Of late I’ve been updating an article on Access to Knowledge and the impact of policy and governance on access to scholarly information online. As I mentioned on my post about Web 3.0 a few months ago, I think it is important to develop a focus on enabling access. We can have all the semantic web standards and applications we want, but if access is hindered, the benefit of these tools and services cannot be fully realised. Access may be difficult for many reasons – cultural, technical (bandwidth, availability of web-enabled devices, filtering), legal, physical (special needs, requiring assistive technologies) or due to cost. It is important for those developing the semantic web, and any type of web resource, to keep these restrictions in mind, though there is no easy way to cater for them all. Libraries are interested in these issues because we have the infrastructure on the ground in a lot of places and IFLA has done a lot of work on access projects and developing guidelines and training about the use of the Internet.

Today, ReadWrite Web posted about the new World Wide Web Foundation. The Foundation is headed and founded by Tim Berners-Lee and states that its goals are to:

The World Wide Web Foundation seeks to advance One Web that is free and open, to expand the Web’s capability and robustness, and to extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet. The Web Foundation brings together business leaders, technology innovators, academia, government, NGOs, and experts in many fields to tackle challenges that, like the Web, are global in scale.

ReadWrite Web noted commentary about the new Foundation, both positive and negative, that is worth reading. Certainly, from my view, I’m interested to know what this new foundation will have to offer that many organisations and researchers (such as those who are members of the Association of Internet Researchers, ACM, etc) are not already doing. Certainly, achievements have been hard won and often slow in coming, but they are starting. For example, the WIPO development agenda that was pushed for by the EFF and others gathered rapid pace this year.

On the other hand, if this foundation can provide more research on issues of culture online – from how people choose to access the Internet, to multilingual capabilities of websites to issues of design and authority, that would be a good addition to the field.

If you are interested in this topic, I have a large number of resources tagged A2K at delicious which cover technical, social and governance issues. The A2K3 conference also just wrapped up in Geneva a few days ago, reports and more information are available on the conference blog.

Originally published on the semanticlibrary.net blog