Greetings from rainy and cold Brussels where I am attending an international conference on “Internet and Societies, new innovation paths” at the European Commission.
It is organised by the PARADISO initiative which aims at exploring how societies might evolve or co-evolve in the future and makes recommendations on how ICT and the Future Internet contributes to a better future.
This is a little different crowd than I usually see at these kinds of international conferences and the discussions are definitely lively. Here are a few of the highlights:
Today, in the afternoon session, there was Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO of The Internet Society who made a plea for all companies and governments to move over the IPv6 so that more IP addresses can be created. She asked us all to check with our IT departments as this is a key issue that is limiting equal access to the internet globally. She also asked (and many of the researchers in the room agreed) that we seek a better term for the word “users” for those who interact with the Internet. I agree. That word doesn’t really encompass how people interact anymore. I’m trying to think of one word with one syllable….anyone? She also doesn’t see the security issue as all encompassing as some (even in the room) do. She thinks there is an element of risk in innovation and if we lock down the internet or its information because it might not be safe, we may miss out on the possibility that others can build on that.
Speaking of openness, Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Member of Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Committee, India gave an impassioned speech on the power of the Internet in India. He said, “We are in an era of opening up”. I like that. He went on to say that the Internet provides cohesion, education, doctors and diversity. However, he warned that people can get lost on the internet and lose sight of reality. Among the problems with bringing the majority of the Indian population online is due to languages. He did say that using voice over the internet in local languages is proving to be successful. He reflected on whether governance can ever be fair and decentralised and whether Asia will define the Internet differently than the West. He is thinking on issues of “private lives” and with constant connectivity, it seems to be disappearing. Then he made a funny reference to Americans who send emails and expect a reply in 10 minutes even when its 2am in Delhi. He also agreed that the term “users” doesn’t suit and we must find ways to increase engagement on the Internet.
Another lively speech was given by Ruben Nelson, Executive Director, Foresight Canada. He says that internet and societies are co-evolving like a marriage. One cannot exist without the other both are responsible for what happens in the future. In his talk he gave us a "good talking to" by saying that the modern/industrial imagination is:
• Too fragmented
• Too short term
• Too shallow (in terms of thinking through difficult concepts)
• Too arrogant
In this context, he questions the concept of sustainability. Instead, he suggests that we should change and fix this nonsense rather than holding on to it in hopes that maybe we will get away with it. Applause.
So today, a lot of big thinking on the future of the internet and the relationship with societies. Tomorrow at this conference, I will talk about the Wikiprogress and Wikigender road and where they fit into all this as platforms for citizen engagement.
I think we can look forward to the recommendations that this crowd will put out soon. Stay tuned to Wikiprogress for updates.
PS: Trevor, are we on IPv6?