
1. 2010: We empowered women farmers via the web
Along with Malian and Dutch partners, we developed the Web Alliance for Regreening in Africa (W4RA). Over the years, the project has built innovative ICT applications that cater to real local existing needs of tree crop producers in West African Sahel, most of whom are women living in rural communities – an important initiative that connects the marginalised and unconnected through communication and knowledge sharing.
2. 2012: We launched the Web Index – measuring the state and utility of the web around the globe
The Web Index was the world’s first multidimensional measure of the World Wide Web’s contribution to development and human rights globally. It stimulated better-informed policy debate and research amongst 5,000 policymakers and civil society representatives working to improve digital rights. It remains a valuable research tool and widely cited source within the field.
3. 2013: We reduced the cost of accessing the web for millions of people across the world
We brought together 30 organisations to launch the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), to drive down the cost of internet access in low and middle-income countries through policy and regulatory reform. A4AI has contributed important research, such as the flagship Affordability Report; supported policy and regulatory reforms in at least six countries; and supported actions that have reduced the cost of access for about 650 million internet users across the globe.
4. 2015: We campaigned tirelessly for net neutrality around the globe
In 2015, the US Federal Communications Commission made a landmark decision to uphold strong net neutrality protections. Led by our founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, we supported the Save the Internet campaign which achieved this victory. From 2015 onwards, we have worked to mobilise public support to preserve net neutrality in Europe where new guidelines have been passed upholding net neutrality principles, as well as in India where we advocated for the strengthening of net neutrality commitments.
5. 2015: We pioneered research that highlighted the digital gender gap
Our first Women’s Rights Online study, based on surveys with thousands of men and women across ten countries, found that poor urban women in low to middle income countries are nearly 50% less likely to access the internet than men — research that was a turning point in the discourse on gender and digital technology.
6. 2016: We created a powerful network of women technology leaders in Africa
We held the first Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology in Accra in 2016 — the first event of its kind in the region. The Summit brought together 200 digital equality advocates from across Africa to debate the steps needed to close Africa’s growing digital gender gap. The Summit is one of very few tech events that continues to bring together women and girls at scale and highlights the importance of nurturing spaces where mentorship and networking of this sort can freely take place.
7. 2016: We helped Indonesia’s citizens get access to its government’s data
In 2016, the Web Foundation’s Jakarta Lab started working with the Executive Office of the President in Indonesia on a national open data policy (One Data Indonesia) to ensure citizens had access to government data. In 2019, the President of Indonesia signed the long-awaited One Data policy, containing open data provisions that the Lab advocated for — a critical victory in the fight for open data in Indonesia and globally.
8. 2017: We told the story of the web in #ForEveryone, a documentary adapted and adopted globally
The documentary #ForEveryone tells the story of Sir Tim and the web and has been translated into Spanish and shown across the world. In 2017, it premiered in Nigeria and in Côte d’Ivoire. Blogger and activist Cyriac Gbogou said he had a “life-changing moment” after watching, and has since organised screenings in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Congo, Mauritania, and Benin — a great example of a true champion of the web.
9. 2018: We secured adoption of an ambitious affordability target by the UN
The United Nations Broadband Commission adopted the ‘1 for 2’ target as its threshold for affordable internet. This target — which calls for 1GB of mobile broadband data to be available for 2% or less of average monthly income — was proposed by the Web Foundation’s A4AI in 2016 as a benchmark at which people at all income levels would be able to afford a basic connection. It has also been endorsed by Nigeria, Ghana and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
10. 2019: We launched first-ever global action plan to create a better web
Ten years after founding the Web Foundation, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is launching The Contract for the Web, the first-ever global action plan to create a safe and empowering web for everyone. Created by experts from around the world, it provides governments, companies and individual web users with concrete actions they can — and must — take to build a web that works for all humanity.
Visit www.contractfortheweb.org to join us in the fight for the web!
We look forward to continuing to work together in the next decade and beyond to create the web we want.
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