Tim Berners-Lee, the UK computer scientist credited with original invention of the World Wide Web in 1990, says that is time for the web to become a granted human right. The remarks were made along with the release of a report that tracks the impact of the Internet around the globe.
The Internet has often been described as a leveler of the playing field, but against the backdrop of concerns with the freedom of expression, and privacy, the report complied, by the WWW Foundation, which is headed by Berners-Lee, explores several issues that affect the use of the web. Some of the major concerns, are that the web may become more unequal and less free.
The Web Index, as the report is titled, reveals that surveillance and censorship are both on the increase, as almost 4.4 billion people in undeveloped countries still have no web access. It also states that the laws that should prevent mass surveillance are almost non-existent or weak in almost 85 percent of the countries around the world.
While Berners-Lee states that web access should become a guaranteed human right, the reports also expresses the hope of a return the expected equality. With a veiled reference to net neutrality, it also insinuates that transmissions should be made without interference, while the privacy and freedom of the users stay protected. Countries were ranked in the way the web was used for political, social and economic progress, and EU countries of Denmark, Finland and Norway were ranked at the top of the list.
In addition to the use of the web as examined by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the report also examines factors such accessibility, and determines that the European countries are now ahead of others when it comes to speed, faster and cheaper access, and restriction of information. The touchy subject of privacy was also addressed, in the light of requests for information by the state.
Web inventor Berners-Lee was originally an engineer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research lab (CERN) in Switzerland when the Internet was proposed 25 years ago. At that time, the purpose was primarily for sharing information globally. He has also written many of the transmission protocols that are now in use, and is the Director of the (W3C) World Wide Web Consortium that manages the specifications, guidelines for tools and software that are intended to help the web advance to a full potential.
The report is a general outline of the status on the use of the Internet and how it affects the lives of citizens. The issues that are currently being played out seem to be just beginning and rapidly growing contentious as the web develops. Debates on issues such as privacy, are not expected to be resolved any time soon. Regulation is becoming more diverse among the nations, as regional rules are developed. Countries such as Iran are reputedly developing methods to identify each user while online, and India is said to be developing a database that identifies each citizen with an ID card. What may be surprising is the fact the Internet may be partly responsible for the reducing the wealth disparity that is emerging among the nations.
While the concept of a web that is free from issues such as censorship and surveillance may seem to be an ideal proposition, the concept of the usage becoming one the human rights as proposed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee is also intriguing as the web celebrates its 25th year. All indications are that there several issues that should also be resolved.
By Dale Davidson