10:00 - 11:00
Digital Equality: how an open Web can contribute to a more Equal world?

Short thesis

Inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time. The open Web can help to reduce inequality - social, political, economic and gender - and drive progress. But increasing centralisation and control online threatens to consolidate power in the hands of a few, largely unaccountable, gatekeepers and leave the rest of us behind. That is why we must find ways to combat these trends, in order to protect the open Web as a public good and preserve and enhance its equalising power among women and men, among the rich and poor. The panel will explore concrete initiatives to ensure that the web remains for everyone and how ordinary citizens can join and contribute to those.


The open internet is an ever more vital tool for those working to renew and deepen democracy and build more just and inclusive societies. But it is being compromised by gatekeeper tech companies that are shaping and limiting access to open and free virtual world. It is under assault from the same forces that are squeezing the space for debate and opposition in the offline world. Furthermore, digitisation is increasing inequalities, and the divide is affecting rich and poor countries. As the Delhi Declaration states: “Opportunities for the many to participate in the very real benefits of the Internet, and to fully realize its enormous potential, are being thwarted by growing control of the Internet by those with power - large corporations and certain national governments. They use their central positions of influence to consolidate power and to establish a new global regime of control and exploitation; under the guise of favouring liberalization, they are in reality reinforcing the dominance and profitability of major corporations at the expense of the public interest, and the overarching position of certain national interests at the expense of global interests and well being”

The majority of people in the world enjoy neither access, skills nor full freedom to access information, create and collaborate online. These digital inequalities are increasingly causing (and not just reflecting) offline disadvantage. In developed nations, work is becoming more precarious, labour rights have been eroded and services for disadvantaged groups are harder to access if those lack connectivity.

Today, more than 50% of the world remains offline. Beyond this gap in basic connectivity, there are increasing disparities in quality of use, and the extent to which internet users gain significant economic, social or political empowerment. On both fronts, women, the poor and other marginalised populations are hardest hit. While continuing our work to make broadband internet connectivity affordable and accessible to all, we will also expand our efforts to enable women and excluded groups to fully appropriate the Web, and to ensure that the digital economy provides a level playing field for inclusive growth.

The workshop will focus on 4 key public policy interventions towards achieving digital equality, quoting examples of countries, communities and institutions working in each area:

  • Net Neutrality as a global standard.

  • Digital Literacy: Development of skills to read, write and participate in the digital work.

  • Gender Equality:  and considering gender while designing Digital Equality strategies

  • Access to affordable and diverse content.

  • Alternatives for community empowerment to tackle inequalities, from research gathered by http://netcommons.eu/ and MAZI http://www.mazizone.eu/