In a letter marking the 32nd anniversary of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is warning of a growing digital divide online that threatens the future success of many young people.
For those unfamiliar, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the internet navigation system known as the World Wide Web back in 1989.
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Now though, he believes that his invention isn't living up to its potential and that the dominance of online giants is just a “fad” that won't last. In an interview with Reuters, Sir Tim Berners-Lee expanded on this idea, saying:
“I’m optimistic, because we’ve seen some dominant fads on the internet before ... and then things change. The only sane thing to think is that ... things are going to accelerate (and) continue to accelerate. We’re going through another step-change in the speed at which the world is changing.”
Internet as a basic right
While our lives have become increasingly digital and this has only been accelerated by the pandemic, a third of young people have no internet access at all with many more lacking the data, devices and reliable connection they need to harness the full power of the web.
According to UNICEF, only the top third of young people under 25 years old have a home internet connection which leaves 2.2bn others without the stable access they need to learn online. To combat this, Sir Tim Berners-Lee believes that governments around the world must recognize internet access as a basic right. In his open letter, he explained exactly what this would take, saying:
“The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), an initiative of the Web Foundation, has calculated that $428 billion of additional investment over ten years would provide everyone a quality broadband connection. To put this in perspective, that amounts to the equivalent of just $116 per person for the 3.7 billion people who remain offline today. By giving billions more people tools to learn, earn, and create, this down payment for future generations would deliver incredible returns in the form of economic growth and social empowerment.”
In addition to calling for internet access to be recognized as a basic right like electricity was seen last century, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is also working on a project called Solid which will allow users to control their own personal data as opposed to leaving it in the hands of Facebook and other tech giants.
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