New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a challenge to the attendees of the NetGain event at the Ford Foundation. He spoke about how Internet access is necessary to close the achievement and income gap around the U.S., and lauded Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Tom Wheeler’s recent statement on net neutrality as a “clarion call” and an opportunity to open doors.
“I want to urge everyone to push local and state governments to do what they can do. The foundations and philanthropies in this room have a crucial role to play,” said de Blasio. “We are playing from behind, and we know you can fill in these gaps, spark change more quickly and move more agilely than any government. We are trying to innovate and create changes that will affect a lot of people quickly, but all of you can speed that process up. Support and fund the innovations that are working.”
NetGain, a five-foundation collaboration, was recently unveiled at the Ford Foundation headquarters in New York City. The project aims to increase Internet access and keep a neutral net. Partners are the Ford Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. The partners have not yet put forth specific programs or stated an amount of money that will be available toward the issues of open access and Internet neutrality.
The movement has a set of six goals. They are:
Work to make the Internet an open, secure and equitable space;
- Support the opportunities created by the networked public sphere;
- Transform learning and ensure that young people have the skills they need to succeeed in a connected, complex world;
- Cultivate leaders to understand and fulfill the promise of the Internet, and support cross-sector alliances;
- Contribute to the design of Internet and information technology policies, practices and product that enhance data security and privacy protection; and,
- Ensure that philanthropy leads in digital security and data ethics in its own practices.
Darren Walker, Ford Foundation’s president, said NetGain’s first step is to diagnose the problem. “We in philanthropy are behind, too. We remain in an analog world in part because we’re not comfortable with technology and the Internet,” he said. “But our missions are about catalyzing and disrupting. The common mission is advancing the idea of participation and voice, equality and justice, and the platform where that will be played out is the Internet.”