This simple message is what Sir Tim Berners-Lee — the inventor of the web, and founding director of the Web Foundation — shared with 900 million people during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. It reflects the web’s past — in particular, Sir Tim’s decision to gift his invention to the world for free. More importantly, it summarises his hopes and desires for humanity’s future — that the web and other related technologies become equalising forces that benefit all of us.
True to this vision, the Web Foundation has chosen to focus our 2017 – 2022 strategy on delivering ‘digital equality’ — using the open web to build a more equal world. Why? Because despite the wave of creativity, innovation and collaboration unleashed by the web, the reality is that today, the web is not for everyone. In fact, the digital revolution is creating new patterns of privilege and discrimination. It is causing job losses and wage polarisation as well as productivity gains; it risks taking away our privacy and autonomy even as it gives ordinary citizens new powers; it is isolating us in filter bubbles as well as connecting us across borders; and it is amplifying voices of fear and hate just as much as voices for tolerance and rationality.
We must act now to close the divide between digital haves and have-nots or we risk losing the web’s potential to serve humanity forever. To do this, we must work harder to ensure that everyone has the access, skills, and freedoms to appropriate and control new technologies for their own benefit. We must also make sure that control of the web is not held by a few governments or companies.