Researchers in Manhattan, examining how AI intersects with New Yorkers’ human rights. Librarians in Brooklyn, training residents to securely browse the web. Civil servants at the Mayor’s Office, ensuring New Yorkers living with disabilities can access the full breadth of the internet.
But first, a bit of history: In 2017, Mozilla published our prototype Internet Health Report -- a mix of original reporting and data analysis that examined the state of the internet, from online privacy to openness to digital inclusion. The internet is becoming a fundamental necessity for humans -- and Mozilla felt that documenting its health was a worthy task.
In 2018, we released our first-ever full-length Internet Health Report. Today, work on our 2019 edition is nearing completion.
Of course, no single document can fully capture the state of the internet. The internet’s underlying technologies, its regulation and mores, and the number of users change every day. Further, the internet isn’t a monolithic platform -- how it’s used, and what’s available, differs from country to country, from city to city.
This thinking was the catalyst behind the New York City Internet Health Report -- to prototype Mozilla’s global initiative on a local level, and capture an in-depth, nuanced look that our flagship report cannot.
Why New York City? The city government is doing bold, ambitious things related to internet health, like defending net neutrality, providing online security training, and enacting an Open Data Law for its 8.5 million residents.
Civil society and independent technologists across the five boroughs are doing exciting things, too, from building community wireless networks, to equipping new immigrants with vital online safety skills.
But it’s not all good news. Most New York City households have just one or two options for broadband providers. This lack of competition drives up the cost of access -- and leaves some people unconnected. Schools, libraries and public computer centers need digital literacy resources to help millions of residents get online safely. Flood-prone areas need resilient networks, and with increasing connectivity comes the need for open data and digital rights.
To unpack these issues and make this local prototype a success, Mozilla knew we couldn’t go it alone. Over 12 months, Mozilla Fellow Meghan McDermott -- who led the creation of this report -- embedded on the front lines of New York City’s internet health movement. With the NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer as an invaluable partner, Meghan convened local activists and technologists for online security trainings; documented the work of librarians and civil servants championing privacy; and unpacked the vital connectivity work being done by neighborhood activists.
We’re grateful to NYC for piloting this first-ever localized Internet Health Report with us, and hope it’s the first of many. Thanks for reading.