The Internet can still be a positive force, World Wide Web Foundation says

Former Senior Vice President of AOL and political activist Mark Walsh makes a convincing argument that the Internet is broken. He believes that as soon as people started making money on the Internet, things changed for the worse.

"We really thought that the Internet, or the 'interactive services business' as we called it back then, was going to change the world," Walsh said in a recent TED talk. "And we thought it was important that that sense of community, that sense of transparency, that sense of empowerment was really a set of core principles that all of us believed in...it really was a perfect time. But then the money showed up, and things changed...The internet is broken because of that money."

Fortunately, not all of the powers from the dawn of the Internet think it's a lost cause.

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely regarded as the man who "invented the Internet," founded an international nonprofit group called the World Wide Web Foundation that officially launched global operations today. The Foundation's first projects focus on the very ideals Walsh believes were neglected when big money came into the Internet. Harnessing the Internet's power to create community, improve communication and empower individuals, the World Wide Web Foundation believes it can still be used as a force for positive change.

This week, the World Wide Web Foundation begins operations on two programs: The Web Alliance for Re-greening Africa (W4RA), and Empowering Youth in Inner Cities.

W4RA is a three-year project which will do work in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. The objective there is connect farmers with one another, so that they may quickly and continuously share innovative cultivation techniques to rehabilitate degraded land. Local farmers figured out how to turn barren, drought-ravaged land into fertile fields using available resources and simple techniques. But for farmers to share their techniques with others, they previously had to be bussed long distances and engage in face-to-face discussions. The Foundation looks to employ a "digital bus" to let these farmers teach their methods to one another and hopefully speed up the "re-greening" of northwest Africa.

The second project will go to economically-challenged inner cities in different continents and teach the youth how to develop mobile and Web applications on both mobile and desktop platforms. While there may not be opportunities in the community in which they reside, this sort of program could give kids the ability to turn to the Web for education and employment.

"We don't think the problems of the world can be solved by simply throwing tech at them," World Wide Web Foundation CEO Steven Bratt told Betanews. "We are looking to bring forth a better Web, which will help people develop business, medicine, agriculture, and health care."

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