Mozilla’s ‘Internet Health report 2017’ lays bare the strengths and the weaknesses of India’s internet

The Mozilla foundation has published its first Internet Health Report. The report is currently only a prototype that’s meant to “measure the health of the internet”. Mozilla hopes to expand on the scope of the report over the coming months and years.

Mozilla used five markers that it believes will represent the state of the internet at that point in time. Background research and surveys were conducted globally and the data was tabulated and analysed.

So what does the report have to say on the state of the internet in 2017?

Open innovation: Open standards are good, but policy needs work

The report goes into some depth to explain that the internet works because it’s open. The standards used to run the internet, like HTTPS and JavaScript are open, which is good. The report points out that anyone can create a site and publish it and that anyone can see it.

The report is also happy to point out that countries like India, US and EU have open-source policies already in place, which is, again, good. They do argue, however, that copyright laws are outdated and that features like DRM are archaic and outdated.

Speaking of the fact that the internet “grows stronger with every new voice”, the report points out that half the world doesn’t have adequate internet access. Language barriers are also a huge issue. Pointing to China, the report says that a relatively large portion of internet users speak Chinese, but that only 2 percent of websites are in that language.

It adds that keyboards aren’t yet fully compatible with other popular languages. The report also cites stats that state that 2 percent of the web is in English while only 25 percent of the world actually speaks the language. India has a lot to do as only around half its population is online and many of the people don’t speak English.

READ  Mozilla goes back to the roots of technology with a new logo and branding language

The report is all praise for Wikipedia, calling it a “fountain of knowledge” that receives 16 billion views a month and supports 284 different languages.

The report concludes, “Sustained action is required to overcome obstacles to internet access.”

Decentralisation: Monopolies are harmful

The report states that, “The Internet remains decentralised, but the things we do on it every day are controlled by just a handful of global technology giants.”

Net neutrality is another pain point, but the report points out that efforts in countries like India and the US have put paid to differential pricing, if only temporarily.

The Bitcoin phenomenon is also a good thing, says the report, pointing out that these sort of developments pave the way for a truly decentralised web.

On the other hand, findings suggest that the whole of the internet is controlled by a handful of sites. Google controls search, Facebook control communication, Amazon controls e-commerce, and so on. This, says the report, is bad news. “While these companies provide hugely valuable services to billions of people, they are also consolidating control over human communication and wealth at a level never before seen in history,” it adds.

Privacy and security: Snowden didn’t achieve much, but at least we’re talking about it

Indicating that IoT devices are infiltrating our homes at an ever-increasing rate, the report suggests that privacy is of even greater importance than it already was. Massive data breaches are the norm these days and countries like UK and France have already enacted laws that effectively kill privacy.

On the other hand, Mozilla sees the rise of end-to-end encryption and ad-blockers as a good thing. The latter because many ads are intrusive and prone to privacy leaks.

READ  Google India celebrates Safer Internet Day 2017 with “Be the change: unite for a better internet”

The report says that Mozilla is “optimistic” for the future of privacy. India is still in the process of sorting this out.

Web literacy: A deeper understanding of tech is required

The percentage of people who think that Facebook is the internet. Image: Mozilla

Mozilla says that more and more people are aware of the internet and how to use it, but that they’re not aware of technical issues related to, say how to verify sources to news online. Too many people still think that Facebook is the internet.

“Everyone should have the right skills for a healthy internet experience”, says the report. Cheaper/free education has also helped in this regard, adds Mozilla.

The Mozilla foundation considers web literacy to be the fourth fundamental skill after reading, writing and math.

Speaking of jobs, the report says that, “If we don’t act, we will end up with an Internet where most people remain passive, online consumers rather than active participants and creators.”

India is struggling in this department. Limited bandwidth and limited access to the internet means that our overall window to the web is also quite small.