This post was written by Adrian Lovett, President & CEO, World Wide Web Foundation.
For the Web Foundation, like many other organisations, the last 20 months have been marked by action. We have sought to seize the moment of the Covid-19 pandemic and push for faster progress to make the web work for everyone. But in the eye of the Covid storm, we also have taken a step back to check on our overall direction, challenging ourselves to be focused as well as audacious in our priorities for the coming years. The result is a new strategy that I hope will ensure the Web Foundation makes an even bigger impact in the years ahead as the world looks to build back from this crisis.
The Covid-19 crisis laid bare the deep digital inequalities which have impacted experiences of the pandemic across the globe. Moving our work and our lives online may have been an inconvenience for those who were able to do so — but for nearly half of the world’s population, it has simply been impossible in the absence of an internet connection. Education and livelihoods have been disrupted, social circles have shrunk, and the pre-existing inequality that is reflected in the digital divide risks being even further exacerbated.
So the crisis has shown us that the web is a lifeline — and our mission for a safe, empowering web that works for everyone matters now more than ever.
Over the past decade, we’ve successfully fought to shape the policies and products we need for the web we want. This has been achieved through original research, advocacy and public action, and working with civil society, technology companies, and governments, whose decisions and actions shape our digital world.
We’ve realised that if we are to move our mission forward, our organisation must dedicate our full attention to the areas where we can make the biggest difference. Our new five-year strategy — summarised here — sets out a focused approach to fighting for the web we want.
We will work to convene decision makers and fight for change across four key priorities:
1. We’re advocating for affordable, meaningful internet access — so that everyone, everywhere can use the web to improve their lives.
Through our Alliance for Affordable Internet we’re working for policy change to put affordable internet access within reach of 75% of the world by 2025 and reach universal access by 2030.
2. We’re championing gender equality online — so that all women and girls are able to get online and use the web safely, without the threat of abuse and harassment.
Through our pioneering Tech Policy Design Lab we’re working with tech companies to develop policy and product solutions to curb online gender-based violence using human-centered design thinking and working to ensure these companies deliver on their commitments. Meanwhile, our Women’s Rights Online network is helping policymakers shape laws and policies that prioritise the needs of women and bridge the digital gender gap.
3. We’ll steward the creation of the web we want by turning the principles of the Contract for the Web into lasting change.
The Contract for the Web — created by experts across the world and endorsed by thousands of organisations and individuals — is the first global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone. We are embarking on the next phase where we will identify and scale best practice for digital policy and products, and develop solutions to pressing tech challenges through our Tech Policy Design Lab. Our five-year roadmap will help endorsers fulfil their commitments and hold them to account for doing so.
4. We’re building a powerful constituency of individuals and organisations working together to champion a better web.
Decision makers who have the power to shape our digital world will prioritise action only when their customers, constituents, and partners speak out to demand change. That’s why we’re building on our existing network of alliances to create a global network of individuals and organisations who share our vision of the web for everyone and will take action to fight for it.
As we attempt to rebuild and reimagine our societies after the ravages of the pandemic, we must prioritise basic human needs — of which universal, meaningful access to the internet is one. I’m proud of the great strides our Web Foundation team has made over the past year. But I am in no doubt that we still have much more to do.
Tim Berners-Lee had a vision for a web that served humanity and he gave it to the world for free. Fulfilling his vision is one of the most important causes of our time — and we can’t do it alone. We hope you’ll join us in building a better, fairer digital future.
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Tim Berners-Lee, our co-founder, gave the web to the world for free, but fighting for it comes at a cost. Please support our work to build a safe, empowering web for everyone.