November 08, 2018

From girls to global leaders, a safe and accessible internet is the goal

Girls and young women at one of Theirworld's Code Clubs in Tanzania

Photo credit: Theirworld / Mticka Almas

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is calling for a new Contract for the Web - using some of the principals already in place at Theirworld's Code Clubs.

The World Wide Web is a wonderful space. But it can also be scary, threatening and exploitative. While it offers incredible opportunities for learning and communication, it provides a home for hate, abuse and discrimination.

With children around the world using the internet more and more at school and in their homes, it's vital that safeguards are in place to keep them safe.

That's one of the guiding principles behind a new Contract for the Web being championed by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

He has called on international leaders, companies and individuals to back the contract, which would protect users' rights and freedoms. That includes ensuring every person can connect to the internet and use it freely and safely.

His principles are echoed in the work of Theirworld's Code Clubs for girls, which we established in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Lebanon.

Children in India use the internet for the very first time

Photo credit: Agariya Heethrakshak Manch / Facebook

The clubs provide girls aged between six and 25 the opportunity to learn computer programming, offer support with formal education and empower them with skills in critical thinking and leadership - all within a safe, secure environment.

"Code Clubs give girls the skills and confidence they need to learn about computer programming," said Fiona Duggan, Head of Projects at Theirworld. "This leads to better job prospects and in turn can benefit her family and her community.

"The clubs also provide safe spaces for vulnerable girls and young women. This allows them use their creative thinking and increase their skills in a supervised environment where they feel comfortable and not threatened."

Denise, 19, who attended one of our Code Clubs in Uganda, said: “I think it is very important for girls to learn computers. I think all girls should come to Code Clubs because you learn so much.”

Half of the world's population now has internet access and its use at schools is growing every year, particularly in developing countries.

The Contract for the Web has been published by Berners-Lee's World Wide Web Foundation. Its principles state: "The web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available."

But Berners-Lee told the Guardian: “Humanity connected by technology on the web is functioning in a dystopian way. We have online abuse, prejudice, bias, polarisation, fake news, there are lots of ways in which it is broken.

“This is a contract to make the web one which serves humanity, science, knowledge and democracy.” 

His wife Rosemary Leith, an internet entrepreneur, is a founding director of the World Wide Web Foundation.

The contract has been signed by Theirworld President Sarah Brown. She said: "The Contract for the Web campaign is one that I can wholeheartedly support - the combination of Tim and Rosemary brings a shared vision, skills set and determination to act on the principles to deliver the web we all want.”

Another supporter is Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. He said: "Tim Berners-Lee has pinpointed one of the great human rights issues of our time and his proposal deserves worldwide support."

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