Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for 'One web, free and open for all' - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for 'One web, free and open for all'

Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Who can deny in this modern high-tech, modern and online lifestyle that we all enjoy, that we do not take access to the Internet for granted? But did you know that 80% of the world's population still do not have access? And did you know that the Internet as we know it was borne out of a fit of frustration by a software engineer at CERN?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee addresses the European Parliament (Photo: EP Photo Service)

Sir Tim Berners-Lee (above), the founder of the World-Wide Web and head of the W3 Consortium, the main international standards organisation, addressed MEPs and guests at the 8th Annual Lecture presented last night by STOA, the EP's Science and Technology Options Assessment group.

Recently voted one of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century and one of the 100 greatest living geniuses, this fact was bought up by Silvana Koch-Mehrin, EP Vice-President responsible for STOA, in her welcoming comments in which she quipped to the great amusement of the audience "it is not often that one of the world's living legends is in the Parliament, despite how highly we think of ourselves".

Sir Tim's appearance before MEPs could not have been more timely - with the telecoms package recently being voted into EU law and the Lisbon Treaty coming into force - and he was keen to lay down his expectations for the future of the Internet. Namely that it should be free, uncensored, universal, international and openly available for all citizens around the world.

There are currently more than 100 billion webpages (100,000,000,000) available on the web - a number that will continue to grow on a daily basis - and with each page containing different content and data, the Internet has become a powerful source of information.

But not everyone around the world has access to such information, although the situation is improving. Sir Tim was keen to tell the audience about his newly-founded World Wide Web Foundation, which envisions a world where all people are empowered by the Web — regardless of language, ability, location, gender, age or income, from which a delegation had just returned from Uganda and Kenya.

It was there where it oversaw projects to install high-speed electronic cables between the countries that will see the Kenyan capital Mombasa "go online". Although a step forward, Sir Tim commented it was just the start, as extortionate service provider fees to support the cost restrict the number of those who can afford to connect.

Sir Tim expressed his discontent at countries that try to control what websites its citizens can access and called on MEPs to act to ensure the web remains free of such censorship.

However, while accepting the important role governments must play in the field of protecting personal data of its citizens and fighting online crime, he was passionate about users receiving the adequate protection from unsolicited snooping by third parties.

"Fighting cybercrime," he said, "is very difficult so when governments have the power to act, this power must be used in a controlled manner.

"We should be able to browse [the Web] without fear of being watched".

When later he was questioned on the topic of copyright, he explained how much he enjoyed music and has purchased large quantities online. Sir Tim told how he would like to see people be encouraged to "do the right thing" and compensate artists for their work, expressing a keen interest in the idea of micropayment plans.

In his final plea to the audience, Sir Tim said that content on the web "should not be discriminated because of its quality", continuing that "we need the silly stuff on there!"

Even though I don't think of myself in that sense, it's nice to know this blog has its place!!

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