We are at a critical point in the evolution of the Internet. Despite its emergence as an integral part of modern life, the Internet remains a contested space. Far too often, we see its core ethos—a medium where anyone can make anything and share it with anyone—undermined by forces that wish to make it less free and open. In a world in which the future health of the Internet is vital to democratic discourse and a free flow of ideas, we need a band of dedicated individuals standing ready to protect it.
That’s why we are joining together today to launch the Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellows program, a landmark initiative to create a worldwide community of leaders who will advance and protect the free and open Web.
Working in the Open on Core Issues with the World’s Most Innovative Organizations
Ford-Mozilla Fellows will be immersed in projects that create a better understanding of Internet policy issues among civil society, policy makers, and the broader public. Fellows will be technologists, hackers, and makers who work on a range of Internet policy issues, from privacy and security to surveillance and net neutrality. They will create an affirmative agenda and improve coordination across the sector, boosting the overall number of people throughout society (in nonprofit, government, philanthropy, academic and corporate sectors) that protects the Internet. At present, a whole new architecture is emerging at NGOs and in government where a technology lens is vital to achieving results, just as a focus on law and communications were important in building previous capacity. Fellows will be encouraged to work in the open so that they can share their experiences and learnings with others. Around the world, civil society organizations are working under difficult situations to advance social justice and create a thriving digital society where all voices have an opportunity to be heard.
Fellows will serve as technology advisors, mentors and ambassadors to host organizations, helping to better inform the policy discussion. We are thrilled to name the first cohort organizations that will host a Fellow in the first year of the program. They include:
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Amnesty International
- Free Press
- Open Technology Institute
- Public Knowledge
A Call for Fellowship Applicants
Today also marks the official opening of the application window. Beginning immediately, people can apply to be a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow by visiting www.mozilla.org/advocacy. The application deadline is December 31, 2014.
We are looking for emerging leaders who have a passion for influencing and informing the public policies that impact the Internet. Selected Fellows will have a track record of making and contributing to projects and an interest in working with Mozilla, the Ford Foundation, and our host organizations on specific initiatives to advance and protect the free and open Web.
Protecting the Internet
The Internet has the potential to be the greatest global resource in the history of the world, accessible to and shaped by all people. It has the promise to be the first medium in which anyone can make anything, and share it with anyone. In many ways, it already has helped bend the arc of history towards enlightenment and justice.
But continuing in that direction isn’t guaranteed without help. For all the good that can come from the Internet, in some areas it is already being used to weaken society and concentrate power in the hands of the few, and to shut down democratic discourse. The fight over preserving net neutrality in the U.S.; the debate over governments undermining the Internet to further surveillance efforts; the curtailing of speech and access to the Internet by authoritarian regimes—these are all threats to the Internet and to civil rights.
We need to take up the challenge to prevent this from happening. We must support the heroes—the developers, advocates and people who are fighting to protect and advance the free and open Internet. We must train the next generation of leaders in the promise and pitfalls of technology. We need to build alliances and infrastructure to bridge technology policy and social policy.
The Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellows program is an effort to find and support the emerging leaders in the fight to protect the free and open Internet. Apply to become a Ford-Mozilla Fellow and tell us how you would stand up to protect and advance the Web to continue the effort to bend the arc toward justice.
Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation. Mark Surman is executive director of the Mozilla Foundation.