Did you know that only 54% of people around the world have connected to the internet? And from this 54%, less than half are women? On the first episode of Inclusory Teddy Woodhouse, Research Manager (Access and Affordability) at the World Wide Web Foundation which has famously been founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web, showcases how the inequalities of the world are mirrored in our access to this tool that has become crucial for our representation and participation in society. He furthermore tells us what each and everyone of us can do in order to partake in the creation of a free, open, safe and positive world wide web.
Little disclaimer: while the internet is the structure on top of which the world wide web could be built we use the two notions interchangeably in our conversation.
Facts and Figures / Teddy states facts and figures about how many people around the world are currently without internet access. [2:30]. He then names poverty as one of the main reasons for their lack of internet access and goes into the numbers based on this statement. [3:40]. Teddy then gives an example that shows the huge difference between individual and societal gain from internet access in developing vs developed countries. [4:40].
Meaningful Connectivity/ Teddy explains meaningful connectivity (four things: 4G mobile internet connection, smartphone, one unlimited oasis point, using the internet on a daily basis) [5:18]. He explains the World Wide Web Foundation’s three initial research pilots in connection with this conducted in Columbia, Ghana and Indonesia and their important outcomes [6:03].
Gender Gap in Internet Access / Teddy names poverty, social norms and safety as the three main contributing factors to this gap [9:28]. He explains how he and his colleagues address this gap focusing on REACT (acronym: rights, education, access, content and targets). [11:25]. Teddy elaborates on how the fact that women in many cases deliberately abstain from using the internet for fear of their safety reflects how inequalities in the analogue world in terms of violence against women are replicated into the digital world [11:25].
Internet Access as a Human Right / Teddy elaborates on why the internet should be a human right [14:40]. He stresses that the pandemic has been crucial in making it obvious how important the internet is in peoples’ lives [15:08]. He further names social change in terms of greater political and economic participation as reasons why internet access should be a human right. [16:25]. He says it does require thinking about an investment in collaborative actions to build the infrastructure needed in order to make this a reality[17:37].
Counteracting Fake News on the Web / Teddy answers the question about what measures can be taken against the rise of fake news on the web and the role net neutrality plays in this context. [19:40]. He brings up “building the web we want” as a solution to this problem. [20:01]. He gives THE example of the Web Foundation's effort in connection with this: the “contract for the web” which is a multi stakeholder collaboration that deals with the big questions concerning the web at the intersection between politics and technology [20:23]. He names data privacy, digital commons and risk assessing as main discussion points [20:50]. He emphasizes the need for greater diversity in the sector [21:30]. He stresses that having conversations about which behaviours (of people using the internet) can be positively reinforced/negatively discouraged is important and it is even more important that these conversations are inclusive at different parts of the value chain from from software development to policies [22:00].
Tech Companies and Internet Diversity / Teddy comments on whether or not large tech companies have an interest in keeping the web diverse and emphasizes the importance of being “critical friends” in negotiations with them [23:20]. He comments on why he personally believes the internet it a force for good in the world. [24:27]. He stresses the importance of building “positive technology” [25:33].
Building the “Web We Want”/ Teddy lists what everyone of us can do in order to help create the “web we want” [26:00].
NOTABLE quotes from Teddy Woodhouse
“[…] ...if you have five people in a room, if […] those five people are Europeans four of them are going to be using the internet but if they are in a more deprived country outside of Europe only one of these five people is likely to be using the internet...[4:04].
“[…] Estimates right no have it that about 300 million fewer women (than men) use mobile internet which is the dominant way in which people are connecting to the internet across the globe (...) that’s 300 million fewer voices that are online from a women’s perspective and that are contributing to what exists on the internet in terms of content that we see and read and interact with and contribute to the global discourse.[8:20].
“[…] An important factor is mobile phone ownership [which] is a key dynamic. There is also a gender gap in terms of smartphone ownership across the globe, that more men own smartphones than women do. [8:46].
“[…] Less time and less money create two main disincentives for women to start using the internet. [10:01].
“[…] Women are “net-discouraged” in some societies. . [paraphrased, 10:22].
“[…] For many people internet access is no longer a luxury but a lifeline. [14:48].
“[…] The internet can help build networks of disinformation just as it can bolster networks of solidarity [19:50].
“[…] Vote! Because a lot of what happens in terms of policies that get decided and the legal environments in which technology will evolve for the next few decades is going to be decided by the people who hold elected office at various levels of government.” [26:57].
The Alliance for Affordable Internet which is hosted by the Web Foundation has just released this year's Affordability Report (a joint effort by Teddy and his colleagues) - read up on it here:
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