World Wide Web Foundation (Web Foundation), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the Web to empower people, announced yesterday the launch of global operations including the existence of its first projects.
Speaking at the 2009 Internet Governance Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a Web Foundation board member, unveiled the organization’s new partnerships with VU University Amsterdam (VU) in the Netherlands and CDI (Center for Digital Inclusion) based in Brazil.
Web Foundation announced a partnership with the VU to expedite “re-greening” initiatives throughout the African continent. This new program, Web Alliance for Re-greening in Africa (W4RA), will train and assist local developers to implement and deploy mobile Web- and voice-based platforms to improve communication between agricultural specialists and farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali and other countries.
“The W4RA facilitates the sharing of successful agricultural techniques developed by farmers for others to raise crops in the arid conditions of the Sahel, where climate change and drought threaten the livelihood of entire communities,” explained Steve Bratt, Chief Executive Officer of Web Foundation. “This project meets one of Web Foundation’s main objectives: to assist people to leverage the Web as a medium for sharing life-critical content and dialog, and thus using the Web as an agent of social and economic progress.”
In addition, Web Foundation also announced a project with CDI, an international, social enterprise dedicated to teaching disadvantaged youth how to use information technologies.
While roughly 25 percent of the world population uses the Web today, more than 70 percent of people have access to mobile or fixed communication devices capable of displaying Web content. The gap in Web usage is partly attributable to the lack of accessible or relatable content, and the lack of available training on how to use the Web to its full potential. Web Foundation and CDI will develop training programs that empower young people to create Web sites and applications. In an effort to improve the accessibility of this content, the system will be mobile ready and integrate the use of voice as an interface. Five pilot training programs will be established in inner-city community centers in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.
"We are enthusiastic about this partnership because we believe the combined expertise of CDI and Web Foundation has the potential to create powerful innovation in the use of mobile, voice and graphical technologies," said Rodrigo Baggio, Founder and Executive Director, CDI. “By empowering impoverished communities to create and share relevant content through mobile phones and other devices, we will expand our work of transforming lives and communities.”
The projects with VU and CDI constitute the launch of global operations for the Web Foundation. The organization’s unique mission is to advance the Web as a medium for empowering people seeking to effect positive change in their lives and communities. Through its collaboration with the Web Science Trust and the World Wide Web Consortium, Web Foundation’s programs will also seek to understand the Web’s complexities, explore new Web technologies and ensure that the Web works to serve all people around the world.