Sir Tim Berners-Lee launches World Wide Web Index
5th Sep 2012 | 09:24
Warns of threat to free speech
The inventor of the web has launched a global study into the nature, reach and effects of the world wide web.
Published by the World Wide Web Foundation, the World Wide Web Index has ranked 61 countries around the world by assessing web access, as well as how each territory is using the web in political, economic and social issues.
The first edition, which sees Sweden take the top spot, was partly funded by a $1 million grant from Google. The study will be repeated annually, with more countries expected to be involved as it grows.
Web freedom played a large part in the launch of the study, which highlights that around 30 per cent of countries covered by the first Index have governmental restrictions on access to websites, and about half show increasing threats to press freedom.
An outspoken defender of the open internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee warned again of the dangers of web censorship: "The web is a global conversation.
"Growing suppression of free speech, both online and offline, is possibly the single biggest challenge to the future of the web."
Although top dog Sweden enters the index surprisingly high, it's no shock that the United States and United Kingdom round out the top three; but internet access still a luxury in most countries.
Speaking at the launch of the study in London, with TechRadar in attendance, Berners-Lee spoke of the importance of accurate data about the spread, reach and impact of the web in each country:
"We spent a lot of years trying to make the web a more powerful thing, but after a while we realised that we were making it more powerful but only 20 per cent of the world were using it; what about the other 80 per cent?
"Should we be making it easier for them to use? How should they use it? When we started the Web Foundation, we came across all these stories about how people were using the web and how important it was, but we didn't have any data. We didn't really know – and NGOs were telling us we've got all this energy but what we're missing is the feedback from whether what we're doing is right.
"So we decided to make the Index to measure it. To figure out how all the information that's out there can be measured. The hope is that as it goes out there, each country will look at it and see where they are but also realise if they want to get further up, this is what the WWWF thinks you should look at. It tells you what to do next."
As far as the UK goes, the index highlights the need to get more people on to the internet – Berners-Lee explained, "In this country, for example, it's high in the list but the UK needs to work to get more people online.
"It's got 85 per cent online, but at 95 per cent, which is where Sweden is, you're at a point where you can put more egovernment online which will save a lot of money."