The many faces of the Web... reflected by founding father Tim Berners-Lee during the media interactiion at the WWW Conference in Hyderabad on March 31 2011. (IndiaTechOnline Photos by Anand Parthasararthy).
The Web is 'free' -- well, most times: Berners-Lee

The World-wide Web, may be free and available for all -- but don't forget, it relies on a layer called Internet -- and governments more often than not, get to fix it ( and 'switch it off'). This small smack of realism, comes from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely acknowledged to be the "father" of the World Wide Web.

While working at the European Particle Physics Laboratory(CERN), in Geneva, Switzerland,in 1989, he proposed a global hypertext project and created a browser-editor combo which led to the familiar WWW form of Internet identity-- and made the Internet a vehicle of global communication for all.

In his keynote on Thursday, at the WWW Conference in Hyderabad, Berners-Lee pointed at the wide spectrum of governmental perceptions of the Net... from Finland which has legislated to make Internet access a fundamental human right, to regimes in Egypt and Libya which in recent week turned off Internet access across their nations, albeit briefly.

He suggested that the growing trend of putting more and more government data on the Net, went beyond improving transparency; it made sound economic sense. Freedom of Information should go beyond receiving a CD full of data -- to putting it on the Web.

On the vexing issue of privacy, Berners-Lee felt anonymity was a laudable aim -- as long as it went hand in hand with accountability. "We have to prevent anonymous bullying", he said.

On the laudable efforts to harness 3G and 4G broadband networks to empower the rural millions in India -- something that resonated through former President Abdul Kalam's speeech at the same forum, a day earlier-- Berners-Lee had a cautionary thought: remember to provide a 'safety net' for those (like the aged or infirm) who might fall through the cracks of any public service or system that was wholly Net-driven.

He also suggested that all IT companies in India should embrace the semantic Web to overcome the limitations of current information systems.

The 5-day event which was hosted in India for the first time, concludes on Friday. March 231 2011