Friday, 1 April 2011

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, internet inventor: Right to internet access is a human right

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 31: Internet inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee feels that right to internet is a human right.
Sir Tim, who is currently in the city to attend the 20th world wide web (www - 2011) conference, said on Thursday people everywhere are increasing feeling the need to consider access to the Internet as a right like any other civil or human right.
Stating that Finland has already declared the right to the Internet as a human right, Sir Tim said the Internet today had emerged as the embodiment of the principles of democracy and a powerful tool to achieve democratic process in lands where democracy is non-existent. Democracy stands for equality of all people irrespective of their racial, national, social or economic background and the world wide web too reflects these principles.
When asked about the people's revolution in Egypt, the Internet inventor pointed out that the web, if used in a right way, would emerge as a mega powerful tool to achieve democratic goals.
"When web started, there was only one browser. Then control on the content was possible. Now we have MS, Google etc. Today, there is a strong competition for different browsers. Whichever browser offers better features gains the popularity and virtually goes on to become a monopoly. There is a constant effort to improve or add new features. Same is the case with search engines," Sir Tim observed.
Asked about the mechanism to control the content on the web, he said media is the guardian of good behaviour. "Control of cyber crime doesn’t have a simple solution. There are problems of jurisdiction between countries. There's the issue of co-ordination among law enforcing agencies of different countries. Even if one country does not participate in the regulatory mechanism, all the bad can happen from there," he pointed out.
Interacting with mediapersons on the sidelines of the www-2011 conference, Sir Tim said there will be new platforms on top of the web, more powerful, more quickly reaching, and would need people with skills to manage and improve upon.
He agreed with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s statement that the web is a spying machine. "Yes, it can be the greatest spying machine". Referring to the IT scenario in the country, he said India is already a world leader in IT arena and to sustain its position, it need to have courses in universities to train people. "India needs to get more people online and get new projects going to enable vast majority of people to have access to the web".
On Internet being the panacea for all problems, he said internet is empowering and it being inclusive doesn’t mean one can compel people onto web. "We can help people who are technophobic to use internet. Once there are safeguards on web more people feel comfortable to access it".
Answering a question on education content on the internet, Sir Tim said in countries where women don’t participate in public life (as in Saudi Arabia), internet can aid in educating them. "We can have courses online, we can have online Q & A for clearing doubts. However, there are issues like different people having different views on a subject. Standardising the content may be difficult. Moreover, the content changes constantly. So a learner may not have updated information," he clarified.

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