Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the power of the mobile phone

Sir Tim Berners-Lee believes mobile is the future

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was speaking at Nokia World conference and as you would expect from the man who invented the web he had a few pithy things to say about the future of the web, and the importance of mobile to that future.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has always been an advocate of information freedom. It is his strongly-held belief that everyone should have access to the information on the internet, no matter who they are, or where they are, and what network they’re on, and at Nokia World he said the mobile phone network would be key to bringing more people on to the internet.

“At the moment the world wide web reaches about 20% of the world’s population. But 80% have mobile phones. Why is there that gap? That’s why we’ve started the Web Foundation – there are plenty of organisations dedicated to getting people fresh water, and getting them vaccines. But it turns out that the web can be really instrumental in getting healthcare to people.”

In his speech he called on mobile operators to make low-cost connections available in the developing world so that people could get online more easily. “If you have a mobile signal and you have a phone, and your $10 phone has a web browser, then it’s a shame if you go to your service provider and want a data plan – to connect the phone to the internet – they move you from a plan that costs $5 per month to one that costs $60 per month, because they think that because you want access to data you must be an executive! And there’s no in between. And the government decides that since you must be an executive, it’s going to tax you heavily too.”

Berners-Lee also wants those users in poorer countries to get the full web experience not a cut-down text based experience, “SMS is the most expensive way of sending bits that’s out there. It’s very constrained. SMS for a developer is really hard, it would be nice to send internet packets. I’d like people enrolled in a low data package by default.”

While Berners-Lee is a great proponent of openness he’s also worried that we maybe letting our guard down too much on the net and warns that privacy is an issue that needs more thought. “When you work in many different roles, say within a company, you may see somebody’s CV with some information that you use in the human resources department, but you wouldn’t, you mustn’t, share at the office party. But you might find out information for sending me something but not for other use – such as my address, where I might want to receive a package from you, but I don’t want my address used for anything else. I think we’ll build systems to help organisations become accountable and to know what request the user had about how it would be used. We’ll build companies that will respect how it is used. We’ll have to have systems for tracking and passing all sorts of accountable systems.”

If you weren’t there then there’s a webcast of his entire speech here

What do you think? Is Berners-Lee right

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