The web as an ethical layer

Really excellent article about the web as more than the technologies, but about how it brings people together—and the issues we face in bringing this potential to fruition—from a someone who describes themselves as “not that technical”.

There’s a lot of talk about digital inclusion, about taxes to fund broadband and about universal access to the web. But it all misses the point. It was never just about having access to other people’s information. It was always about everybody, everywhere having the ability to add their thoughts, the things they know, to the web. Treating digital inclusion as a question of connecting pipes to homes is an easy mistake to make because it follows established patterns of water and gas and electricity and television aerials. But the web was never designed to be a broadcast / distribution mechanism. Digital inclusion doesn’t just mean everyone needs to have a receiver on their roof; it means they need access to a transmitter too. Without the ability to transmit, to publish, people just become passive consumers of other people’s information. And digital inclusion has to include the ability to produce as well as consume.

This really captures the nature of the web as a sharing medium, and how policy decisions are currently falling short. This pattern of policy happens because the government sees the web as a way to broadcast to citizens, often with the implication that it’s a cheaper means to do so. When the government talks of “connecting” to citizens using the web, there’s a long way to go before the connection goes both ways.