Image credit: TheOpenAgenda via Telefonica

#TheOpenAgenda was launched last September at Campus Party Europe in London, with the goal of accelerating the adoption of open standards and ethos across three key areas – web, data and innovation. The first phase of the campaign brings together leading thinkers to focus on the future of the World Wide Web. Online and offline contributors to the campaign at the Campus Party, included Tim Berners-Lee, Web inventor, W3C Director, and Founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO, Mitchell Baker, Executive Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, Jon ‘Mad Dog’ Hall, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, Katherine Parsons, Co-Founder of Decoded and Maximiliano Firtman, international author and industry pundit.

One hot topic of debate was whether mobile platforms threaten open Internet standards. It’s no secret that today, most people are connecting to the Internet through smartphones and other connected devices. Panelists identified the rise of ‘owned’ ecosystems, which force mobile access to web services through app stores, as one of the biggest threats to the openness of the web. Representatives from Telefonica compared the current dominance of the iOS and Android app stores to the early days when America Online and CompuServe sought to control the content consumers could access. This model did not work for long.

Panelists and contributors agreed that when defined and used correctly, standards can be a platform that drives innovation, consolidation and creates cost efficiency by lowering barriers to entry and lowering development costs through interoperability. The panel also examined new data produced by Telefonica that suggests that while the web is an integral part of every aspect of young people’s daily lives, Generation Z may not be interested in helping to continue developing the web. During #TheOpenAgenda’s Campus Party, Telefonica conducted a focus groups with 16 year-olds across the world to understand their attitudes toward ownership and regulation of the web. Study participants voiced an interest in shaping the web as consumers by using and rating websites, products and services, rather than through development.

It was suggested that this attitude among teens may be causal. While teachers may be teaching young students with the aid of tablets, they may not be teaching students the nuts and bolts of programming and helping them explore their creative potential as developers. As life continues to become more digital, the panel highlighted the need for basic digital literacy is a necessary and critical skill.

Kathryn Parsons, co-founder of Decoded, worries about student apathy towards web development. “I strongly believe that everyone should feel an innate sense of responsibility for the web, as ultimately all of our lives have been dramatically affected, in ways we could never have imagined. Coding is not longer a ‘nice to have’; it is a need to have.’”

Open innovation and open technology standards development are most certainly critical to the future. As individuals and organizations advocate for OpenStand Principles, we also have a responsibility to empower next-generation innovators with an understanding of the importance of internet and standards development.