Berners-Lee and Leith detailed:
A third of young people have no internet access at all. Many more lack the data, devices, and reliable connection they need to make the most of the web. In fact, only the top third of under-25s have a home internet connection, according to UNICEF, leaving 2.2 billion young people without the stable access they need to learn online, which has helped so many others continue their education during the pandemic.
When young people do get online, too often they are confronted with abuse, misinformation, and other dangerous content, which threatens their participation and can force them from platforms altogether. This is especially true for those disproportionately targeted on the basis of their race, religion, sexuality, abilities, and gender.
The consequences of this exclusion affects everyone. How many brilliant young minds fall on the wrong side of the digital divide? How many voices of would-be leaders are being silenced by a toxic internet?
“Every young person who can’t connect represents a lost opportunity for new ideas and innovations that could serve humanity,” they added, specifically calling for massive investment in infrastructure as well as improvements in technology to promote access to the internet while making “users’ rights and well-being a top priority.”
“Through funding for network infrastructure, subsidies, and support for community networks, we can get the web into the hands of every young person on Earth,” they wrote, citing an estimate from the foundation’s Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) that a $428 billion investment over a decade would provide everyone around the world with a quality broadband connection.
“While we work to get all young people connected, we must also make sure technology is helpful, not harmful; inclusive, not exclusive,” the pair emphasized. “Tech companies must understand the unique experiences and needs of young people and work with them to co-create products and services that respect their rights. And governments need to pass effective laws that govern technology and hold companies to account for creating responsible products and services.”
The importance of universal access to high-quality, affordable broadband has increased over the past year, as many jobs, services, and educational programs have shifted online in response to the coronavirus pandemic—which has bolstered the case for treating the internet as a public utility across the globe.
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission recently established a program to help low-income households get and stay online during the pandemic, and a pair of congressional Democrats on Thursday introduced a bill that would invest $94 billion in broadband infrastructure to close the digital divide nationwide.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.