World Wide Web Foundation

2017 Annual Report

At one time, we thought that if we could just keep the web open and get more people connected, it would be a tremendous force for good in the world.

While it has indeed delivered huge benefits for many, the challenges we face are so much greater and more complex than we had imagined.

When things get tough, we can’t lose hope. We must be more ambitious than ever as we fight for a web that is open, free and for everyone. I’m proud of the work the Web Foundation has achieved in 2017, setting new ambitious standards for internet affordability, investigating the impact of emerging technologies in the Global South and fighting tirelessly to protect net neutrality in the US and across the world.

But we must do more. Soon, for the first time, half of the world will be online. As more people connect, we need your support to ensure they find a web that makes their lives better.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Inventor of the World Wide Web
Founding Director

Sir Tim’s vision for the web as a free and open platform enabling collaboration, information sharing and connectivity across boundaries has, in many ways, been realised in the decades since the web’s creation. But the events of 2017 have also forced us to recognise the many challenges facing the web today and its potential both to fuel continued socio-economic growth and empower people across the globe.

The Web Foundation and its partners worked tirelessly in 2017 to tackle these challenges and ensure that the web remains a free and open space that works for everyone. But we can’t do it alone. Overcoming these threats will require all of us to come together to fight for its future and ensure that the web we build together is the web that we want. I hope you all will join us in the fight to make the web’s tremendous power for good a reality.

Afsaneh Mashayekhi Beschloss
Founder & CEO, Rock Creek Group
Chair of the Board of Trustees

Since I joined the Web Foundation in September 2017, I’ve been incredibly proud of the work we’re doing to defend the web as a positive, public good that connects everyone, everywhere. 2017 saw growing threats to this extraordinary gift to humanity. The web we want is a web worth fighting for, and I hope you’ll join us in the movement to keep it open and free for everyone.

Adrian Lovett
President & CEO


To build a more equal world, everyone must have the same rights and opportunities online so they can use the web to improve their lives — irrespective of wealth, gender, race or any other factor.

Unfortunately, with half the world still not connected and mounting threats to a free and open web, this vision is far from the reality we face today.

As an independent, international organisation, the Web Foundation stands up for the interests of ordinary people — both online and offline —  by influencing the government and corporate policies that shape our web to make sure the web works for everyone.

Our Impact

1. Secured adoption of a new affordability target across West Africa.

We continued to push for the adoption of a more ambitious affordability target and saw these efforts pay off when the ‘1 for 2’ target was officially endorsed by Nigeria, Ghana, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the UN Broadband Commission. This target — which calls for 1GB of mobile broadband data to be available for 2% or less of average monthly income — was first proposed by the Alliance for Affordable Internet in 2016 as a level at which all level of income earners would be able to afford a basic connection. At the end of 2016, only 19 low- and middle-income countries had met this target; now, countries across West Africa will be working to drive prices down to this level and to enable millions more to connect.

2. Campaigned tirelessly for net neutrality around the globe.

In 2017, we fought hard to preserve net neutrality and the fundamental principles of an open web. In the US, a new administration threatened the net neutrality protections we helped put in place in 2015. To stop the FCC’s new proposal to unwind these protections, we submitted a formal response and made our case to top lawmakers, meeting with leaders from both political parties as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Ajit Pai. We also worked to mobilise public support, leveraging the voice of our founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee through videos, blog posts, and op-eds in the likes of USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.

Elsewhere, we cheered the strengthening of net neutrality commitments in India, a place we have long worked to secure strong protections. We will continue to defend net neutrality principles across the world.

3. Celebrated the web’s 28th birthday — and warned about its greatest challenges.

On March 12, 2017, we celebrated the 28th anniversary of the invention of the World Wide Web by publishing a letter from its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. In his letter, Sir Tim underlined three of the biggest challenges he sees facing the web — that we have lost control of our personal data, that misinformation is spreading online like never before, and that opaque political advertising is undermining the integrity of democratic institutions. The letter was shared in over 1,500 news stories across 70+ counties, including prominent coverage in major outlets including The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde & USA Today. It drove discussion and debate among policymakers, technology leaders and activists across social media with over 2 million users using #HappyBirthdayWWW.

“It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want - for everyone."
Sir Tim Berners-Lee

4. Launched the first-ever global beneficial ownership register.

On the first anniversary of the publication of the Panama Papers, in partnership with six leading transparency organisations, we launched the OpenOwnership Register — creating the world’s first open, global register of beneficial ownership data.

The register will serve as an authoritative source of who owns and controls companies, and will help to shed light on the corruption, tax evasion, and other fraudulent practices that continue to drain public resources in countries around the world.

The OpenOwnership Register has transitioned to its own secretariat, and we are proud to have played a role in incubating this much needed initiative.

5. Investigated the opportunities and risks inherent in emerging technologies.

As digital technology evolves, we need to understand how new trends are shaping society — where they present opportunities to improve lives, and where they threaten to do harm. To better grasp how emerging technologies are changing our world, we published a series of white papers looking at the impacts of three key emerging technologies in low- and middle-income countries: (1) Artificial intelligence; (2) Algorithmic accountability; and (3) Control of personal data. We then dove deeper into some of these topics, publishing papers on Personal data protection in Nigeria and AI activity underway in various African countries. This research broadened the discussion about how these technologies are playing out in different — and oftentimes overlooked — countries and contexts, and will help to inform the development of related policies and standards, and provide useful insights to companies building this technology.

6. Supported the creation of Indonesia’s Satu Data (One Data) Policy.

The Jakarta Lab worked with the Executive Office of the President in Indonesia on a national open data policy (One Data Indonesia) to ensure a suitable regulatory framework for the management and publication of government data. In collaboration with the National Institute of Public Administration and a group of local open data experts, the Lab team began work to develop and publish a set of open data training modules that could be used by government officials to facilitate the publication of government data across the country; the Lab will continue work to support the government to adopt and enact these modules at the district, local and national level.

7. Filled critical research gaps to support smart policymaking.

We grew our body of research in 2017, working to fill gaps in the research needed to support smart, data-driven policymaking on internet access and affordability, and women’s rights online. The 2017 edition of A4AI’s annual Affordability Report — which assessed the policies and regulations in place to advance affordable internet access — and new, one-of-a-kind data on the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband data both underscored the urgent need to policies and programs designed to drive down the cost of internet access and, specifically, to connect the women, rural, and poor populations least likely to be able to afford to connect. Our Women’s Rights Online network forged ahead with advocacy efforts to increase opportunities for women’s online access and use, presenting action plans — rooted in a series of new country-level gender policy assessments — to policymakers around the world.

8. Participated in processes to improve open data policies and practices.

We published the Fourth Edition of the Open Data Barometer, a global measure of how governments are publishing and using open data. With 93% of government data still not open, it’s clear we have a long way to go to reach the potential of open data as a tool that improves policymaking and empowers citizens. Our team met with policymakers from nine countries — Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Uruguay and Ukraine — to discuss the findings, and concrete steps governments can take to boost their performance on the Barometer and improve their open data readiness, implementation, and impact.

9. Convened actors from across Africa to develop gender-responsive ICT policy.

In September 2017, the Web Foundation, A4AI and a number of partners came together to host the first-ever Regional Conference for Francophone Africa on Gender Mainstreaming in ICT Policies and Programmes. Over the course of three days, 80 high-level participants from different sectors in 20 African countries came together to discuss concrete solutions for mainstreaming gender concerns in ICT policy and closing the digital gender divide. Discussions from the conference resulted in the production of the Dakar Declaration, which calls on all actors throughout Francophone Africa to address barriers to online access, use and content development faced by women, and to integrate and promote gender perspectives in the development of public policy.

10. Impacted ICT policy to improve internet affordability for over 600 million people.

We worked with policymakers to develop and shape the policies and regulations needed to drive down the cost of internet access across low- and middle-income countries — where the cost of just 1GB of mobile broadband data can cost up to nearly 45% of a citizen’s average monthly income. The number of national A4AI coalitions working to develop local solutions to barriers to internet access and affordability expanded to a total of seven countries — Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Myanmar and Bangladesh — in 2017, and A4AI worked with ECOWAS to develop a new regional policy to achieve universal access. A4AI also submitted comments to open calls for comments on proposed policies in South Africa and Nigeria.

Finances & how to give

Full details of Web Foundation finances are available in our audited financial statements. Past financial statements and a current list of funders are always available.

Our founder gave the web to the world for free — but fighting for its future comes at a cost.

The Web Foundation relies on donations to fund our fight for a web that serves humanity. Please consider donating to help us tackle the substantial challenges at the frontier of technology and society — and to make sure the future of the web benefits everyone.

To give, donate online or email us at

We are deeply grateful to the individuals, foundations, governments and companies whose support allows the us to fulfil our mission and maintain fiscal responsibility.

A special thank you to all those who supported our work in 2017:

Alex Johnston

Berkman Klein Centre

Department for International Development*



Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)



HIVOS Indonesia

Institute for International Education, GTL Fund

International Development Research Centre (IDRC)*


Kaia Miller & Jonathan Goldstein


Marcia Blenko


Omidyar Network*

Open Society Foundation

Rosemary Leith


Sir Tim Berners-Lee


UN Women


Vieira de Almeida

World Bank

Individuals donations below $250

*Donated $100,000 or more

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