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REPORT 2014-15


1. Executive Summary:
The Web and Growing Inequality 04

2. Overview of Rankings 06

3. The Web and Economic Inequality 08

4. The Web and Gender Inequality 14

5. The Web and Social Inequality 16

6. The Web and Political Inequality 19

7. Conclusions and Recommendations 24

8. Credits and Acknowledgements 25

9. Appendices – Tables 26

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The Web & Growing Inequality Policy makers must:

1. Accelerate progress towards getting everyone online. Poverty must not
Growing inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time. prevent anyone, anywhere from connecting. Universal access means everyone should be
What role can the World Wide Web play in tackling it? able to use all of the Web all of the time, safely, freely and privately.

2. Level the playing field by preventing price discrimination in Internet traffic,

even out of 10 people live in countries • Lowering barriers for small and micro the Internet revolution is increasing the balancing the rights of copyright holders with those of Web users, and protecting
where the gap between rich and enterprise to innovate, compete wage gap between the very highly skilled online service providers from liability for content posted by third parties. We believe
poor is greater than it was 30 years and succeed and everyone else, making technological
that governments must recognise the Internet’s essential place in economic and social
ago, according to Oxfam research. In some progress the single biggest factor driving
But we can’t take the equalising power of the infrastructure and treat it like other public utilities.
countries these disparities are reaching income inequality in both advanced and
Internet for granted. Current trends suggest
levels last seen before the Great Depression. developing countries.
Inequality topped the World Economic
that we now stand at a crossroads between 3. Invest in high-quality public education for all to ensure that technological
a Web “for everyone”, which strengthens Second, powerful state actors and economic
Forum’s annual survey of global risks this progress doesn’t leave some groups behind.
democracy and creates equal opportunity elites are gaining more control over what
year, while the head of the International
for all, or a “winner takes all” Web that further ordinary people can do and say online.
Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine LaGarde,
concentrates economic and political power
4. Promote participation in democracy and protect freedom of opinion.
recently warned that rising inequality is • At least 1.8 billion Internet users have
in the hands of a few. Fight the growing “democratic deficit” by reversing the erosion of press freedom and civil
choking economic growth, and leaving “a little or no right to privacy or freedom of
Already, overall scores for the Web’s expression online thanks to pervasive
liberties seen in almost all Web Index countries in recent years; use the Web to make
wasteland of discarded potential” in its wake.
contribution to development and human surveillance or censorship. government more transparent to citizens; and provide stronger protections for freedom
This discarded potential is the most damaging
effect of inequality, eroding the chance for
rights are strongly correlated with wealth.
• Legal safeguards against government of speech, freedom of association, and privacy, both offline and on.
The higher a country’s per capita income,
people to make a better life for themselves snooping on our communications were
and making poverty a permanent trap
the higher its Web Index ranking.
eroded or bypassed in many countries 5. Create opportunities for women and poor and marginalised groups by investing
passed on from parents to children. In part, this is because access is still heavily in the past year, with 84% of Web Index more in ICTs to overcome key barriers in health, education, agriculture and gender
skewed to those living in high income countries failing our test for basic privacy equity. Achieve scale and impact by involving stakeholders in identifying the specific
The Web’s power to help restore equality of
countries. An estimated 4.4 billion people safeguards, up from 63% in the 2013 Index.
opportunity is clear. Twenty-five years ago problems that ICTs can help to solve and those it cannot, and designing properly
— mostly poor, female, rural and living in
Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues at • Almost 40% of countries blocked
developing countries — have no access resourced programmes to address both.
CERN took a momentous decision not to politically or socially sensitive Web content
to the Internet at all.
patent the Web, which led to a remarkable to a moderate or extreme degree in the
democratisation of its capabilities. Today, • While Internet use has soared from around past year, up from 32% in 2013.
armed with little more than a smartphone, 45% to 78% in high-income countries
• In 74% of Web Index countries, lack of net • Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in and gender-based violence is available via Currently, the means and freedoms to fully
anyone — regardless of where they were born since 2005, in low-income countries it
neutrality means that ability to pay may most middle- and low-income countries phone or browser in only 37% of countries. utilise the Web are within reach of only one in
or how much they earn — can start a business, has remained below 10% year after year.
limit the content and services users are realising only small gains from ICTs, seven people on the planet. While over four
record a music video, crowdfund an invention, Internet penetration grew by only one • Education is a bright spot, with over 80%
can access. whereas SMEs in most of the developed billion unconnected people enjoy no rights
take courses with Nobel Prize-winning percentage point per year from 2011-2013 of high-income countries and almost 50%
in low-income countries. (ITU) • One in five female Internet users live in world have seen large benefits from to the Internet at all, the rights of another two
professors, or even launch a successful of low- and middle-income countries
countries where harassment and abuse the Web. billion Internet users are severely restricted.
campaign for office. As the examples of Korea, expanding the use of technology in poor
• In the poorest countries, the relative costs Now is the time to take positive steps to
Brazil, Estonia and Iceland demonstrate, of women online is extremely unlikely • Farmers can use their phones to access and marginalised schools.
of basic Internet access remain over 80 recognise the Internet as
the Web has three critical contributions to be punished. market price information, weather
times higher than in the rich world a basic human right and ensure the open
to make to fighting inequality: Third, governments and donors have yet warnings, and extension advice in most
— while Internet use is 10 times lower. If inequality is the challenge of our time, Web belongs to all of us.
to invest enough in putting the power rich countries, but hardly in any low or then we must take steps now to ensure
• Expanding access to knowledge,
But digital divides also exist within countries. middle-income countries.
information and skills of the Web in the hands of the poor and the most powerful technology of our era
First, the skills and education needed to fully
marginalised, leaving some groups • Locally relevant information on sexual and helps us to overcome, not increase it.
• Enabling wider political participation benefit from technology are very unevenly
even further behind: reproductive health rights and services
and voice distributed. According to the IMF and OECD,

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As the table below shows, the Web Index rankings — which measure the economic,
social and political benefit that countries gain from the Web — are strongly
correlated with per capita income. Rich countries, such as the Scandinavian
countries, dominate the top of the Index for the third year running.


Overall rank Country Overall score

1 Denmark 100.00

2 Finland 98.81

3 Norway 97.32
The Web Index is best explored online. We’ve produced this PDF for convenience for offline reading, but it is a much less rich experience than you’ll find
on our website. If you can, we urge you to head over to to enjoy interactive visualisations, the chance to compare countries
4 UK & Northern Ireland 95.67 side-by-side and much more!

5 Sweden 94.97
or the 86-country sample as a whole This sets a very clear challenge for the harness the Web for the common good
there is also a significant relationship international community. People living in may also start to influence how equal
between income inequality and poverty must be able to use the Web to or unequal, as well as how rich or poor,
6 United States Of America 94.52 the Web Index scores. When countries improve their lives and their communities they become. Nordic policy-makers have
are broken down into income groups, every bit as much as affluent groups. been quick to adopt and promote the free
inequality seems to be a more important The steep slope on the graph needs to be Internet — and open access to information
7 Iceland 93.72 factor in high income countries, whereas flattened out, making the Web truly “for — as a 21st century public good. Others,
absolute poverty levels seem to be more everyone”. Unless and until that happens, as this year’s findings show, need to move

8 Republic Of Korea 92.81 significant in developing countries. The the Web can’t become an effective weapon fast to catch up.
existence of the two dimensions together — to fight poverty and inequality globally.
Although very different from the
high absolute poverty and high inequality Indeed, it may even contribute to
Scandinavian countries, in their own ways
9 Netherlands 91.84 — seems to produce a compounded worsening inequality.
Korea, Iceland and Brazil have also seized
negative effect on the ability to benefit from
Building a Web “for everyone” requires on the possibilities of the open Web
technology, which in turn could exacerbate
10 Belgium 89.61 inequality by leaving poorer countries and
policies that promote equal opportunities to expand opportunities for all. (Read
and equal participation in decision-making, more in our country examples woven
poorer people further behind. (In measuring
both on- and off-line. The top-performing through the text).
(See full table in Appendix 1) inequality, we used the latest available
Nordic countries are a case in point.
World Bank “Gini Coefficient” data
– a widely-used statistical measure of As the global economy becomes more
income inequality in countries). digitally driven, countries’ ability to

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THE WEB AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITY The primary reason for sluggish growth in
user numbers is affordability. The average
cost of a basic fixed-line broadband
Equal opportunity to succeed is a principle vital to market economies; it makes subscription dropped significantly in 2012,
sure that everyone’s talents and ideas can be fully utilised regardless of the but barely budged in 2013. Fixed broadband
packages cost as little as 1% of average
circumstances of their birth, and promotes trust and compromise across different earnings in high-income countries, and

social groups since everyone has a stake in the economy’s success. Large gaps 3% in upper-middle-income countries —
but over 100% in low-income countries.
between rich and poor undermine and ultimately destroy this principle, as the chair
However, as McKinsey has noted, the rate of cheapest entry-level broadband in the world
of America’s central bank warned earlier this year. In today’s high-inequality US, a growth in Internet use is slowing. On current (when prices are averaged across both fixed-
child born to poor parents has less than a one in 10 chance of making it into the top trends, McKinsey estimates, more than half the line and mobile options). But low-income
global population will still be offline in 2017. countries, with 2011 penetration rates well
20% income bracket, compared to a one in five chance in low-inequality Denmark. below 7%, managed to raise those rates
Overall, the proportion of people using

by only 2 percentage points by 2013. This
the Internet increased only 5% last year
he Web has long been held out as empowerment observed; the higher the
3.1 Getting Online: in the Web Index countries. It is upper-
unimpressive performance was brightened by
an enabler of equal opportunity and education level, the greater the economic
broad-based growth. Among other empowerment. Of course, poor education Affordability & Access middle-income countries that have racked
spectacular achievements in four low-income
African countries that achieved a 20% jump in
things, it can: and high inequality are usually closely up the most growth in connectivity, from 39%
Over four billion people are not connected Internet adoption last year — Kenya, Malawi,
related, in and of themselves. However, initial in 2011 to 45% in 2013. As the analysis below
• Reduce entry barriers and disrupt to the Internet. Nine in 10 of them are in the Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.
analysis suggests that in many instances, shows, these are also the countries with the
monopolies; developing world. As the graph below shows,
each variable on its own plays a significant there is a very strong correlation between
• Make knowledge freely accessible to role in explaining the empowerment scores. per capita income and access to the Internet,
all, lowering the costs of acquiring
and disseminating information;
This analysis confirms that investment in with the steepest increases in Internet SOUTH AFRICA
universal education is a key prerequisite to penetration taking place as average income For decades, apartheid South Africa the poverty line are Internet users, Nevertheless, South Africans remain
• Build social capital that helps people enable everyone to benefit from the Internet rises from $0 to $10,000 per year. competed with junta-ruled Brazil for the according to household survey research. determined to exercise their hard-won
get better jobs and services; and revolution. It also suggests other factors that title of most unequal country in the world. Three-quarters of users are urban and democratic rights online as much as
In high-income countries, lower levels of
need to be tackled before the Web can make inequality — as measured by Gini coefficient Unlike Brazil, however, South Africa has over 40% are fluent in English. Hence, offline. In cases such as the death of a
• Match workers to job opportunities
a real contribution to inclusive, broad-based become more unequal since its transition under the current policy regime, it is man dragged behind a police truck in
and enable traders to overcome — also seem to be related to higher levels
growth. These fall into two main categories: to democracy. Heavy spending on social hard not to conclude that technology early 2013, and the ongoing controversy
geographical isolation. of access (see opposite).
barriers to access and use, and barriers grants is not enough to bridge the divides is deepening economic and social over government spending on President
Our rankings of economic empowerment to innovation. created by a dysfunctional education inequalities in South Africa. Jacob Zuma’s private estate, Nkandla,
combine secondary and primary data to system, high levels of unemployment, citizens are using photos and videos
Politicians’ apparent apathy on access
assess the contribution of the Web to job and extreme wage inequality. “The taken on cell phones and circulated
and affordability may be related to
creation, livelihoods and growth. In theory, a returns from economic growth favor by social media to challenge the
an increasing climate of secrecy in
poor country could do just as well or better the organized, the educated, the official version of the facts and force
government that makes the free flow of
than a wealthy country on this pillar of the highly skilled and the well connected,” the authorities to account for their
information and views online a “national
Index, if the Web was making a large relative says economist Haroon Bhorat. actions. Shortly after the government
security threat” rather than a boon. In 2013,
contribution to boosting a small economy. attempted to douse the Nkandla debate
But rather than using its excellent the government developed two new laws
by declaring it illegal to publish photos
However, in practice these rankings are led communications infrastructure as a tool restricting the rights to information and
of Zuma’s villa, a journalist’s tweet
by wealthy countries. Why should this be? to address these fundamental challenges, freedom of expression: the Protection of
giving the Google Earth coordinates of
the South African government has been State Information Bill (not yet passed),
Regression results for the entire sample of the compound went viral on Twitter.
content to allow mobile cellular and which criminalises reporting on classified
countries show that not only are wealthier The hashtag #Nkandla instantly became
broadband prices to remain among the state information and intentionally
countries gaining more economic benefit a trending topic, “with some enraged
highest in the world. Internet uptake has accessing leaked information online; and
from the Web, but two other factors have South Africans using recent Nkandla
grown relatively fast in recent years with the General Intelligence Laws Amendment
independent explanatory power: education pictures as their profile pictures on
the spread of smartphones, but users Act, which authorises state security
levels (as proxied by secondary school social media as a sign of defiance,”
are disproportionately affluent and well- agencies to intercept “foreign signals
enrolment rates) and inequality. The higher according to the SA Times.
educated. Less than 20% of those beneath intelligence” without a warrant.
the inequality, the lower the economic

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3.2 productivity and earnings is key to reducing storms) to steadily increase in scale and
poverty and unlocking equitable growth. frequency. Enabling farmers to anticipate
Using the Web to Enhance There are many economic handicaps that and plan for such threats is key to protect The Web & SMEs
Jobs & Livelihoods must be overcome for small farmers to thrive. their livelihoods, and the Web can help. Chile
We also looked at the Web’s contribution
ICTs are no panacea, but could help farmers delivers targeted information from
Even in countries with relatively high rates to the growth of other small and medium
to tackle some of the biggest challenges they the Web directly to farmers via SMS
of Internet use, research suggests that the enterprises (SMEs). Our results suggest that
face — including information asymmetries messages, a system designed to work
benefits of broadband accrue mainly to in rich countries which already have a
and lack of market power vis-a-vis the even on slow networks with intermittent
more highly skilled workers, increasing the thriving Internet ecosystem, the market is
intermediaries who buy their crops, as well connectivity. One farmer reported that his
wage gap between them and everyone else. presently driving SMEs to adopt Web-based
as increased weather risk resulting from entire crop for 2009 was saved by an SMS
This trend lies behind the IMF’s finding that tools and strategies, as shown by generally
climate change. message advising him to delay planting
technological progress has been the single high scores on this indicator in high-
because of impending bad weather.
most important cause of increased income Simply by tracking weather conditions and income countries.

inequality in recent years. crop prices through mobile phones, farmers Unfortunately, less than a quarter of Web
In low- and middle-income countries,
in India increased their profits by 8%; a study Index of countries are making effective
An equitable education system is key however, our researchers found
by Deloitte predicts larger impacts from use of ICTs to share early warning
to mitigate this – as discussed below. In limited impact of the Web on small
more sophisticated Web-based tools. Market information about both slow-onset
addition, deliberate efforts are needed to business growth. No low-income
price information is being widely shared and rapid-onset disasters, and all of
ensure low-paid workers and small and micro countries, and only a handful of middle-
As we will discuss later, this is a significant topped the table of middle-income countries, via ICTs, on a real-time or daily basis, them, except Costa Rica, are high-income
businesses can benefit from technology’s income countries (Turkey, China, Brazil,
barrier to the use of technology to improve out-performing several richer countries, in almost 30% of Web Index countries. countries. Sierra Leone and Bangladesh
spread. Small farms are a prime example. Argentina, India, Mauritius), scored above
health and education outcomes in the including the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Agricultural extension advice is universally perform as well as Sweden and Israel in
a five on this topic. In addition to removing
developing world. Greece, and this October, a massive popular 3.2.1 accessible via ICTs in only 23% of all Web this area, providing very good early warning
barriers such as high access costs, low
revolt against a proposed tax on Internet Index countries and in only two of the information on rapid-onset emergencies
penetration rates, and unclear rules for
Mobile broadband is a cheaper option in most
data showed exactly how highly Hungarians Agriculture & the Web developing and middle-income via ICTs, but fall down on the score for
Internet intermediaries, governments may
of the developing world, but it is nowhere near
value their affordable broadband. Meanwhile, Farmers, fishermen and forest producers countries in our research. slow-burning crises.
being affordable — an entry-level package in also need to consider incentives (such as
Bangladesh’s 61st place ranking made it the make up the economic backbone in tax breaks or seed funding) or support
low-income countries still costs over half of Climate change is causing weather-related
best performing low-income country on this most developing countries, and they (such as training programmes) to promote
average monthly earnings, and as much as risks (such as droughts, floods, and tropical
sub-Index, beating middle-income countries are overwhelmingly poor. Boosting their the Web as an engine of small business.
100% for those living below the $2/day poverty
such as India, Jordan and Nigeria.
line. What is more, ITU statistics show that in
middle- and low-income countries, only a
fifth of the rural population, on
average, is covered by a 3G network. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As the South Africa case study suggests, The United States is a very wealthy social capital, civic engagement, political to limit the overall social and economic to the US Federal Communications provisions of the act were directed towards
making Internet access more affordable is country with a long tradition of equality participation and academic achievement by benefits of the Web in the US. Commission (FCC). In November, the White hobbyists, critics and educational users,
critical for fighting inequality and creating of opportunity, open markets, and high income group. In addition, policies allowing House spoke out in favour of reclassifying who often cannot afford to fight such notices.
jobs. A 2014 Deloitte report estimated that levels of political liberty and participation geographic monopolies or duopolies for The monopolistic market also makes it
the Internet as a public utility to allow the
if Internet penetration rates in developing — characteristics that, together with the Internet providers have led to very high tempting and easy for both wired and Finally, America’s ability to create new
enforcement of strong net neutrality rules,
countries could be raised to those of developed sheer size and affluence of its consumer broadband prices compared to other wireless Internet providers to impose opportunities and foster civic engagement
but the final outcome was not known as
countries, “the resulting economic activity could market, may help to explain why the US was advanced economies. The US now faces price discrimination for certain types of through technology may also be
we went to press.
generate $2.2 trillion in additional GDP, a 72% the country where the Web took off first, major disparities between rich and poor in content or services. In 2014, after Verizon undermined by its increasingly expansive

increase in the GDP growth rate, and more and why it is still home to one of the most Internet use: while 99% of those earning succeeded in getting the courts to declare Overzealous enforcement of copyright law regime of communications surveillance.

than 140 million new jobs.” vibrant technology sectors in the world, over $75,000 per year use the Internet, that existing net neutrality rules null and void, under the Digital Millennium Copyright A recent report by the Open Technology
with many positive impacts on education, figure drops to 77% among those earning the federal regulator introduced proposals Act (DMCA) may also be limiting scientific Initiative details actual and potential costs
The Web Index’s “Universal Access” sub-index to water down the rules permanently. The research, competition and free expression from the National Security Agency (NSA)
entrepreneurship, job creation and political $30,000 per year or less. Similar gaps exist
assesses how well countries are doing initiative drew a furious response from in the US. An analysis of US copyright fallout, ranging from loss of trust in online
participation. between the college-educated and those
on ensuring affordable and ubiquitous tech start-ups and small business as well takedown requests from 2002-2005 banking and shopping, to moves by foreign
with only high school education. This keeps
broadband. This sub-index was, once again, However, recent trends could threaten as ordinary consumers; a campaign called found that 41% of the plaintiffs filing governments to require data to be stored
total rates of Internet access considerably
led by Scandinavian countries who have US leadership in Web innovation and use. Save The Internet mobilised millions of requests could be classified as economic locally. Industry projections suggest that the
lower than in less affluent countries like
made universal access to the Internet a pillar Skyrocketing income inequality in the people to call or email Congress, while competitors of the target, while 21% of cloud computing sector alone could lose up
Korea and Iceland, and will ultimately start
of their commitment to equal opportunities. US is starting to create deep divides in 783,000 people submitted comments demands under the hosting and search to $180 billion in the next three to five years.
However, there were some surprises. Hungary

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3.3 Websites, applications) they carry by countries (Chile, Israel and the Netherlands) Although zero-rating deals have the short- greater, different vested interests will try introduced in the European Union following
affecting the speed or the quality of that scored an eight (“very good”) on this term benefit of enabling more people to harder to shape or even control the delivery the 2000 E-Commerce Directive, and are
Putting the Brakes content. Intermediaries can choose to give indicator. Our analysis suggests that 74% access at least some Web services, critics of content to users. In response, governments being widely adopted in other countries as a
on Innovation preferential treatment to certain content of Web Index countries either lack clear warn they may undermine competition need to recognise that the Internet is an condition of free trade agreements with the
for commercial or political reasons. and effective net neutrality rules, and/or (both among operators and among content essential part of economic and social US. Unsurprisingly, they are the most common
Another way in which the Web can contribute
show evidence of traffic discrimination. providers); disadvantage small, local players; infrastructure — “as basic to innovation, form of intermediary liability protection in the
to a more level playing field is by removing Not only does traffic discrimination reduce
There were only three countries without and could even play into the hands of economic growth, social communication, 36% of Web Index countries that do have such
entry barriers and reducing information competition between ISPs (resulting in higher
effective regulations where we found governments keen to block or spy on the and ... competitiveness as electricity [is],” in protections. This approach has been criticised
costs for new or small market players, prices and reduced quality of service for users),
no evidence of traffic discrimination. Web. The telecommunications authorities of the words of Susan Crawford. Hence, it needs for giving online service providers very strong
encouraging new business formation but it also raises entry barriers for content
Chile and Norway have both determined that to be regulated like other public utilities incentives to comply with copyright holders’
and promoting competition. and application providers, which can deter While the establishment of higher-priced “fast
such practices violate net neutrality laws, but to ensure services are provided on a fair, wishes, but few incentives to protect users’
innovation. Research commissioned by the Dutch lanes” for certain paid video or entertainment
3.3.1 government last year found that net neutrality services is the concern in the rich world, in
governments in most other countries have yet transparent and nondiscriminatory basis. rights — creating a chilling effect on free
to give serious attention to zero-rating, or lack speech and market competition, as our
Net Neutrality stimulates a virtuous circle between more the developing world zero-rating deals are
clear net neutrality regulation in the first place. 3.3.2 US case study explores.
competition, lower prices, higher connectivity, perhaps the most rapidly spreading form of
Net neutrality — the principle that and greater innovation. On the other hand, as price discrimination. Zero-rating involves an It is not always private companies that are Copyright and However, only a handful of countries have
all Internet traffic should be treated our case study shows, many fear that the erosion operator agreeing to carry a limited selection the culprits. In Nepal (which scored a five) our Intermediary Liability laws that try to achieve a better balance
the same — is fundamental to ensure of net neutrality in the US could contribute to of preferred services and content over its researchers report that despite the presence between users’ rights and copyright holders’
Copyright enforcement is another way
equitable access to the Web, as well as to a vicious circle of lack of competition, high network for free. Examples include Airtel’s of laws and regulations designed to protect rights, such as the “notice-and-notice” system
in which economic and political power
underpinning innovation, competition, costs, and declining innovation. “One Touch Internet” in India; Facebook’s net neutrality, there are multiple complaints in Canada, or Chile’s version of “notice-and-
can become entangled on the Web to the
and new business formation in the ICT “” in Zambia, Tanzania and from private sector ISPs that state-owned takedown” which requires the copyright
A robust and well-enforced legal and detriment of ordinary users. Takedown
sector. Without effective net neutrality Kenya; and the deal between China providers get preferential treatment from the holder to obtain a court order before the
regulatory regime to protect net neutrality demands from private parties on grounds
laws or regulations, connectivity providers Unicom and messaging service Tencent. state-owned telecom operator. infringing content is removed.
is the exception, not the rule. Only three of copyright infringement far exceed
can discriminate against the content (e.g.,
ISPs can also be compelled to violate net government censorship attempts. In the first Whether based on notice-and-takedown
To engage with an interactive version of the visualisation
below, please visit
neutrality by governments who require them half of 2013, services operated by Google or notice-and-notice, clear intermediary
to block or throttle access to politically or received copyright takedown notices for liability laws at least avoid a situation where
socially sensitive content. As discussed about 4 million URLs every week, while intermediaries may refuse to host sensitive
below, almost 40% of Web Index countries government demands for content removal content or feel they need to monitor users’ online
were deemed to have engaged in blocking affected about 1,000 items per week. actions — which would have an even greater
sensitive content for political reasons over Twitter reported 20 times as many copyright chilling effect. As long ago as 2011, UN special
the last 12 months. In order for true net takedown notices as government removal rapporteur Frank La Rue called on countries to
neutrality to be in place, traffic must be requests during the first half of 2014. clarify the legal obligations of intermediaries and
free from interference for either political ensure that censorship measures are not
Although many such complaints are
or economic reasons. delegated to private entities.
directed towards piracy and other legitimate
Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism. Until instances of infringement, there are also Despite this, our Web Index 2014 findings
recently, few people cared about net neutrality, examples of intellectual property protections demonstrate that 64% of countries
but this is changing. Chile became the first being abused to deny fair use, disadvantage surveyed have not established clear and
country to enshrine net neutrality into law in competitors, or suppress criticism. In Italy, adequate protection for intermediaries.
2010, and the regulator there has recently begun for example, observers have suggested This creates an environment that is both
to ramp up enforcement. Recent developments that copyright law is being used as a basis highly uncertain and very costly for online
in Switzerland, the US (see box), Mexico, and for censorship, while in Ecuador there are service providers, as our examples show.
Brazil suggest growing public concern about reports that content critical of the president Smaller, local Web companies are likely to be
the issue. In the European Union, the topic is being targeted under copyright pretexts. particularly disadvantaged. If intermediaries
is currently the subject of an intense battle. respond to legal uncertainty with self-
The notice-and-takedown system pioneered by
The European Parliament passed a strong net imposed censorship or arbitrary takedowns,
the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
neutrality law in April, but as we went to press, competition, innovation, and scientific progress
in 1998 gives intermediaries safe harbour from
leaked proposals from the Council of European via the Web will ultimately be hindered.
legal liability as long as they take immediate
Ministers sought to water down the regulations.
action when they receive an infringement
It is clear as that as the commercial and notice. Notice-and-takedown regimes were
political value of the Web becomes ever

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strategy, it has reached tens of thousands estimated 20% of these misogynistic Tweets Better training and clear, balanced legal

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across the country. The net effect of civil were judged to be threatening. guidance for police, courts and online
society activism in these areas was to push service providers is a priority to ensure
Online harassment of women has hit the
37% of countries to scores above a five an effective law enforcement response
Ending discrimination against women and girls — in health, education, political on these two indicators (as compared
headlines on multiple occasions this year,
without trampling on freedom of expression
helping to prod law enforcement agencies
representation, and labour markets — is a powerful way to boost economic growth to only 30% scoring above a five for
and online service providers to respond to
or privacy. Additionally, as highlighted
policy commitment). in a recent report by the Association for
it more assertively. “Revenge porn” ― which
and unlock human potential. To what extent is the Web contributing to realising Likewise, women themselves are not simply sees intimate pictures of former partners
Progressive Communications, online
service providers must improve their own
women’s rights and reducing gender inequality? sitting back and waiting for government posted online ― has become a major issue
user policies, including through providing
to take action. In over 60% of countries, this year. The response has been swift ―
transparency on their reporting and redress
women are using the Web to claim and Israel became the first country in the world
procedures; engaging with the perspectives
exercise their rights to a moderate or to pass a specific law outlawing revenge
of women beyond North America and
extensive degree. When the Web is used porn in January 2014. The practice is illegal
Europe; and broadening their human rights
to good effect, the results can be dramatic. in 12 US states, while Canada, the UK, and
policies to include clear commitment and
standards for respecting women’s rights.

“The Web is democratising and also the voice of people

who don’t think they have another outlet. And that
voice can be punitive.” Mary Beard

In March 2014, an NGO called Shoft Japan are all mulling new laws. However,
Taharosh (I Saw Harassment) released many of these laws have been criticised
footage online of a young female student as carelessly drafted and overly broad; as
being harassed on Cairo University campus. we went to press, the courts suspended
The resulting outcry led to the university Arizona’s revenge porn law in response
implementing a sexual harassment policy to free speech concerns.
— one of the first universities in the region
4.1 Only 30% of the Web Index to sexual and reproductive health rights
to do so.
In most countries, however, responses
to ICT-mediated violence against women
countries score higher than a five advice and services, and to support victims
Women Online: for implementing concrete targets of gender-based violence. We chose these 4.2 remain wholly inadequate. We assessed
Access & Rights for gender equity in ICT access and two issues because they are frequently
whether clear legal protection exists (either
use. Almost all of them are high-income surrounded by stigma and polemic, making through the application of existing laws or
Gender inequality in Internet use
countries that have already achieved high the ability to obtain support privately and Violence Online the development of new ones), whether
remains significant, albeit poorly training and clear guidelines are provided to
levels of gender parity in other spheres of anonymously through the Web a potential
researched. According to International Inasmuch as they can enhance fights
life (as assessed by the World Economic game-changer. Countries’ scores on these both the police and judiciary, and whether
Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates, for women’s rights, social networks can
Forum’s Global Gender Gap rankings). two indicators tended to closely track their enforcement is taking place as evidenced by
16% fewer women than men use the Internet also amplify misogyny and gender-based
Among countries with big women’s rights scores for policy commitment to gender the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators.
in the developing world. Other studies violence. The Pew Research Internet Project
challenges, Estonia, Turkey and Tunisia equity in ICTs, varying by only half a point In 74% of Web Index countries, including
confirm a significant gender gap in equal study in the US finds that 26% of young
stand out for prioritising gender equity on average. However, in many cases, civil many high-income nations, law
opportunities for online participation, women aged 18-24 have been stalked
in ICTs. society is stepping in to provide ICT-based enforcement agencies and the courts
including the Broadband Commission online, and 25% were the target of online
resources that the government does not. An are failing to take appropriate actions
Working Group on Gender report and We looked at implementation as well as sexual harassment. Demos tracked more
example is Colombia’s ProFamilia, which in situations where Web-enabled ICTs
Research ICT’s Africa 2012 study. policy commitment, by assessing the extent than 6 million instances of the word “slut”
aims to educate poor and marginalised are used to commit acts of gender-
to which government and civil society or “whore” in English on Twitter over a
Policy action to assess and overcome communities on sexual and reproductive based violence.
groups are using the Web to expand access six-week period in early 2014; an
the gender gap has been sluggish. rights. By putting ICTs at the heart of its

14 15

5 5
THE WEB AND SOCIAL INEQUALITY Lack of Internet connectivity in rural schools,
lack of open educational resource policies
worse health outcomes. On the other hand,
health is a predictor of income. Those in
As our examples show, the pioneering Web
Index countries who are starting to scale
and/or “fair use” copyright exemptions poor health lose out on earnings. And every up ICTs for health are using them in several
Not only is investment in human capital critical to build the infrastructure of skills for schools and libraries, and prohibitive year, 100 million people worldwide are different ways:
and capabilities that will enable everyone to benefit from technology, but smart broadband costs also limit the impact pushed into poverty by the costs of
• To facilitate remote consultation,
of e-learning in low- and middle-income treating ill health.
use of technology and data can also make it easier and more affordable to expand countries. In Egypt, for example, only 25% of
diagnosis, and treatment, allowing
Not all of the factors leading to worse physicians in remote locations to take
access to good quality health care and education, creating a virtuous circle of primary schools that have PCs also have an
health among poorer people can be tackled advantage of the professional skills
Internet connection. In some cases, schools
through ICTs. But evidence shows that the and experiences of colleagues and
opportunity and growth. are trying to meet the costs by assessing
ability to access and understand accurate collaborating institutions.
additional student fees, which has been
information about staying well, and to
criticised as discriminatory. Countries like • To provide ongoing training to
Our research looks not only at the use of strong universal education systems or made economic empowerment, suggesting that effectively navigate the healthcare system to
South Korea (see box) and China, which health workers.
PCs and smartphones in schools and clinics, investment in education a key pillar of their a strong policy commitment to overcoming get better treatment, is a direct determinant
both scored highly for using ICTs to improve
but any and all “Web-powered” platforms, strategies for inclusive growth. gender disparities in society at large enables of health, and here the Web can make an • To enable policy-makers and healthcare
education, have undertaken far-reaching
including Web-based services that can all citizens — not just women and girls — to important contribution to more equitable professionals to keep abreast of the
Globally, however, educational attainment efforts to provide all schools with free or
be deployed via simple mobile phones or derive more benefit from ICTs. health outcomes. For example, Deloitte rapidly evolving stock of medical
remains highly unequal, both between and heavily discounted connectivity, and to
community radio. We also tested whether estimates that improved health information knowledge.
within countries. Mean years of schooling Hence, expanding access to quality ensure that content previously locked up in
the information and services provided by to expectant mothers and health workers
among the adult population is 13.8 years in education is essential to ensure that the expensive textbooks is available for schools • To improve disease prevention by
such tools are locally relevant and available could lead to a reduction in child poverty,
the UK, and less than one year in Burkina Faso. benefits of the Internet are spread more and students to download and use free enabling more effective monitoring
in local languages. saving 250,000 children who may have
Within countries, it is the poorest children who equally, and must be a major investment of charge. and response mechanisms.
otherwise died in their first year.
Some countries are making good use of receive the worst and the least education. In priority for countries seeking to profit from
this two-way street between the Web and some countries these educational inequalities the digital revolution. 5.2 In addition, ICT tools can reduce the costs
• To disseminate public health information.

Yet the health sector is lagging even further

enhanced human capital, but in most
– including the majority of developing
are stark. In the US, “the imbalance between
rich and poor children in college completion
At the same time, the Web itself could help Health of providing quality health care, making it
behind than the education sector in uptake
easier for governments to implement free or
to make better education accessible to
countries in our sample – the potential of — the single most important predictor of As with education, there is a two-way inexpensive health services for all, reducing of Web-enabled ICTs to improve the quality
poor and marginalised groups. The Web
digital technology to fight poverty is mostly success in the workforce — has grown by about causality between health and income the burden of health care costs on the poor. and affordability of public health care. Just
Index research finds that this is beginning
untapped. 50% since the late 1980s.” In India, children inequality. On the one hand, poverty is a Finally, ICTs can speed the spread of new one in five Web Index countries across the
to happen. Over 80% of high-income
belonging to “high” castes score 27 percentage predictor of poor health, and countries and better medical techniques and tools world have moved beyond pilot projects
Despite some striking successes — such as countries and almost 50% of low- and
points better than “low-caste” children on with higher levels of inequality tend to have from rich countries to developing ones. to broader implementation. Only 15% of
mobile payment systems in East Africa — the middle-income countries have have at
basic reading ability. In South Africa, less than
“ICT for Development” (ICT4D) effort remains least started pilot projects and allocated
half of Grade 4 students in disadvantaged
small scale and fragmented, with small pilot budgets for programmes that could help
schools are able to read.
projects often sputtering to a halt due to a improve education outcomes for poor
failure to tackle systemic constraints. In this Not surprisingly, in low- and middle-income and marginalised communities. However,
section we explore what needs to happen
to bring ICT4D to scale.
countries, Web Index scores for economic
empowerment through the Web are
of the 21 low- and middle-income countries
with e-learning programmes, 13 seem to be
highly correlated to levels of secondary allocating the majority of their resources to South Korea, number eight on the Web were investment in education and approach achieved two things: first, it
5.1 school enrolment. Countries with better delivering computers or tablets to schools — Index and the top performing non- investment in ICTs. Not only did the “created not only a huge demand and
Education educated citizens do better on the economic with little attention to designing appropriate Western country, overcame poverty government build the most advanced market for the ICT industry,” helping
empowerment sub-index, regardless of their e-learning curricula and materials, or and achieved rapid economic growth IT infrastructure in the world, it also to make it the single most important
Education is perhaps the most consistently income level. supporting teachers to use technology while maintaining, until recently, a offered Internet and computer literacy engine of growth for Korea’s economy,
successful way to lift people out of poverty and effectively. On its own, this approach has relatively equitable income distribution programmes to marginalised groups, but it also helped to create “the vital
catalyse broad-based, inclusive growth. All of Interestingly, in low-income countries,
been found to have little or no impact on that powered the expansion of the reaching 21% of the population; set up human infrastructure” to make that
the countries cited in our case studies — Brazil, there also seems to be some relationship
learning achievement, particularly among middle class. By the early 1990s, free Internet access points across the growth equitable and sustainable.
Korea, Iceland, and Estonia — either inherited between male to female gaps in school life
more disadvantaged students. 70% of the population identified country; and connected all schools for
expectancy and the Web Index scores for
themselves as belonging to the middle free or at discounted rates. According
2 Spaull, Nicholas. “A preliminary analysis of SACMEQ III South Africa.” Stellenbosch Economic Working (2011). 3. Although secondary school enrolment levels don’t make a statistically significant class. Two factors that enabled this to the World Bank, this twin-track
difference in economic empowerment scores in high income countries, we believe this is only because secondary school education is nearly universal in high income countries. Levels of post-graduate
education would likely be more relevant to economic empowerment outcomes in high income countries. Similarly, a World Bank survey of ICT use in African education systems notes: “There appears
to be the beginnings of a marked shift from a decade of experimentation in the form of donor-supported, NGO-led, small-scale, pilot projects towards a new phase of systemic integration informed by
national government policies and multi-stakeholder-led implementation processes.”

16 17

5 6
the countries have training programmes
in place to improve the ICT skills of
Across education, health, agriculture, and
women’s rights issues, our research also
clinic is 50 km away, or if the clinic is not
stocked with basic drugs. Sharing market
health workers. suggests that many of the first wave of ICT4D price information with farmers via mobile
projects were poorly designed, following an phone may not make a difference if farmers
Political equality — the idea that each citizen’s preferences should count the same
As with education, the impact of ICTs on
health care is further constrained by high
“add technology and stir” recipe with little are dependent on a particular large buyer for — is at the heart of democracy. There is often a two-way and cumulative relationship
or no consultation with frontline users. The access to credit and inputs. But it may have
broadband costs, lack of Internet access in
recent donor fascination with “innovation” a large impact if combined with “offline” between high levels of economic inequality and concentration of political power
public clinics, and the slow progress of open
access policies requiring publicly funded
(typified by “app contests”) has sometimes initiatives to improve the market power
among elites. More affluent and privileged groups are more likely to participate in
displaced attention to scale, sustainability of small producers.
medical research to be made
openly available at no cost. The next wave
and structural change. Sending SMS
Learning from such experiences, in the next
political processes, and this may lead to policy outcomes becoming increasingly
reminders to pregnant women to attend
of ICT for Development (ICT4D) initiatives
ante-natal clinics, for example, obviously will
wave of ICT4D we must involve the intended skewed in their favour, which can further increase social and economic inequalities.
must go hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce users and beneficiaries in identifying the
not reduce infant and maternal mortality if
the costs and increase the availability of locally specific problems that technology
the messages are in a language they cannot Informed and unfettered debate through a Voter turnout, identification with political
broadband, as well as efforts to expand can actually help to solve as well as those “The Web is now a public resource on which people,
understand, or if most women in the area free press is an important safeguard against parties and confidence in political
open licensing of educational and scientific it can’t – and in designing participatory businesses, communities and governments depend. It is
are functionally illiterate. But it also will fail undue concentration of power, but the overall institutions have also been declining steadily
materials; the Korean experience of ICTs strategies to tackle both. vital to democracy and now more critical to free expression
to have the desired impact if the nearest environment for freedom of expression has in OECD countries. Yet ordinary citizens do than any other medium.”
in education is a good example.
deteriorated in the overwhelming majority not necessarily have other ways to organise Sir Tim Berners-Lee writing in Wired, March 2014
of Web Index countries. around their interests. A large-scale study of
US policy-making, released last year, found
In 2013, over 90% of Web Index countries
that rich individuals and business-controlled “Today, to be disconnected from the net is to be silenced. And
scored worse on either or both of the leading
interest groups dominate political decision- every issue of freedom of expression is amplified online.”
indices of press freedom (Freedom House
making while ordinary citizens have a David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom
and Reporters without Borders) than they
“near zero” influence on policy outcomes. of Expression, October 2014
did in 2007. Perhaps most worrying, the
setbacks have been concentrated in the The democratic deficit takes different, but
the age of 30 had inherited his or her seat.
“most free” countries. Three in four of the equally severe forms in other countries. In
Opinion polls commissioned by Oxfam in six
Web Index countries that did better than Africa, voter turnout is relatively high. But the
countries (Spain, Brazil, India, South Africa, the
average on Freedom House’s Freedom of the Afrobarometer surveys reveal that less than
UK and the USA) found that a majority of people
Press Index in 2007 witnessed a decline in half of Africans believe elections give people
believe laws are skewed in favour of the rich.
score in 2013; in 14 countries, including the any power over politicians, while only 20%
US, UK, Finland, New Zealand, and Denmark, believe that MPs often or always “listen to Inspired by examples such as Iceland
scores fell by 20% or more. what people like me have to say”. In India, many hope the Web can help to close this
a study showed that every single MP under democratic deficit. The Web can disrupt

In 2008, following years of financial the banks. Instead, Iceland embarked on The remaking of Iceland as an
deregulation and rising inequality, Iceland another path: remaking itself as a haven “information haven” links political
plunged into a catastrophic financial crisis, for freedom of information, freedom of regeneration to economic innovation. By
with the overnight collapse of all three of its expression and direct democracy. The Web passing “information friendly” legislation,
major banks. “Never before had a country and social media were enlisted to ensure and taking advantage of Iceland’s climate
managed to amass such great sums of a participatory and transparent process and clean energy resources to build cheap,
money per capita, only to lose it again in a of drafting a new constitution, and some environmentally friendly data centres,
short period of time,” observed Der Spiegel. 370 formal proposals ― many relating Iceland aims to attract new investment
Many understood the roots of the crisis to lie to Iceland’s economic model ― were and jobs, becoming “an ideal environment
with an unaccountable elite that had taken submitted online. The resulting constitution for Internet-based international media
irresponsible risks with ordinary people’s includes some of the strongest protections and publishers to register their services,
money, hidden from view by corporate in the world for freedom of expression, start-ups, data centers and human rights
secrecy and a cosy relationship between the right to information, protection organizations.” Thanks to these and other
the elite and Iceland’s media. of journalists and whistleblowers, economic and political reforms, Iceland’s
intermediary liability protection, economy has recovered strongly and
In early 2010, voters overwhelmingly
and online privacy. inequality is back on a downward trend.
rejected proposals for taxpayer bailouts of

18 19

Our researchers found that many countries took
legal steps to weaken privacy safeguards and
Brazil has strongly committed to an However, between 2002 and 2012, the justice. A path-breaking law enacted expand state surveillance powers over the past
open and universally accessible Internet proportion of people living in extreme last year, the “Marco Civil da Internet”, year. France passed a new law which gives a
as “a modern-day pro-emancipation, poverty was more than halved thanks establishes the right of all Brazilians to a wide range of agencies the power to snoop on
pro-transformation tool that changes to the introduction of a minimum neutral, free, and private Web, and also Internet users in real-time without prior judicial
society”, in the words of President wage, education reforms to expand charges the government with ensuring authorisation, sending its score plummeting
Dilma Rousseff. In her government’s opportunities for lower income groups equitable access to connectivity and from a 10 to a two. In the UK, the new Data
view, both universal access and privacy (between 1995 and 2005, the average digital skills. Following the NSA scandal, Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP),
and freedom of expression online are schooling among workers increased Brazil has also championed UN action which significantly enhances the powers of the
necessary to build a more equal Brazil. by almost two years), and far-reaching to uphold the right to privacy across security services, was rushed through Parliament
social protection programmes. At the national boundaries. in just a few days. Down under, the Australian
The connection between political
same time, basic rights denied under government passed a bill which will enable the
freedoms and socioeconomic progress is There is a long way still to go — almost
the dictators — such as the freedoms of entire Web to be monitored with just a single
perhaps particularly clear to Brazilians: a half of Brazilians are still offline, net
expression, information, and association warrant, and South Africa authorised warrantless
series of repressive military dictatorships neutrality is hotly contested, media
— were entrenched, and initiatives tapping of “foreign” Internet traffic. Greater
ensured big landowners kept a tight ownership remains highly concentrated,
such as direct citizen participation in powers for government to intercept electronic
grip on the country’s wealth, and Brazil and elites still abuse defamation and
allocating municipal budgets helped communications are also under consideration in
emerged from military rule in the mid- copyright laws to stifle dissent. But
to expand democracy. the Netherlands, Finland, and Denmark.
1980s as one of the most unequal societies political commitment to a Web for all
in the world. The Internet was not exempt Despite these successes, inequality is strong. And, as the Internet-powered Worryingly, the tendency seems to be towards
— of the four to seven percent of the remains high. Dilma Rousseff’s protests of 2013 demonstrated, so is bulk collection of data in secret and by default,
population who were online in 2002, government sees the Internet as the the will of citizens to use it. raising the spectre of the Web becoming
80% were defined as upper class. next frontier in Brazil’s pursuit of social established as a tool for pervasive surveillance.
This year, the proportion of countries increases in such orders — between Brazil’s Marco Civil law, which enshrines a
whose legal safeguards for privacy January–June 2013 and January–June 2014, right to privacy, is a notable beacon of hope.
were judged weak to non-existent Twitter reported a 78% increase; Google, As our case study shows, it arises from that
political monopolies, “shifting power to the 4.4 billion disconnected people who more equal societies are also likely to allow
rose from 63% to 83% — despite a 2013 a 14% increase; and Facebook, a 30% country’s bitter experience of authoritarian rule,
from traditional hierarchies to networked are not able to use the Web at all, another more space for citizens to exercise their
UN resolution calling on all member states increase. Microsoft reported 30% growth in and reflects fresh determination to make the
heterarchies” and giving marginalised groups 1.8 billion people who are connected rights to information, participation, privacy,
to review their laws and practices to ensure the number of accounts affected by secret Internet an instrument of emancipation
a much bigger voice. There are strong nevertheless face severe limitations on and freedom of expression.
that surveillance did not interfere with US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act rather than control.
design principles built into the decentralised their rights online. This is the total number
architecture of the Internet and the Web of Internet users living in Web Index countries 6.1 fundamental rights. (FISA) requests between 2011 and 2013,
while Yahoo said it was “troubled” by a 67%
that make it hard for anyone to control how in which we found extensive government Privacy & Surveillance The UK, US, Australia, Canada and France
increase in accounts subject to FISA orders
information and voice are distributed around censorship of politically or socially sensitive all score below three out of a possible 10
At the time we released our 2013 Index, between the first and last half of 2013.
the network. Despite a sharp deterioration content and/or very weak to non-existent due on this indicator, placing them in the company
in the overall environment for press freedom process protections against mass surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden’s
of China, Russia, and Turkey, to name just a few. Transparency about the extent and nature
in nearly every country studied, for the of electronic communications – scoring 3 out revelations had just begun to reverberate
of law enforcement and security agency
around the world. One year on, we now Part of this shift in scores can be explained by
second year running we found that the of 10, or worse, on one or both of the relevant surveillance is a basic starting point for any
know even more about how governments the fact that we now know a lot more about
Web and social media are making a major Web Index indicators. informed debate on the right to privacy in
around the world routinely use the Internet what governments are getting up to. Much new
contribution to sparking citizen action in the digital age. Although some countries
Such extensive denial of rights poses a to secretly monitor their citizens, and in information has come to light in the past year
over 60% of countries we studied. Women have increased transparency with regard to
threat that is economic as well as political: many instances, consolidate their power. about the ability of state and intelligence actors to
are using the Web to claim and exercise their their surveillance activities, Vodafone said it
a report by Dalberg Global Advisors found circumvent due process and the rule of law, even
rights in a similar proportion of countries. Last year, we asked the question: “To what was legally permitted to publish aggregate
that in countries where the Internet is “open”, where such safeguards are nominally on the books.
And almost half of governments are making extent are there laws and regulations in your information about law enforcement
its economic benefits are greater than in
progress towards improved transparency country that provide both substantive and However, there is also evidence that due demands in less than half of the 29 countries
countries where governments tried to censor
by publishing all non-personal government procedural safeguards to protect the privacy process safeguards for citizens are being where it operates. Countries that did not
or control content. Interestingly, in high
data online, free of charge. of electronic communications?” If there were progressively dismantled — even as the allow disclosure of aggregate statistics on
income countries, it appears that there is
laws in place, we asked researchers to assess capability and appetite of governments to interception warrants and/or access to
At the same time, however, efforts to hijack a significant relationship between the Gini
how well they were being enforced, or if they spy on us is expanding. The companies communications metadata included the UK,
the Internet as an instrument of surveillance coefficient and scores on the Web Index
were largely ignored in practice. This year, we that report on government demands for Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland, as
and control are clearly increasing. In addition sub-index for freedom and openness online:
repeated that question, with telling results. user data have documented worldwide well as India, South Africa, and Turkey.

20 21

6 6
Such abuses of power freedom of speech more generally. In most
6.3 political action, amplifying previously China, Bahrain, Russia, Thailand and
by governments create of these “freer online” countries, levels of marginalised voices and causes in over Venezuela. Many of these countries are also
inequalities by stifling social and political mobilisation using the Mobilising via the Web 60% of the countries surveyed. Notable ones where we found that the Internet is less
dissent and increasing the Web are significant (see next section). examples included Korea, Chile, Mexico, heavily censored than traditional media.
“The Indian authorities can and do police
chances that a dominant the US and Turkey.
However, some of those who censor less physical space; but they cannot hope to However, some research suggests that civic
elite will be able to maintain
online may simply lack the sophisticated control virtual space.” Unsurprisingly, most countries that score engagement online is most prevalent among
a monopoly of power,
technical ability to filter and block digital highly on the World Bank’s offline measures the affluent, urban, male, and well educated
shaping policies and laws – Professor Abhijit Gupta, commenting on
content, a situation that could change of voice, participation and accountability — reproducing, rather than reversing,
in its own interest rather the role of social media in sparking student
quickly as the makers of “real-time” also score highly on our political disparities in political participation and
than for the common protests against gender violence at
censorship software (including deep packet empowerment measures and, in particular, social capital that have been growing
good. During the March Jadavpur University.
inspection systems such as BlueCoat) are seeing active use of online tools to “offline”. The 2014 Web Index does not
2014 election campaign,
continue to find new customers in the Despite the worrying trends discussed organise citizens. examine this directly, but we look forward
for example, the Turkish
developing world. According to evidence above, the Web remains a powerful tool for to the results of household survey research
government blocked several However, there appears to be a poverty
from CitizenLab and other sources, over activists and civil society to mobilise the in the 2015 Web Index that may shed light
Web pages, as well as access barrier to the Web’s political impact: nearly
half of the 45 Web Index countries with public. Civil society organisations (CSOs) on this issue.
to YouTube, Twitter and all of the democratic countries that scored
poor records on freedom of expression around the world are increasingly using
SoundCloud. The ban on very poorly (three or below) on the use of
are known to be using such tools already, Web-powered ICTs to educate and inform
Twitter was lifted after the the Web to catalyse citizen mobilisation
which suggests that online censorship will citizens about government decision-
election, thanks to a court are low- or lower-middle-income countries,
continue to get worse unless bold steps making and public policy issues; in over
decision. and no low-income country scored above
are taken to reverse it. half of Web Index countries, most or all
a six. High poverty rates are associated
6.2 Is the Web a lightning rod for
Blocking and filtering of Web content by
of the major CSOs are using the Web in
with low political empowerment scores for
censorship or a safe haven for free speech? this way. An Afrobarometer survey in 34
Censorship Of the 45 Web Index countries with extensive
governments is automatically understood
African countries found that “those who
all countries as a group. This may well be
by most people as a violation of explained by low levels of Internet access,
Like surveillance, censorship too is on constraints on speech, only seven (about use the Internet more often consider leaders
fundamental rights. However, acts of preventing Web-powered communications
the rise. In 2013, we reported that just 16%) seem to censor more heavily online less trustworthy [and are] more critical of
misogyny and gender-based violence carried from reaching a wide audience.
over 30% of Web Index countries were than offline, while 12 (about 27%) censor the the government.”
out by ordinary Web users — discussed
Internet less extensively than they restrict Web-based protest and mobilisation has
blocking politically or socially sensitive below — also have chilling effects on the For the second year in a row, we found
traditional media – judging by a comparison also become a force to be reckoned with in
Web content to a moderate or extreme freedoms of expression and association evidence that the Web is playing a
of their Web Index score for online a number of countries where citizen voice
degree. This year, that figure rises to 38%. enjoyed by women – or half the population. significant role in enabling social and
censorship with Freedom House scores for is limited offline — such as Egypt, Colombia,

In Korea, the Web was used this year to repression online — grievances over The campaign — which also used tu Voto Volar” (Make Your Vote Fly). This opposition to the country’s proposed organised entirely around and through
mobilise protestors against a perceived corruption and perceived elite traditional tactics such as civil campaign quickly caught the attention telecommunications bill. Through the Internet technologies. Avaaz leverages
political abuse of power. In the run impunity have fueled online activism. disobedience and direct action — won a of traditional media, and became an #DefenderInternet (Defending Internet) petitions signed and funds donated by
up to the 2012 presidential elections, For instance, a social media campaign significant victory in under a year, when election issue. Presidential candidates campaign, Mexican activists developed its millions of users around the world
it was alleged that Korea’s National was cited as a factor in ensuring justice President Obama issued an executive weighed in on the issue and a virtual a site that lets Mexicans call lawmakers to put local issues in the international
Intelligence Service used Twitter to run was served in a gang rape case against order in November 2014 to expand online election was held for those who to demand that they put human rights media spotlight, a strategy that in 2014
a smear campaign against one of the a wealthy general’s son. protection from deportation to over could not vote. Although reforms were at the core of any new bill. helped Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania
candidates. Starting in 2013, furious four million immigrants. not made before the December 2013 fend off eviction from their traditional
In the US, the #Not1MoreDeportation Across national boundaries, the Web
citizens used social media to fuel online elections, in April 2014, a new law was lands, and overturned a flogging
campaign for the rights of illegal Chile provides another example of how also helped build successful movements
and offline protests. The sustained passed which will make sentence for a 15-year-old rape survivor
immigrants was designed as an the Web has helped to remove a political on a variety of issues. Over 77,000
public pressure has resulted in the it easier for expats abroad to vote. in Maldives. Through crisis mapping
“open source” campaign that used inequality. Chilean law states that all people worldwide are actively involved
conviction of the former agency boss, — the real-time gathering, display and
ICTs to enable many different actors citizens have the right to vote, but Meanwhile, in Mexico, citizens in the Wikipedia project to create a free,
Won Sei-Hoon, who was sentenced analysis of data during a conflict or
— from families fighting an individual expats had to return to Chile on election supported by the Web We Want open-source, collaborative repository
to two and a half years in prison in natural disaster — organisations like
deportation case to large trade unions day to do so. In the run up to an election campaign, and other international of the world’s knowledge. “Alternative”
September this year. Even in China Humanitarian Open Street Map involved
— to collaborate without a central in December 2013, disgruntled expats groups, used the Web to organise Internet currencies such as Bitcoin have
— a country typically associated with thousands of virtual volunteers in the
decision-making structure. started an online campaign called “Haz around demands for net neutrality, given rise to a 21st century version of the
fight against Ebola in West Africa.
privacy and freedom of speech, in libertarian “free banking” movement,

22 23

7 8
We stand at a crossroads between a Web “for everyone” ― one that enables all The 2014 Web Index benefited from the help and advice of many people,
people around the world to improve their life chances and reduces inequalities and involved a rigorous process of collecting and analysing data across a
both between and within countries ― and a “winner takes all” Web that further large number of indicators and countries, as well as consulting leading
concentrates wealth and political power in the hands of a few. experts in various fields.
A “winner takes all” Web is not a pre- belongs to all of us? Or will we allow billions It is time to recognise the Internet as a The Web Index research was managed Survey team coordinators: • The Unit of Econometrics and Applied
determined outcome. As this report has to be shut out from reaping the benefits fundamental human right and take the by Khaled Fourati and directed by Dr. Statistics-Ispra ― IT, who supported us on
• Carlos Iglesias
sought to demonstrate, much depends on of the most powerful technology of following steps to make it a reality: Hania Farhan from the World Wide Web methodological and statistical analysis.
the policy choices we make now. Will we the century? Foundation. For a full methodology, • Aman Grewal
• José M. Alonso, Kojo Boakye, Ingrid
take bold action to ensure the open Web please visit: • Raed M. Sharif Brudvig, Tim Davies, Sonia Jorge, Lauran
about/#methodology • Ginette Law Potter, Chan Sun, and the rest of the
The lead report author is Anne Jellema, with • Laura M. James Bromwich World Wide Web Foundation team that
Dr. Hania Farhan, Khaled Fourati, Dr. Siaka contributed to research, data-verification
The team at WESO (Website Design,

Policy makers must: Lougue, Dillon Mann and Gabe Trodd all and fact-checking.
Data Visualisation and Management)
assisting in the writing and/or analysis. • The Index team is grateful to the large
• José Emilio Labra Gayo number of experts and professionals
We are grateful to the members of the Web
1. Accelerate progress towards getting everyone online. Poverty must not prevent anyone, Index Science Council for valuable advice
• Guillermo Infante Hernández who assisted us with the Expert
anywhere from connecting. Universal access means everyone should be able to use all of the Web all of the time, • Juan Castro Fernández Assessment survey.
in the construction and analysis of the
safely, freely and privately.
Web Index: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Robert • Daniel Fernández Álvarez Finally, particular thanks must go to UK
Ackland, Paola Annoni, Kilnam Chon, Aid for funding the continued development
2. Level the playing field by preventing price discrimination in Internet traffic, balancing the rights of Anriette Esterhuysen, Jonathan Donner,
• Miguel Otero Gafarelo
and production of the Web Index and to
copyright holders with those of Web users, and protecting online service providers from liability for content posted The team at Development Seed
Robert Guerra, Torbjorn Fredriksson, the Swedish International Development
by third parties. We believe that governments must recognise the Internet’s essential place in economic and social Mishi Choudhary, Marcelo Daher, Rebecca (Data Visualisations): Cooperation and Naver for significant
infrastructure and treat it like other public utilities. Mackinnon, Alice Munyua, Ronaldo Lemos, funding support.
• Ian Schuler
Juliana Nolasco, Claire Sibthorpe and
3. Invest in high-quality public education for all to ensure that technological progress doesn’t leave Shireen Santosham.
• Marc Farra
some groups behind. • Derek Lieu
The Web Index also benefited from
4. Promote participation in democracy and protect freedom of opinion. the expertise of: We would also like to thank:
Fight the growing “democratic deficit” by reversing the erosion of press freedom and civil liberties seen in almost Analyst team (African Institute • Joy Liddicoat, Jan Vobořil, Sam Smith,
all Web Index countries in recent years; use the Web to make government more transparent to citizens; and provide of Mathematical Sciences) Katarzyna Szymielewicz, Rejo Zenger for
stronger protections for freedom of speech, freedom of association, and privacy, both offline and on. their inputs on country reviews
• Siaka Lougue
• Miska Knapek and Malcolm Buckland for
5. Create opportunities for women and poor and marginalised groups by investing more in ICTs to overcome • Tchilabalo Abozou Kpanzou
their graphic design skills
key barriers in health, education, agriculture and gender equity. Achieve scale and impact by involving stakeholders • Aristide Romaric Bado
• The European Commission’s Joint
in identifying the specific problems that ICTs can help to solve and those it cannot, and designing properly • Innocent Karangwa
Research Centre
resourced programmes to address both.

24 25

Overall Country Overall Sub Index Country Universal Sub Index Country Freedom & Sub Index Country Relevant Content Sub Index Country Empowerment
rank score Rank Access Rank Openness Rank Score Rank Score
Score Score

9 9
1 Denmark 100.00 1 Denmark 100.00 1 Finland 100.00 1 UK & Northern Ireland 100.00 1 UK & Northern Ireland 100.00
2 Finland 98.81 2 Iceland 96.97 2 Norway 95.07 2 United States Of America 98.32 2 United States Of America 99.81
3 Norway 97.32 3 Republic Of Korea 95.92 3 Iceland 94.93 3 France 97.02 3 Sweden 94.73
4 UK& Northern Ireland 95.67 4 Singapore 91.69 4 Denmark 90.45 4 Republic Of Korea 96.58 4 Denmark 93.61
5 Sweden 94.97 5 Netherlands 89.77 5 Chile 87.73 5 Norway 96.56 5 Finland 92.97
6 United States Of America 94.52 6 Finland 88.46 6 Belgium 86.26 6 Australia 95.12 6 Norway 86.55
7 Iceland 93.72 7 Norway 87.97 7 Germany 85.84 7 Sweden 92.55 7 France 85.59
8 Republic Of Korea 92.81 8 New Zealand 87.28 8 Sweden 85.10 8 Denmark 92.37 8 Netherlands 83.57
9 Netherlands 91.84 9 Belgium 86.97 9 Netherlands 83.36 9 Finland 90.61 9 Switzerland 83.10
10 Belgium 89.61 10 Ireland 86.86 10 Ireland 83.33 10 Canada 89.71 10 Austria 82.32
11 France 89.09 11 Sweden 85.07 11 Austria 82.78 11 Netherlands 89.70 11 Republic Of Korea 82.14
12 New Zealand 87.48 12 Australia 84.62 12 Estonia 82.41 12 Belgium 89.39 12 Estonia 79.91
13 Australia 87.27 13 Estonia 84.31 13 Switzerland 81.27 13 New Zealand 89.29 13 Germany 78.43
14 Germany 86.19 14 UK & Northern Ireland 82.99 14 United States Of America 81.04 14 Iceland 86.40 14 New Zealand 77.45
15 Austria 86.00 15 Germany 79.97 15 Canada 80.27 15 Austria 83.81 15 Canada 76.81
16 Canada 85.82 16 Switzerland 79.69 16 Czech Republic 79.84 16 Germany 81.84 16 Iceland 75.75
17 Estonia 85.05 17 Qatar 79.62 17 Portugal 79.03 17 Chile 81.28 17 Belgium 75.72
18 Switzerland 84.73 18 Japan 78.09 18 France 78.72 18 Israel 78.83 18 Singapore 75.17
19 Japan 79.00 19 Canada 77.26 19 Japan 77.87 19 Japan 77.68 19 Australia 74.24
20 Ireland 78.28 20 Austria 76.12 20 New Zealand 76.31 20 Switzerland 76.86 20 Israel 72.65
21 Israel 75.46 21 United States Of America 75.83 21 UK & Northern Ireland 76.25 21 Singapore 76.48 21 Japan 66.33
22 Singapore 75.16 22 France 73.96 22 Greece 76.06 22 Estonia 75.73 22 Spain 62.32
23 Spain 74.53 23 Portugal 73.54 23 Spain 75.24 23 Spain 74.21 23 Ireland 57.84
24 Chile 74.18 24 Spain 71.87 24 Australia 75.16 24 Portugal 71.38 24 China 56.42
25 Portugal 73.33 25 Israel 71.40 25 Republic Of Korea 74.90 25 Uruguay 70.78 25 Portugal 55.72
26 Hungary 66.12 26 Hungary 67.58 26 Costa Rica 72.16 26 Ireland 70.25 26 Italy 54.14
27 Uruguay 66.10 27 Czech Republic 67.11 27 Uruguay 71.33 27 Russian Federation 70.22 27 Chile 52.57
28 Czech Republic 65.50 28 Poland 66.60 28 Brazil 70.74 28 Hungary 67.05 28 Hungary 51.84
29 Italy 63.83 29 Russian Federation 64.17 29 Italy 70.53 29 Mexico 66.74 29 Turkey 50.72
30 Greece 60.91 30 Thailand 64.09 30 Poland 69.75 30 Argentina 66.25 30 Uruguay 50.49
31 Argentina 60.74 31 United Arab Emirates 63.85 31 Hungary 66.72 31 United Arab Emirates 64.42 31 Russian Federation 49.29
32 Costa Rica 60.38 32 Mauritius 63.71 32 Israel 63.51 32 Greece 61.65 32 Czech Republic 49.12
33 Brazil 60.19 33 Italy 62.30 33 Peru 62.53 33 Brazil 60.36 33 Brazil 48.29
34 Poland 58.81 34 Argentina 61.88 34 Jamaica 61.55 34 Malaysia 60.18 34 Colombia 47.61
35 Russian Federation 58.17 35 Greece 60.77 35 Argentina 59.63 35 Colombia 58.87 35 Argentina 45.54
36 Colombia 57.12 36 China 60.55 36 Mauritius 59.17 36 Costa Rica 58.75 36 Costa Rica 45.01
37 Mexico 55.34 37 Chile 60.37 37 India 57.42 37 Italy 58.30 37 Mexico 44.86
38 Turkey 53.30 38 Uruguay 60.16 38 South Africa 56.89 38 Turkey 56.17 38 Poland 43.32
39 Tunisia 51.93 39 Bahrain 59.51 39 Colombia 55.46 39 Czech Republic 55.83 39 Philippines 40.66
40 Mauritius 49.60 40 Ukraine 59.29 40 Ukraine 54.86 40 Bahrain 54.56 40 India 40.41
41 Philippines 48.87 41 Tunisia 58.68 41 Tunisia 54.63 41 Tunisia 52.55 41 Kenya 40.32
42 Malaysia 48.34 42 Colombia 58.41 42 Ghana 53.78 42 China 51.21 42 Malaysia 38.32
43 Peru 46.62 43 Turkey 57.61 43 Philippines 52.84 43 Kazakhstan 48.92 43 Morocco 36.82
44 China 45.97 44 Costa Rica 56.66 44 Mexico 51.16 44 Poland 48.11 44 Greece 36.15
45 South Africa 45.82 45 South Africa 55.65 45 Benin 48.89 45 Philippines 46.27 45 Tunisia 36.01
46 Ukraine 45.20 46 Saudi Arabia 55.53 46 Morocco 48.37 46 Qatar 43.56 46 Peru 34.55
47 United Arab Emirates 44.90 47 Ecuador 54.77 47 Namibia 42.38 47 Ecuador 42.49 47 United Arab Emirates 34.21
48 India 44.60 48 Malaysia 54.66 48 Singapore 42.24 48 Morocco 42.32 48 Mauritius 34.19
49 Jamaica 44.50 49 Indonesia 53.51 49 Burkina Faso 41.96 49 Saudi Arabia 40.11 49 South Africa 31.89
50 Ecuador 42.57 50 Viet Nam 52.80 50 Senegal 41.94 50 Jamaica 38.57 50 Thailand 30.99
51 Morocco 40.38 51 Brazil 52.17 51 Zambia 41.87 51 Indonesia 38.30 51 Ecuador 30.18
52 Indonesia 39.27 52 Philippines 51.03 52 Turkey 41.72 52 Peru 37.94 52 Ukraine 29.76
53 Thailand 39.20 53 Botswana 50.49 53 Ecuador 40.54 53 Mauritius 37.52 53 Bahrain 28.11
54 Qatar 38.01 54 Kazakhstan 50.30 54 Uganda 40.25 54 Jordan 37.41 54 Jamaica 27.40
55 Kenya 37.48 55 Mexico 50.27 55 Russian Federation 39.60 55 Thailand 36.26 55 Indonesia 26.74
56 Bahrain 36.41 56 Peru 48.25 56 Nepal 39.41 56 South Africa 36.17 56 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic Of) 26.64
57 Kazakhstan 35.65 57 Jamaica 48.02 57 Sierra Leone 39.40 57 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic Of) 35.47 57 Egypt 25.59
58 Ghana 29.87 58 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic Of) 46.15 58 Botswana 38.76 58 Ukraine 34.61 58 Uganda 22.35
59 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic Of) 29.79 59 Namibia 45.88 59 Kenya 38.62 59 Egypt 34.50 59 Rwanda 22.29
60 Egypt 28.98 60 Egypt 45.84 60 Nigeria 38.01 60 India 33.99 60 Kazakhstan 21.31
61 Botswana 28.44 61 Bangladesh 44.43 61 Indonesia 37.58 61 Kenya 33.35 61 Jordan 19.97
62 Nigeria 28.09 62 India 44.06 62 Mozambique 36.28 62 Viet Nam 28.33 62 Nigeria 19.71
63 Bangladesh 28.00 63 Jordan 43.71 63 Malawi 34.61 63 Rwanda 25.04 63 Qatar 19.16
64 Saudi Arabia 27.72 64 Ghana 39.71 64 Malaysia 34.55 64 Nigeria 20.97 64 Saudi Arabia 17.53
65 Jordan 27.43 65 Nigeria 37.28 65 Bangladesh 33.76 65 Bangladesh 20.77 65 Bangladesh 16.85
66 Namibia 25.97 66 Kenya 37.00 66 Mali 32.85 66 Nepal 19.67 66 Viet Nam 16.73
67 Viet Nam 24.89 67 United Republic Of Tanzania 32.34 67 United Republic Of Tanzania 30.17 67 Malawi 19.22 67 Zambia 16.43
68 Uganda 24.62 68 Morocco 31.90 68 Pakistan 27.46 68 Ghana 19.09 68 United Republic Of Tanzania 15.35
69 Nepal 23.95 69 Zimbabwe 31.50 69 Haiti 24.84 69 Uganda 18.13 69 Nepal 14.79
70 Rwanda 23.34 70 Zambia 28.19 70 Thailand 24.68 70 Namibia 16.87 70 Zimbabwe 13.05
71 Zambia 22.75 71 Haiti 27.26 71 Zimbabwe 24.22 71 Botswana 15.98 71 Botswana 12.81
72 Senegal 21.67 72 Senegal 27.19 72 Rwanda 23.64 72 Pakistan 14.17 72 Pakistan 11.90
73 United Republic Of Tanzania 21.33 73 Nepal 26.80 73 Kazakhstan 21.30 73 Burkina Faso 14.11 73 Senegal 11.76
74 Malawi 18.87 74 Rwanda 26.72 74 Myanmar 13.84 74 United Republic Of Tanzania 13.59 74 Ghana 10.51
75 Zimbabwe 18.43 75 Malawi 25.93 75 Cameroon 13.10 75 Zimbabwe 12.06 75 Mozambique 8.23
76 Pakistan 17.76 76 Pakistan 24.57 76 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic Of) 12.65 76 Senegal 12.03 76 Cameroon 7.83
77 Benin 15.75 77 Benin 22.99 77 United Arab Emirates 12.25 77 Zambia 10.45 77 Mali 5.66
78 Mozambique 15.46 78 Uganda 22.31 78 Egypt 12.08 78 Cameroon 8.21 78 Yemen 5.42
79 Burkina Faso 13.72 79 Cameroon 19.52 79 Jordan 11.02 79 Haiti 7.46 79 Burkina Faso 4.37
80 Sierra Leone 13.44 80 Mozambique 19.32 80 China 10.94 80 Yemen 7.25 80 Myanmar 4.02
81 Haiti 12.52 81 Sierra Leone 14.35 81 Qatar 9.12 81 Ethiopia 6.93 81 Namibia 3.87
82 Mali 11.14 82 Mali 12.17 82 Yemen 9.06 82 Mozambique 6.44 82 Sierra Leone 3.47
83 Cameroon 9.71 83 Yemen 10.07 83 Viet Nam 5.79 83 Sierra Leone 5.67 83 Malawi 2.38
84 Yemen 5.17 84 Myanmar 6.13 84 Ethiopia 4.08 84 Mali 3.73 84 Ethiopia 1.54
85 Myanmar 3.03 85 Burkina Faso 2.64 85 Bahrain 1.87 85 Myanmar 0.42 85 Benin 0.31
86 Ethiopia 0.00 86 Ethiopia 0.00 86 Saudi Arabia 0.00 86 Benin 0.00 86 Haiti 0.00

26 27
REPORT 2014-15

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