Reminder: Mozilla published this first IHR in January 2017. This is an excerpt only focusing on the prognosis part of the report, for discussion.
“Open” means that anyone can publish or invent online without asking for permission, and that the technologies used to run the Web are transparent and understandable.
Open innovation on the Internet is threatened by bad policies, the devaluation of common standards, and the fragmentation of the global Internet.
Billions of new devices are connecting to the Internet in homes, cities, public and private spaces, but proprietary software is usually prioritized over open standards and interoperability, leading to fragmentation, higher development costs and security risks for the Internet of Things.
We need to push for open source practices, transparency and standards for all new Internet technologies, including virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning (including training data) – not least to ensure that they also function properly on the Web.
We need more people, governments and companies to build openness into their thinking and practice, or we will gradually see it erode. And we need more people to acknowledge, that: ‘Yes, openness is to thank for all the major achievements we ascribe to the Internet today.’
Everyone deserves equal opportunity to access the Internet, and to use it to improve their lives and societies.
The obstacles in the way of making the Internet accessible and welcoming for all are numerous, and won’t be overcome by waiting. It will take sustained action. As more people come online, we need corporations, governments and civil society to work together to develop better broadband policies, and new business models for equitable access.
We also need new practices and incentives for local content creation and visibility, and ways in which users themselves can play a stronger role in contributing to the Web, in whatever language, format or medium that is most locally relevant.
And in response to the trolls, mobs and haters who undermine respectful civil discourse online, we need a combination of community action and technological solutions. Hatred, racism and bigotry can be stomped out online at least as well as offline.
The goal of digital inclusion presupposes that being connected is positive. We all bear responsibility for ensuring this is true for everyone.
Decentralization means the Internet is controlled by many. It’s millions of devices linked together in an open network. No one actor can own it, control it, or switch it off for everyone.
The decentralized Web is thriving by some measures, but we are heading towards a future of vertically integrated silos controlled by a few large players.
For a healthier Internet, we need to find ways to reinforce decentralization. We need healthy competition for entrepreneurs to thrive and for users to have meaningful choices. But competition policies and legal structures of yesterday are ill equipped to handle all of the dynamics of today. Some of the more effective solutions may be technical.
Today, we don’t expect one kind of video chat software to interoperate with another. This would only be possible if all the software in this category adhered to the same open standards. There could be rules or best practices to govern standards that would support more diverse markets. New innovators would be able to write software that works with what everyone already has.
Deciding that users should be able to move their personal data freely from one online platform to another is another example of something that would give everyone more agency and choice.
Decentralization is key to ensuring that the Internet remains a public resource that is healthy and available to all of us – and that it is not controlled by a tiny handful of governments and companies. If we can do this, there is good likelihood that the Internet remains a force for human freedom and creativity. If not, the future will likely be more dystopian.
Privacy & security
The safety and security of the Internet impacts us all. We should be able to understand what is happening to our data, and have the ability to control how it is used.
The Internet depends on the security and trust of its users to function in a healthy way. Will the safety and privacy measures developed for software, networks and devices match the threats? We need to push governments and software makers to ensure that they do.
Through everyday interaction we are generating lifelong digital footprints across a range of corporate and government databases. At the personal level, we should take safety precautions with username and passwords until we have a better form of authentication.
Above all, we should be more critical about what information we share voluntarily. Will the online dating profile you posted 6 years ago ever get deleted? How long do the online ads you view track you? Even if you’d like to know the privacy conditions of online platforms, they are usually not written in language an average person understands.
Technology can be a real source of freedom and empowerment, but it can also be a tool of authoritarian control. No matter where in the world, we need to rein in the ability of officials and corporations to archive every movement and uttered word, for today and the future.
We need everyone to have the skills to read, write and participate in the digital world, so more people can move beyond consuming to actually creating, shaping and defending the Web.
If we don’t act, we will end up with an Internet where most people remain passive, online consumers rather than active participants and creators. We should resist the deepening of divides between the few who know how the technology works, and a majority who do not.
We need everyone to recognize that Web literacy is more than coding. Governments, educators and parents need to be champions for Web literacy, and foster creative opportunities for young people to develop these skills. Technology companies should also be thinking of more ways to include Web literacy and learning into how people engage with their products.
Web literacy has become a 4th foundational skill next to reading, writing and arithmetic. We have made great strides towards universal Web literacy in the last 20 years, but we need even deeper commitments to ensure our skills match up to the greater role the Internet plays in our lives.