The Web Index has now come to the end of a successful three-year pilot period. During this time, the Index blazed new trails in many areas, providing the first rigorous and comprehensive assessment of national developments in areas such as women’s rights online, surveillance, net neutrality, broadband affordability, open data and the use of the Internet to broaden access to education, jobs and health care. It has become a trusted port of call for policymakers, civil society organisations, businesses, media and individuals wanting to understand the state and impact of the Web today in their country and around the world.
Now that this three year pilot phase is over, we will be refining the Index for future editions, possibly focusing on a narrower set of issues or geographies. We continue to seek partners and funding for future editions. Expect further updates in 2016 – and please get in touch if you would be interested in collaborating! Our popular spin-off products – the Affordability Report and the Open Data Barometer – will continue to be produced, and the results of both of these are expected in the first quarter of 2016, along with a deeper dive into our worrying 2014 findings on the spread of unaccountable mass surveillance.
We’d like to thank the primary funders of this pilot phase – the UK Department for International Development and Google. We’re also grateful for the additional support received from Naver Corporation and the Swedish International Development Agency.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the Web Foundation, has called for the Internet to be recognised as a basic human right. At the release of the 2014-15 Web Index — the world’s first measure of the Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress — Sir Tim noted that in our increasingly unequal world, the Web has the potential to be a great equalizer, but only “if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access and net neutrality into the rules of the game.”
The 2014-15 edition of the Web Foundation’s annual Web Index examines key Web issues — including privacy, censorship, gender-based violence, equality and, for the first time ever, net neutrality — across 86 countries. The findings from this year’s Index point to a Web that is becoming less free and more unequal. Almost 60% of the world’s people — 4.3 billion — cannot get online, while over half of those who can access the Web live in countries that severely restrict their rights online. Indiscriminate government surveillance and online censorship are both on the rise. 84% of countries are adjudged to have weak or non-existent laws to protect citizens from indiscriminate mass surveillance, up from 63% in 2013. Meanwhile, 38% of countries are now censoring politically or socially sensitive content to a ‘moderate or extensive’ degree — an increase of 6% from 2013. In addition, only a quarter of the countries assessed this year effectively enforce clear rules to protect net neutrality.
The Web Index shows that nations that have 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. The positive correlation between wealth, education and benefit from the digital revolution is a concerning trend, with the potential to further entrench global inequality and undermine the free and open Web. “This trend can and must reversed,” said Anne Jellema, CEO of the Web Foundation and lead author of the 2014-15 Web Index report.
In order to reverse this slide and leverage the power of technology to fight inequality, the Web Foundation is calling on policymakers to:
Accelerate progress towards universal access by increasing access to affordable Internet and ensuring that everyone can use the Web all of the time, safely, freely and privately.
Level the playing field by preventing price discrimination in Internet traffic, and treating the Internet like any other public utility.
Invest in high-quality public education for all to ensure that technological progress doesn’t leave some groups behind.
Promote participation in democracy and protect freedom of opinion by reversing the erosion of press freedom and civil liberties, using the Web to increase government transparency, and protecting the freedoms of speech, association, and privacy.
Create opportunities for women and poor and marginalised groups by investing more in ICTs to overcome key barriers in health, education, agriculture and gender equity.
We encourage you to read the 2014-15 Web Index report, and to explore all data from this year’s Index. Then, let us know what you think on social media, using #webindex.
The Web Foundation began our relationship with AIMS — a pan-African network of centres for postgraduate education, research and outreach in the mathematical sciences — in early 2014. Over the course of the year, we have worked closely with AIMS and a team of four statisticians, led by Dr. Siaka Lougue, to analyse primary and secondary data from across the 86 countries included in this year’s Web Index. Working with Web Index Research Director Dr Hania Farhan, Dr. Lougue and his team crunched numbers, developed regression analyses, extracted trends, and provided support and insights critical to understanding just how the Web is contributing to social, economic and political progress around the world.
Founded in Cape Town in 2003, AIMS provides post-graduate education in the maths and science fields for talented students recruited from across Africa. While almost one million students graduate from African universities each year, high-level training — particularly in the scientific and technical fields — is hard to come by and, as a result, few graduates continue into higher education. Of those few that do continue on to post-graduate programmes, an even smaller number remain in Africa after graduation, leading to a decline of mathematical and scientific expertise across the continent. AIMS is working to counter this trend. The Institute operates as a partnership between African and international universities and has already seen great success — more than 731 students (30% of them women) from 41 African countries have graduated from AIMS-South Africa, AIMS-Senegal, AIMS-Ghana and AIMS-Cameroon, and most of these alumni have gone on to Masters and PhD programmes.
The team of four with whom we worked on the development of the 2014-15 Web Index come from across Africa and two of them, including Dr. Lougue, are themselves graduates of the AIMS programme. We would like to thank Dr. Lougue, Dr. Tchilabalo Abozou Kpanzou, Innocent Karangwa, Aristide Romaric Bado, and the entire AIMS team for their great work. We will be collaborating with AIMS again on future Web Foundation projects, and are glad to be part of the effort to support the development and deployment of statistical skills in Africa.