Big step to save World Wide Web


A LOT has gone wrong with the World Wide Web. Its users are now suf­fer­ing from on­line abuse, fake news, data breaches and web­site shut­downs by gov­ern­ments.

Its founder, Tim Bern­ers-Lee, is deeply con­cerned about what the web has be­come and this week, speak­ing at the Web Sum­mit in Lisbon (Por­tu­gal), an­nounced what could be de­scribed as a ma­jor step to­wards sav­ing it.

Bern­ers-Lee an­nounced a con­tract for the web, which asks the gov­ern­ments, in­ter­net com­pa­nies and cit­i­zens to up­hold a set of prin­ci­ples such as pro­tect­ing pri­vacy and be­ing trans­par­ent about their al­go­rithms.

Speak­ing about the con­tract, Bern­ers-Lee said: “It’s about go­ing back to val­ues.”

When the web was cre­ated it was not ex­pected that it would be used as a tool to pur­sue neg­a­tive ob­jec­tives. As a re­sult, no prin­ci­ples were set up to over­see the be­hav­iour of those who are us­ing and shap­ing it.

The con­tract ini­ti­ated by Bern­ers-Lee at the Web Foun­da­tion is an at­tempt to close that gap.

The con­tract calls on gov­ern­ments to en­sure that ev­ery­one is con­nected to the in­ter­net. It calls on com­pa­nies to make the in­ter­net af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one.

To en­sure that no one is ex­cluded from us­ing and shap­ing the web and, more im­por­tantly, to re­spect con­sumer pri­vacy and per­sonal data.

The cit­i­zens of the world and users of the web are also called on to build strong com­mu­ni­ties that re­spect civil dis­course and hu­man dig­nity.

In re­sponse to cur­rent chal­lenges with the web, cit­i­zens are called on to fight for the web so that it re­mains open for the ben­e­fits of so­ci­ety now and in the fu­ture.

The con­tract launched by Bern­ers-Lee is just the be­gin­ning of a process that will carry on un­til May next year. So far, lead­ing tech com­pa­nies such as Google and Face­book have sup­ported the con­tract.

France be­came the first coun­try to sup­port the con­tract. Other global so­cial or­gan­i­sa­tions are sup­port­ive of the con­tract. These in­clude Ac­cess Now, Mo Ibrahim Foun­da­tion and Open Rights Group.

The process of de­vel­op­ing the con­tract will be on-go­ing in con­sul­ta­tion with other key stake­hold­ers.

Africa re­mains one of the ar­eas where neg­a­tive ef­fects of the bad web are felt. It is in Africa where gov­ern­ments are no­to­ri­ous for block­ing some web­sites. It’s African cit­i­zens who are less pro­tected when­ever there are data breaches on the web.

Europe has in­tro­duced a Gen­eral Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion, which safe­guards users of the web from harm­ful ef­fects un­leashed by tech gi­ants. It is the US gov­ern­ment that has called on tech­nol­ogy gi­ants to ac­count for wrong­do­ing and vi­o­la­tions con­ducted on the web.

African gov­ern­ments have been silent on these mat­ters while African cit­i­zens are also af­fected.

The South African gov­ern­ment can lead the way in shap­ing a bet­ter fu­ture for the web by be­com­ing the first sig­na­tory of the con­tract on the con­ti­nent. Lo­cal web com­pa­nies can also con­tribute by ad­her­ing to stan­dards that will en­sure that users of the web are not harmed in the process of us­ing their web­sites.

Users of the web on the African con­ti­nent can also con­tribute by how they be­have on­line. Abu­sive be­hav­iour on­line can only be stopped by in­di­vid­u­als who use the web.

It took one man in 1989 to cre­ate the web dur­ing his spare time. In­di­vid­ual ef­forts mat­ter in shap­ing the bet­ter fu­ture of the web.

The African con­ti­nent has an op­por­tu­nity to em­bed its value sys­tems in what can be­come a bet­ter African and global web.

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