AS THE internet explodes in new markets and across different cultures, the role of a free press and the ability of journalists to sift through masses of new information to find the truth is a very important priority, the founder of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, says.
Governments around the world are seeking to gain more control over private information gateways. In South Africa, a controversial secrecy bill has been passed that moves to protect sensitive government information and punish whistleblowers.
Speaking at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards in Monte Carlo on Friday, Mr Berners-Lee cautioned that citizens rights and those of service providers needed to be free from government intervention. One of the major risks was for a corrupt government, or a big brother approach, being given control over the internet, he said.
Mr Berners-Lee said there was still a “long way to go to open up databases.” He encouraged journalists to push for data from governments and to report the results of this analysis.
He said the shutdown of the internet by the Mubarak regime in Egypt during the protests there where social media was used to manage the uprising against the dictatorship and usher in a new system was a serious wake-up call.
“People were asking, so who can turn off my internet? The internet as a neutral medium is important to democracy,” he said.
While only around 25% of the worlds population has access to the web at the moment, the major change will be when different cultures and languages, like those in Africa, are added and when “only” 80% of the worlds population accesses the net, said Mr Berners-Lee.
The internet founder is championing a multi-stakeholder system to control the net, with government as one of the stakeholders. He proposes the system be managed at arms length from government.
Mr Berners-Lee expressed his excitement about opportunities for web-based applications that can be used on mobile and other more devices and the use of open web platforms, where the same web technology can be used by different developers.
The journalism of the future “may not look like the journalism of today”, he said he, adding that he believed journalists would soon need to filter through more information as more and more information became available to citizens.
Freedom of press critical, says internet founder