The World Wide Web Foundation has released the 2014-15 edition of the Web Index. This report is the world’s first measurement of the World Wide Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress across 86 countries.
The Web Index takes a look at the Web in 2014 and warns that the web is less free and more unequal. The Web Index 2014 was designed and produced by the World Wide Web Foundation with support from UK Aid from the UK government, NAVER and the Swedish International Development Cooperation. The Index combines existing secondary data with primary expert assessment surveys. Scores are given in the areas of access; freedom and openness; relevant content; and social, economic and political empowerment.
The global launch of the 2014-15 Web Index took place on December 11, 2014 including a press conference in London at which Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, made a statement on the year’s Web Index and also answered questions.
This year’s report includes five new countries – Haiti, Mozambique, Myanmar, Ukraine and Sierra Leone. It also reveals that online censorship is on the rise as moderate or extensive Web censorship is seen in 38% of countries from the 32% the previous year, 2013. The report points out that 1.5 billion total internet users live in countries which score below 3/10 for either surveillance or censorship or both and 340 million live in countries scoring below 3/10 for net neutrality, but not included in the first group.
Reflecting on the findings of the Web Index report, Sir Berners-Lee called for the Internet to be recognised as a human right and protected from commercial and political interference. He stated that: “It’s time to recognise the Internet as a basic human right. That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”
The World Wide Web Foundation was invented by Sir Berners-Lee to establish the open Web as a global public good and a basic right. It aims at creating a world where everyone, everywhere can use the Web to communicate, collaborate and innovate freely. The Foundation is represented by more than a dozen nationalities working from hubs in London, Washington DC and Cape Town. It targets three key areas: Access, Voice and Participation as well as merges technology and human rights.
For the third year running, a Scandinavian country topped the index of 86 countries, with Denmark ranking ahead of Finland, Norway, the UK, and Sweden. The Web Index recognized Scandinavian countries such including Denmark, Finland and Norway which topped the Index as countries that are best at putting the Web to work. The Index calculation having been significantly revamped over the past year made year on year country comparisons impossible but Scandinavian nations once again topped the report’s country tables as in the past years. States with high levels of wealth, low levels of inequality, and strong protection for civil liberties – such as top-ranked Denmark, Finland and Norway – are gaining the most social and economic benefit from the Web.
Users of the Web are also recognized as being at increasing risk of indiscriminate government surveillance as laws preventing bulk mass surveillance are weak or non-existent in over 84% of countries, up from 63% in 2013.
Furthermore, the Index pointed out that actions sparked online have been able to lead to change offline. The Web and social media are proving to make major contributions to sparking citizen action in three of five countries studied. In over 60% of countries, women are using the Web to claim and exercise their rights to a moderate or extensive degree.
Assessing net neutrality across countries found only around a quarter of nations effectively enforcing clear rules against commercial or political discrimination in the management of Internet traffic. The Index reports that in 74% of Web Index countries, including many high-income nations, law enforcement agencies and the courts are failing to take appropriate actions in situations where Web-enabled ICTs are used to commit acts of gender-based violence leaving a lot left to be desired in the effective handling of online gender based violence.
Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, and the lead author of the report stated that “The richer and better educated people are, the more benefit they are gaining from the digital revolution. This trend can and must be reversed,” as “Extreme disparities between rich and poor have been rightly identified as the defining challenge of our age, and we need to use technology to fight inequality, not increase it.”
The Index reports that almost 60% of the world’s people cannot get online, whilst half of all Web users live in countries that severely restrict their rights online. It states that 4.3 billion people have no access to the Web at all, whilst at least 1.8 billion more face severe violations of their rights to privacy and freedom of expression when they go online. An additional 225 million live in countries where ability to pay may limit the content and services they can access.
“In an increasingly unequal world, the Web can be a great leveller — but only if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access and net neutrality into the rules of the game,” said Berners-Lee.
The Web Index 2014-15 report is available at www.thewebindex.org, along with a series of visualisations and all accompanying data. For more information, visit: Website: www.thewebindex.org | www.webfoundation.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/webfoundation | Launch hashtag: #WebIndex.
Web Index video: http://vimeo.com/113395858
The World Wide Web Foundation urges innovative use of the data provided by the Web Index.