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Brittany Piovesan on the Internet as a tool for human growth

Brittany Piovesan on the Internet as a tool for human growth

Jul 6, 2021

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"We want users to see the Internet as something that allows them to fully express [themselves] and live out their human rights," said Brittany Piovesan of the Internet Society Foundation in this week's episode of the Priv8 podcast.  She spoke with Orchid's Derek Silva about the Internet's role in providing people with education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.

The Foundation was founded in July 2019 as the "giving arm" of the Internet Society (ISOC), created in 1992 by some of the Internet's earliest pioneers. The organization's mission is "to move forward the internet as a resource and platform that ensures and enables open and secure communications around the world."

"We take a philanthropic approach to fulfilling ISOC's mission, which is that the Internet is for everyone," Brittany explained. To this end, the Foundation gives out grants "in a number of different areas," including Internet connectivity and education, disaster recovery, and more.

The Foundation also provides funding to initiatives that "look ahead to the challenges and opportunities that the Internet might present to us." There are currently 130 Internet Society chapters around the world: "local, grassroots organizations that really care about maintaining the Internet as an open and secure infrastructure."

Is it possible to ensure free and open Internet access for all people?

Derek asked Brittany about the challenges associated with ensuring secure and open Internet access.

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"That's the million-dollar question," she answered, explaining that the first step is establishing basic Internet access itself. "Right now, roughly half the world has Internet access--so what are we doing about the other 50%? ... What do we do about the people whose access is incredibly expensive or unstable?

"There are solutions both small and large, depending on the communities you are working with," she continued. These can include "community-owned networks, broader broadband solutions," and WiFi network amplification around local community buildings, like libraries and other community centers.

Digital literacy & data hygiene

Brittany spoke further about the importance of educating people about how to use the web safely. "If we want secure and open access to the Internet, we need users who understand what that means for their actual use of the Internet, and why that's so important," she said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done in North America and around the world on digital literacy and digital hygiene." After all, "the UN has declared that access to the Internet is a human right, because it enables many other rights."

Therefore, "we want to make sure that users don't see the Internet as something like Facebook, which is sometimes hard in context with zero-rating" -- the practice of providing free Internet access, but only under certain conditions.

Check out Derek's full interview with Brittany. New episodes are published every Wednesday, so don't forget to subscribe to Priv8 on your favorite streaming service.


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