I hope you are well and getting to the end of this extraordinary year in good shape. I wanted to get in touch to thank you for your support and partnership as we leave 2020 behind us and share some brief thoughts as we look audaciously towards 2021.
The web has been a lifeline in 2020. It’s hard to imagine getting through Covid-19 without it – to stay safe and healthy, and continue to work and learn. Like you, here at the Web Foundation we’ve felt the web as a connective fabric through all of the year’s highs and lows. Despite all the challenges, I’m proud that our team has achieved more than ever in 2020, and we’re looking forward to building on this in 2021:
- Championing meaningful connectivity for everyone
Covid-19 means we must accelerate the building of a world where everyone can access the internet. Our 2020 Affordability Report found that after years of dedicated effort, affordable access is moving in the right direction. Prices for internet users are coming down and many government broadband policies are improving. But progress remains too slow. 3.5 billion people still don’t have access and, on current trends, it will be past 2050 before they do.
That’s nowhere near good enough, and it’s why our co-founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, told the United Nations and the European Parliament this year that we must recognise internet access as a human right, and work to close the digital divide as an international priority.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet, an initiative we are proud to lead at the Web Foundation, estimates that $428 billion of additional investment is needed over ten years to connect everyone. It’s a significant sum – but no more than the world spends on carbonated soft drinks every year. And the benefits are immense. Web access is a prerequisite for many of the Sustainable Development Goals — from supporting education and reducing inequality, to driving economic growth and boosting health outcomes.
- Empowering women and girls
It isn’t possible to deliver meaningful access to everyone without putting women front and centre. Tim argued in his 2020 web birthday letter why the web needs to work for women and girls. And our Women’s Rights Online report revealed that men are 52% more likely to be online than women in the least developed countries, while women are more concerned about privacy, less likely to create online content and less trusting of tech companies.
We are responding to these challenges with a newly strengthened team, convening tech firms and advocates to tackle online gender-based violence, and working with our Women’s Rights Online network of advocacy groups in 20 countries across Africa, South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Together, we’re working with policymakers to close the digital gender gap.
- Building the Contract for the Web as a framework for action
The Contract for the Web is the first-ever global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone, everywhere. The Contract maps out the behavior and outcomes we need to achieve the web we want for all. With 1,400 organizations already endorsing the Contract, we’re now moving from words to action. We’re building a platform to ensure governments, companies and citizens are making real progress towards meeting these evidence-based standards. We’re also developing a Tech Policy Design Lab to develop policies, legal frameworks, and products and services at the intersection of technology and human rights. In 2021, the Contract for the Web will be right at the heart of our work.
- Challenging leaders, and ourselves, to be bold
2020 has changed the global landscape, from public health to connectivity, to gender and racial equality. Responding to this new world requires audacity and determined action. That’s why this week we’ve called on President-elect Biden and the incoming new US administration to invest in internet access at home and abroad, put women front and centre of tech policy to tackle gender inequality online, and champion human rights in the digital sphere. It’s a challenge we will be putting to governments, companies and citizens around the world in 2021. And meanwhile, we’re responding to this new reality with a refreshed strategy of our own at the Web Foundation, including an increasing focus on engaging young people to drive us towards the web we want.
I truly believe this is a unique moment to work for a web that really works for everyone, enabling people everywhere to safely and freely connect, collaborate, create and learn, as a fundamental right. I believe it’s a cause we can win – but we won’t succeed without an extraordinary network of friends, partners and allies. So, I want to thank you for all we’ve been able to achieve together so far. I wish you a peaceful holiday season with the opportunity to rest and recharge, and look forward to deepening our partnership in 2021.
With all best wishes,