Sir Tim Berners-Lee today said he believes many of today’s global challenges can be solved if people can be convinced to share data – but on their own terms.
He also said the internet faces a number of challenges, such as putting everyone online and the use of data against people, perhaps highlighted by disinformation campaigns.
The creator of the World Wide Web was speaking at Fujitsu’s ActivateNow: Technology Summit, a virtual event focused on the role technology can play in shaping a better future, and presented his vision for the internet.
Make sure the code you write works with these open standards. This is the way to build new levels. Be respectful of end users
Asked about the current issues facing the web today, Berners-Lee said it has already produced many benefits for the world, such as the ability for employees to work remotely during the pandemic. However, he noted that many are now concerned about cybercrime and the web used to manipulate it, citing targeted ad campaigns ahead of key votes in the US and UK in 2016.
“If you ask anyone on the street they will tell you now that they are aware of the misinformation problem, so there are a lot of things we need to do to fix the web,” he said. declared.
Another facet of this is the issue of privacy, where people’s data is misused by companies to target and manipulate them. Meanwhile, data stored by social networks, such as photographs, is blocked inside these social networks, creating silos that prevent people from using this data as they wish.
Sir Tim has previously worked on ways to address this issue, such as the Solid technology developed by his organization Inrupt, which allows individuals to store their personal information in ‘pods’ – which the individual in question controls. access. He describes them as “places where you control who can see your data. For health data, test results will go into your Solid pod, banking transactions will go into your Solid pod.”
Inevitably, that means Solid pods will contain a huge amount of information about individuals, but they can decide how they’re used, Berners-Lee said, while the Solid protocol allows users to run apps that provide insight of their life.
But Berners-Lee said this level of control will build trust that will lead to greater data sharing to drive innovation and solve some of the problems the world is currently facing.
“We find that people come to Inrupt saying they want to introduce Solid technology between them and customers or employees, because they trust them. user, the user will share more powerfully, share data not only with doctors, but also with researchers who seek to cure cancer, for example.”
Solid’s vision is that people should use Solid pods for everything to enable technology to deliver all of these benefits.
“Big companies want to partner with us, and governments come to us because they realize that if people have Solid pods with their data, like with their resumes for example, the country would just be better, you would be able to have a skill inventory of the whole audience,” he said.
One such partner is apparently the local government of Flanders, Belgium, which has created a data utility joint venture with Inrupt to give every citizen access to a Solid pod.
On the issue of the digital divide, Berners-Lee spoke of the “moral and ethical requirement” to correct this divide, and highlighted the work of the Web Foundation which he helped set up, but said that strong inequalities still exist, even in developed countries. countries like the UK.
“With the pandemic, we found that a third of children could work from home, but another third did not have the Internet, while a third had access to it, but did not have a powerful enough device, or their connection wasn’t good enough,” he claimed.
The good news is that the world is much more aware of this problem, but web adoption actually slowed down a few years ago, according to Berners-Lee, and as the number of people grows, types problems encountered are changing.
“People in developing countries need cheap mobile devices and data plans. We need to look at rural areas, as well as literacy,” he said, because if people don’t cannot read or write, they will have great difficulty accessing the Web.
Asked about the future, Berners-Lee said he wants to see “the web of data” become very powerful, and talked about what he calls the data spectrum, which covers the range from public data, such than government figures published online, to data such as health tests that individuals won’t want to share. But most of the data will be shared, if only with co-workers.
On AI, Berners-Lee echoed the calls of many others for greater openness and transparency. If algorithms decide what news feeds you see online, the developer or publisher should be public about how it works, “so if there’s a bias, let me see it,” he said. he declares.
This led to a broader call for openness on the web and for developers to use standards to enable interoperability.
“Innovation on the Internet started with Vint Cerf and TCP/IP. Plus, since it was open, I could allow anyone to do anything, you don’t have to ask me for the permission. Solid is another layer, another level that involves new protocols and many application layers. So we need a lot of help with standards. Make sure the code you write works with those standards open. That’s the way to create new levels. Be respectful of the end users,” he said.
Concluding, Sir Tim expressed hope that such measures would enable the wider use of data to address global challenges, perhaps justifying accusations by some that he has a “hippie internet manifesto”.
“Let’s build a platform so that we can build apps and enable those apps to work together, so that when we face a challenge like climate change, we can go to the web to find powerful tools to help us solve together these huge issues like cancer or climate change, in collaboration,” he said. ®