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Internet Health: A Checkup for Civil Society

Listen to Lucy Bernholz, Solana Larsen, Dhanaraj Thakur, and Jessica Feldman discuss how we can define, measure, and foster a healthy internet for civil society.

Shaped by technology, policy, commerce, culture and a host of other influences, the internet is a dynamic and diverse digital ecosystem whose increasing indispensability presents both opportunities and challenges for civil society.

Digital Impact hosted a panel of speakers to discuss the state of the internet and how we can define, measure, and foster a “healthy” digital ecosystem for the social sector and civil society at large.

Moderated by Digital Civil Society Lab Director Lucy Bernholz, the panel included Solana Larsen, Editor of Mozilla’s Internet Health ReportDhanaraj Thakur, Senior Research Manager at the Alliance for Affordable Internet and the World Wide Web Foundation; and Jessica Feldman, media theorist, artist, and Postdoctoral Fellow at the DCSL.

The panel discussed methodologies and case studies for gauging internet health across varied indicators and contexts, the role of ICT policy and other key influences in shaping digital ecosystems, and the relationship between a “healthy” internet and a safe, thriving civil society informed by democratic principles.

Watch the full discussion using the media player above, or listen to the podcast by using the audio player below or by visiting the Digital Impact podcast on iTunes.


A few highlights:

  • Internet health and its measurement  are in constant flux: Solana discussed the Internet Health Report’s key indicators of open innovation, digital inclusion, decentralization, privacy and security, and web literacy; and she described Mozilla’s open-source approach to fostering new, community-driven iterations to reflect the web’s diverse, dynamic conditions.
  • The future is mobile: Dhanaraj described how the internet experience of many of the world’s users, including the next four billion to come online across the developing world, will continue to be shaped by issues of mobile access and affordability, including ICT policy and differences in data plans.
  • Digital security as default: Jessica discussed the need to make end-to-end encryption standard for internet communications, providing security to all individuals and organizations, including non-techies, and limiting the exposure of civil society actors who are most in need of privacy and security but currently stand out through the use of “extra” measures.
  • Internet health should be shaped and fostered in open spaces: While the boundaries of the internet are currently largely shaped behind closed doors by private companies and disparate governments, the panel discussed the need for greater transparency and democratic influence to foster the internet’s sustainability as a public resource.

Looking for more information on this topic? The following resources are recommended by our featured speakers:

Have thoughts or case studies to share regarding internet health for civil society? Chime in below with a comment.

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