Web aspirations for the next 30 years

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The World Wide Web has enabled connectivity and access to information over the last 30 years.
The World Wide Web has enabled connectivity and access to information over the last 30 years.

As the World Wide Web marks 30 years in existence, South Africans say the Internet should make it possible for better access to education over the next three decades.

This was revealed in a Cisco report, which surveyed over 11 000 people, including 1 000 from SA, who shared their experience and hopes for the Internet.

According to Cisco, the research was carried out online by Opinion Matters between 27 February and 8 March, with respondents from across Belgium, France, Germany, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Italy, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, SA, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the UK.

In terms of the survey, the majority (83%) of South Africans believe the Internet can enable access to education for future generations. This figure, says Cisco, is higher than the 63% average across the 13 countries surveyed.

Using the Internet for better healthcare was also high, with 69% of South African respondents noting this as a priority. Only Poland was slightly higher at 71%, reveals Cisco.

The survey also shows that more than any other country, 50% of South African respondents want the Internet to be a platform for social and political change.

Furthermore, the Cisco survey highlights that 53% of respondents placed the greatest emphasis on the value of the Internet in the past 30 years as a means of connecting people, 46% noted the Internet for allowing new ways of learning, 39% for career opportunities, and 30% pointed to how the Web has created opportunities for new business start-ups.

Wendy Mars, senior VP for Cisco EMEAR, says: "We live in a hyper-connected world. By 2022, we are going to see more traffic crossing global networks than in the entire history of the Internet combined. This traffic comes from all of us, and increasingly, our machines. The survey shows the impact the World Wide Web and the Internet has had on our lives, and what people expect for the future.

"To realise that potential, organisations - be it in healthcare, education, or any other industry - must be able to understand the power of connections and securely extract value from them. In addition, they need to manage the complexity that comes with the explosion of connecting people, places, ideas and things across a network."

Better Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, notes this is the time to celebrate how far the Internet has come but also how far things have yet to go.

In a blog post, Berners-Lee says the Web has created opportunities, given marginalised groups a voice, and made daily lives easier.

However, the downside is that it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.

According to him, it's understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the Web is really a force for good, but given how much it has changed in the past 30 years, it would be unimaginative to assume the Web, as we know it, cannot be changed for the better.

The Web inventor believes sources of dysfunction affecting today's Internet include deliberate and malicious intent, criminal behaviour, online harassment, system design that creates perverse incentives, unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, and polarised tone and quality of online discourse.

He explains: "Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age. They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people's rights and freedoms online. We need open Web champions within government: civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open Web.

"Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety. Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity and security in mind. This year, we've seen a number of tech employees stand up and demand better business practices. We need to encourage that spirit.

"And most important of all, citizens must hold companies and governments accountable for the commitments they make, and demand that both respect the Web as a global community with citizens at its heart. If we don't elect politicians who defend a free and open Web, if we don't do our part to foster constructive healthy conversations online, if we continue to click consent without demanding our data rights be respected, we walk away from our responsibility to put these issues on the priority agenda of our governments."

The fight for the Web is one of the most important causes of our time, he continues. "Today, half of the world is online. It is more urgent than ever to ensure the other half are not left behind offline, and that everyone contributes to a Web that drives equality, opportunity and creativity.

"The Web is for everyone and collectively we hold the power to change it. It won't be easy. But if we dream a little and work a lot, we can get the Web we want," Berners-Lee concludes.

Visualise 30 years of possible by clicking here.

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13 Aug
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