Today, March 12, is the World Wide Web’s 29th birthday. Here’s a message from our founder and web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee on what we need to ensure that everyone has access to a web worth having.
Today, the World Wide Web turns 29. This year marks a milestone in the web’s history: for the first time, we will cross the tipping point when more than half of the world’s population will be online.
When I share this exciting news with people, I tend to get one of two concerned reactions:
- How do we get the other half of the world connected?
- Are we sure the rest of the world wants to connect to the web we have today?
The threats to the web today are real and many, including those that I described in my last letter — from misinformation and questionable political advertising to a loss of control over our personal data. But I remain committed to making sure the web is a free, open, creative space — for everyone.
That vision is only possible if we get everyone online, and make sure the web works for people. I founded the Web Foundation to fight for the web’s future. Here’s where we must focus our efforts:
Close the digital divide
The divide between people who have internet access and those who do not is deepening existing inequalities — inequalities that pose a serious global threat. Unsurprisingly, you’re more likely to be offline if you are female, poor, live in a rural area or a low-income country, or some combination of the above. To be offline today is to be excluded from opportunities to learn and earn, to access valuable services, and to participate in democratic debate. If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042. That’s an entire generation left behind.
In 2016, the UN declared internet access a human right, on par with clean water, electricity, shelter and food. But until we make internet access affordable for all, billions will continue to be denied this basic right. The target has been set — the UN recently adopted the Alliance for Affordable Internet’s threshold for affordability: 1 GB of mobile data for less than 2% of average monthly income. The reality, however, is that we’re still a long way off from reaching this target — in some countries, the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband remains over 20% of average monthly income.
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