In an afternoon session led by Lee Rainie, Tim Berners-Lee and Danny Weitzner of NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) discussed the future of the World Wide Web and its accessibility to poorer countries and areas within the US.
“The overall motion is very much forward,” Berners-Lee said. “We could get to where the Internet could become socially unstable… If someone understands the technology in ways we don’t understand it, they can use it in ways we think is unfair”
Weitzner of NTIA said the company is developing ways to research Internet usage through working with the Census Bureau.
“We have the advantage of being able to work with the Census Bureau…and find out what people are doing with the Internet, who’s using it and who’s not,” Weitzner said.
According to Weitzner, 65 percent of Americans have broadband Internet.
“Were interested in those other 35 percent,” Weitzner said. “Why don’t they have it…where do they live?… A big part of research going forward is finding out who these people are.
“We know the 35 percent is disproportionally rural,” Weitzner said.
At NTIA, funds from the recovery act are being spent on broadband infrastructure improvements and grants are being utilized towards middle mile projects (fund Internet extensions to low-service areas in the country).
Research is not just looking at the U.S. though. The WWW Foundation explores the health of the Web and who has global access, Berners-Lee said. He said 20-25 percent of people around the world use or have access to the web. Only one percent has access in Rwanda.
Weitzner said he was grateful the Obama administration has put so much effort into researching Internet accessibility.
“We’re not there yet as you know and I think that’s what we all have to work on together.”
Another concern of Weitzner’s was how to keep the Internet available to the masses. He blamed this on how some internet service providers have blocked certain traffic and have to control the way people use their internet connections.
“There’s now a question mark about how we the Internet will remain open and non-discriminatory,” Weitzner said. “It’s going to be an important couple of months coming up as we see how this all plays out.”
According to Berners-Lee, education will be greatly affected by the Internet. He said organizing data on performance in classrooms does have benefits but it risk standardization issues.
In a later question posed by an audience member on his ideal classroom setting, Berner’s Lee described it as having “the biggest screen I could possibly buy, best sound system, fastest computer and fastest Internet connection.”
-By Laura Smith
ADDITIONAL DETAILS FROM THIS EVENT…
Video and more written FutureWeb coverage: http://bit.ly/imaginingtheinternet
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Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/