How can the Internet’s role as a force for good be magnified throughout the world? The newly-launched Internet Society Foundation has a plan. We fund initiatives that use the Internet to make a difference in communities and transform lives for the better in areas including education, health care and economic growth – and we support projects that ensure the Internet remains a catalyst for the open, inclusive, and dynamic world in which we live.
Our work advances the vision of the Internet Society: The Internet Is for Everyone.
Over the years, the Internet Society has supported inspirational work by people who believe in the power of the Internet. It has now passed its Beyond the Net Chapter Grant Programme to the Foundation, which funds initiatives that promote the development of the Internet as a global technical infrastructure and that demonstrate the positive difference the Internet can make in enriching people’s lives around the world.
Take, for instance, the Spring of Knowledge.
Erjigit Imamov saw a problem. Schools in his native Kyrgyzstan had limited resources, including a shortage of textbooks and teachers. It was not that long ago, the country ranked last internationally in math, science, and reading. Thankfully Imamov, working with the Internet Society’s Kyrgyzstan Chapter, had a solution: an Internet-powered library and university small enough to fit into a knapsack. With funding from the Internet Society Foundation’s Beyond the Net program, Bilim Bulagy – Kyrgyz for “Spring of Knowledge” – was launched in local communities.
The Beyond the Net program, a cornerstone of our work, helps Internet Society Chapters and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) implement regional projects with local, meaningful, and measurable impact. Through the Small Grant and Medium and Large Grant Programmes, we support innovative initiatives that improve the quality of people’s lives and contribute to their empowerment. The projects are awarded funding through a transparent and independent review process – and they’re making a difference.
Since Beyond the Net’s start, hundreds of small, medium, and large-scale projects have been supported, covering everything from teaching technical skills to young people to helping local engineers deploy innovative community networks. These are projects like Kenya’s TunapandaNET, which has established Internet access at two schools and a youth center, reaching a total of 1,800 young people; Sri Lanka’s “Girls in Technology,” which has trained 690 school children, 294 university students, and 22 teachers; and Developing Community Networks in Northern Brazil, which provides low-cost Internet access to marginalized populations.
Joining the Internet Society Foundation as Executive Director is Sarah Armstrong, who has a background in non-profit, humanitarian, and international development work. As founder of her own nonprofit dedicated to improving lives through financial support of small, community-based organizations, she understands how local action can reverberate beyond borders to make a difference on a global scale.
“My goal at the Foundation is to positively impact humanity through an open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy Internet. To do this, we’ll work with individuals and organizations helping to expand the Internet’s global reach as a platform that helps people connect, communicate, and innovate.”
The Internet can create opportunities, but for the nearly half of the world’s population who lack access, those opportunities can be out of reach. Over the next year, the Foundation will expand our work to support:
- Initiatives that strengthen communities’ ability to access and benefit from the Internet (including digital literacy skills, reaching unconnected populations, awareness-raising, and local content-production);
- Initiatives that respond to natural disasters;
- Opportunities for research across technical, economic, and public policy topics;
- Initiatives that demonstrate innovative techniques to advance an Internet for all.
When people get access to the Internet, amazing things can happen.
It can feel like we’re bombarded with negative headlines about technology, but the Internet has changed our lives for the better – and it has the power to transform millions more in the future.
Today the Spring of Knowledge echoes beyond its pilot communities. It’s been distributed to 70 schools in remote areas, with one hundred more schools slated to receive the device. An NGO is helping it partner with local libraries, and the other organizations have expressed interest in expanding it to people living in rural areas. Its success shows an open and trusted Internet can make a difference to people everywhere.
The Internet Society Foundation exists to power that change.
Image ©Nyani Quarmyne