The origins of the Internet date back to research commissioned by the United States Federal Government in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant computer based communication networks. Essentially to democratise communication and open doors for individuals living under repressive governments and regimes.
And up to a point it has worked.
The advent of the World Wide Web gave rise to an open source movement and the concept of a free information exchange without the need for centralised controls. A utopian concept saw the emergence of the open source movement and expressions such sharing is caring and the free transfer of skills and know how.
The free software movement, which has produced, among other things, Linux, Mozilla Firefox, and OpenOffice.org. As well as internet chat, Dmoz and Wikipedia.
The Internet Society (ISOC) was founded in 1992 with a mission to “assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world”. However it has never quite realised it’s fully potential. Businesses like Microsoft exploded into global giants exercising a monopoly which is often very much at odds with the founding principles. And even Google which coined the term “do no evil” dominates and effectively controls visibility on the net.
More recently we have had Facebook, social media and the introduction of smart phones which has exposed the other side of the coin. Disinformation, abuse and a dumbing down of users to the point where the individual have become a mere statistic exploited by slick marketing professionals.
Despite this the Internet in general and the World Wide Web in particular are important enablers of both formal and informal education. And projects like one being run by Workshop Web could make a significant difference in the lives of many.
An accountant sitting at home can audit the books of a company based in another country, on a server situated in a third country that is remotely maintained by IT specialists in a fourth. These accounts could have been created by home-working bookkeepers, in other remote locations, based on information emailed to them from offices all over the world.
And there is no reason why students in a village no one has ever heard of cannot similarly make themselves useful by offering services to that same global market. There is no reason not to believe that it is possible to build an open community that works on the basis that there is real value in transferring skills and know how simply by sharing and caring.