W3C Outlines Roadmap for Realizing Web for Social Development

Author(s) and publish date


Analysis identifies current challenges to development-oriented services on mobile devices, surveys solution landscape


http://www.w3.org/ -- 8 December 2009 -- W3C today outlines a roadmap for extending the Web to rural and underprivileged communities in developing countries. The Mobile Web for Social Development (MW4D) Roadmap examines the challenges to deploying and accessing development-oriented services and surveys the technology landscape for meeting those challenges.

"The publication of this roadmap is an important milestone for W3C and all organizations in the field," said Stéphane Boyera, co-chair of the Mobile Web for Social Development, W3C staff, and program manager at World Wide Web Foundation. "Although a few success stories have appeared over the last few years, the potential of the Web and mobile technologies remains largely untapped. Our expectation is that through this survey, and by bringing stakeholders together around it, we can finally lower the most significant barriers to access for these communities."

The roadmap was published by the Mobile Web for Social Development Interest Group, part of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative (MWI).

Roadmap Identifies Technology and Content Gaps

The Mobile Web For Social Development Roadmap identifies two major challenges:

  1. barriers to Web access faced by underprivileged communities in developing countries
  2. barriers to authoring and deploying Web content, and accessing information, applications, and services on mobile phones.

The roadmap first identifies the profile, needs, and requirements of people living in underprivileged communities, and the current technology gaps that prevent them to access and use Web content and services on mobile. Barriers include illiteracy, accessibility, languages, and Web inexperience. The roadmap authors recommend the development of new standards and guidelines for creating illiterate-accessible Web content and for supporting more languages on the Web. They also suggest investigating how technologies such as Widgets can make it easier to find and use new mobile Web content and services.

Barriers for authoring Web content matter as well. One important reason people in developing countries are not using the Web as much as they might is the lack of relevant local content and services. There is great potential for those people and organizations already working in the field (NGOs, civil society organizations, and development agencies) to provide new content and services. The roadmap indicates that to help promote the creation of relevant content, it is important to build capacity, raise awareness, and develop the right tools.

Success Requires a Concerted Effort from All Stakeholders

This roadmap provides a vision for achieving the full potential of the Web and mobile devices as tools for social and economic development. The Mobile Web for Social Development Interest Group recognizes that, to be successful, a variety of stakeholders must work together, including mobile operators and handset manufacturers, researchers, and individuals and organizations working in the field.

The roadmap authors recommend actions for these various stakeholders, including:

  • for network operators, quickly developing and expanding mobile data services;
  • for handset manufacturers, supporting GPRS, J2ME, or text-to-speech on handsets;
  • for policy-makers, developing policy frameworks that enforce availability of minimal data service at low-cost everywhere, or that make it easier for authors and entrepreneurs to provide content and services.

The W3C intends to continue to provide a forum for these parties to meet and fulfill the vision set forth in the document.

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. Over 350 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan, and has additional Offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org

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