Categories
Community Projects

Reaffirming the Internet as a Force for Good: The Next 25 Years

To mark its 25th Anniversary, the Internet Society is beginning a global dialogue on the impact of the Internet on societies.  So far, we have held discussions at Chatham House in London, and opened up the dialogue in a recent public forum with more than 100 participants from 30 countries across Africa, the Middle East, Europe & Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and South Asia.


The Internet provides unprecedented opportunities for advancing social and cultural understanding. The online environment empowers individuals to connect, speak, innovate, share, be heard, and organize. At the same time, there is an increasing awareness that the Internet’s promise as a force for good could be fundamentally undermined, if current technical and social trends – things like fake news, online harassment, radicalization and other socially objectionable behaviors – continue.

The world order is in transition. We currently live in an environment of uncertainty – some of this uncertainty is Internet specific and, other affects society at large. At this point, it is difficult for us to understand how far the Internet reflects wider societal anxieties, and how far it causes those phenomena. But for some, all these issues are part of a bigger trend steadily leading towards a societal collapse, where the Internet plays a fundamental role.

People, companies, governments and institutions all feel the depth of the change brought by the Internet. The intensity and scope of this change has triggered different types of utopian and dystopian perceptions. For instance, does the use of the Internet increase the risk of isolation, alienation and withdrawal from society or does it increase sociability, civil and political engagement in all cultures?

These are some of the very hard questions we are faced with that will require some even harder answers. And, they will only increase in the future. As the boundaries between the offline and the online world get increasingly blurred, it will become important, if not unavoidable, to take some action. Governments are currently responding to this transformation by calling for increased Internet regulation. At the same time, companies are beginning to realize their share of responsibility and they are in the process of adjusting their secret algorithms to deal with many societal challenges, be they fake news or extremism. Caught between these two actors (governments and companies), individuals can feel disregarded and disempowered. All this indicates that a serious conversation amongst all affected parties is in order.

The Internet Society has taken up the challenge. In May, it collaborated with the international affairs think-tank, Chatham House, to start a true and unbiased conversation about the impact of the Internet on societies. The aim was to depart from the sensationalism often experienced in the media and provide an objective perspective from a wide range of actors. The conversation focused on how the Internet affects social norms and societies at large. A diverse set of participants, from the fields of technology, business, and government, identified that the issues facing the role of the Internet in societies circle around trust, access and digital literacy, the role of the Internet as an engine for economic growth, the evolving security challenge, and regulation. What sort of values we, as a global community, want the Internet to embody, while respecting cultural, political and geographic diversity, was one of the main questions raised by all participants.

In approaching this question, it became clear that, as a first step, it is users and the role they can play where focus should be placed. We seem to have forgotten users along the way. It is those individuals, those people, who need to be placed front and center as the Internet continues to evolve. Individual users must feel empowered to voice their concerns and take action.

Users need to be part of the conversation. To this end, the Internet Society committed to continuing the dialogue that started in May and in June hosted a Community Forum with its wide membership of Internet users. During the ninety minute long discussion, ISOC’s membership was clear that we are at a cross-roads, where the Internet could either lose its original identity and value, or be strengthened as a medium that can change people’s lives and lead to economic growth.

We all must take note of this and ensure that this conversation – no matter how difficult it is – does not end. And, we must also ensure that our discussions introduce a way forward and involve people outside of the Internet community. This is what we sought to do with our two events and we are committed to continue doing so.

The preliminary steps forward from this conversation can be found in A Brave New World: How the Internet Affects Societies.


In 2016, the Internet Society launched a project to take stock of the key forces of change that could impact the future of the Internet. We engaged with a broad community of Members, Chapters, experts and partners. Read the full report in September.

Join the discussion. Mark your calendar for a special edition of InterCommunity 2017, our global membership meeting. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, we will take time to look back, to celebrate with our community and to look ahead to the future.

Categories
Growing the Internet

Internet Society crea un informe sobre los pequeños Estados insulares en desarrollo

Hoy hemos publicado un informe sobre los Pequeños Estados Insulares en Desarrollo (SIDS) porque sabemos que este informe puede aumentar las discusiones en el Foro de la CMSI en Ginebra y más allá!

El Foro de la CMSI ofrece una excelente oportunidad para destacar cuestiones clave de desarrollo y acceso a medida que colegas y amigos se reúnen para discutir cómo la conectividad ayuda a superar las divisiones digitales, estimula la innovación, permite que el comercio, la salud, las familias permanezcan en estrecho contacto y la preservación del patrimonio y la cultura locales. A medida que las discusiones en Ginebra se dirigen a “cómo lograr” los objetivos de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo Sostenible, sabemos que el “negocio como siempre” tiene que cambiar. Vea nuestra Declaración del Vicepresidente de Compromiso Global de la Sociedad de Internet, Raúl Echeberria, sobre el papel que todos desempeñamos para llenar las lagunas de conectividad y permitir que las comunidades se conecten, aprovechando la tecnología para el desarrollo.

¿Por qué centrarse en los pequeños Estados insulares en desarrollo?

Los pequeños Estados insulares en desarrollo son un grupo distinto de países en desarrollo que se caracterizan por vulnerabilidades como resultado de la geografía, sus pequeñas poblaciones, su limitada base de exportaciones, su mayor exposición a las perturbaciones económicas mundiales y los frecuentes desastres naturales. Muchos pequeños Estados insulares en desarrollo se enfrentan a dificultades con la conectividad a Internet debido a su lejanía y al elevado costo de cruzar los mares abiertos. Cuando se combinan estos factores con poblaciones pequeñas y economías de escala reducidas, mayores costos de conectividad y retos resultan en una absorción tardía.

La publicación de este informe coincide también con el 25º aniversario de la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Medio Ambiente y el Desarrollo de Río de Janeiro, en la que se reconoció a los pequeños Estados insulares en desarrollo como un grupo distinto de países con desafíos únicos para el desarrollo sostenible.

¿Qué exploramos en este informe?

Exploramos el impacto sanitario, financiero y educativo de la conectividad mejorada y los desafíos para mejorarla, incluyendo aspectos económicos, de acceso, sociales, culturales y ambientales. Y, echemos un vistazo a cómo los puntos de intercambio de Internet (IXPs), Wifi, y las tecnologías emergentes pueden proporcionar oportunidades para mejorar la conectividad y el desarrollo de la red local. Hacemos recomendaciones para mejorar los entornos normativos y normativos, examinando detenidamente seis (6) países a través de estudios de casos: Cabo Verde, Comoras, Haití, San Vicente y las Granadinas, Tonga y Vanuatu.

El cambio local sucede con los héroes locales

Este informe subraya la importancia del diálogo para el desarrollo sostenible local y la acción que los encargados de formular las políticas, los reguladores, las empresas, los asociados internacionales y los actores locales pueden adoptar para cerrar las brechas de conectividad. Creemos que las soluciones locales y las nuevas asociaciones para conectar a las comunidades son críticas. Las comunidades son la nueva “primera milla”. Busquemos maneras de conectarlas

Agradecemos sus comentarios sobre este informe y esperamos con interés cualquier estudio de casos o historias que quiera compartir con nosotros. A través de asociaciones y al capacitar a la población local, podemos conectar más personas, mejorar la vida de las personas y crear oportunidades socioeconómicas.

Nota: Estamos muy agradecidos a Mike Jensen y Michael Minges por su trabajo en este informe y la comunidad global de expertos que revisaron y proporcionaron información para este informe.

Lea el reporte

Categories
Technology

How Can We Expand the Use of the Multistakeholder Model?

For over a decade, the Internet Society, along with many in the Internet community, have been strong advocates of using multistakeholder approaches to make decisions in a globally distributed network environment. We are encouraged that, within the Internet ecosystem, the multistakeholder model has grown in understanding and acceptance over the past several years. But we also know that the open, global Internet faces enormous challenges and that it is crucial that we not take this progress for granted.

While the IANA transition was, indeed, a pivotal moment that demonstrated how this model could work in practice, the Internet Society believes that we cannot simply “declare success” and turn our attention elsewhere. This is a crucial moment for the Internet’s growth and development and we believe that we must continue to work hard to expand and enhance uses of the multistakeholder model to address these inherently cross border challenges.

As an organization committed to taking on the most challenging issues facing the Internet and doing so on a global level, the Internet Society, along with our network of chapters, is deeply committed to growing the multistakeholder model. We would like to see multistakeholder approaches adopted across the globe and used to address a broad range of Internet-related issues.

Thus, we have asked Larry Strickling and Grace Abuhamad, who many of us know well, to study the feasibility of building a resource to expand and enhance the use of the model and report back to us by September 2017. In the last few weeks, they have already started to meet with experts and stakeholders from around the world to get their views as to how best to expand the use of the model.

Specifically, we think any such resource could have three components or work streams:

  • Demonstrating the efficacy of the model: provide a neutral place and expertise where parties could come to work through Internet related issues in a multistakeholder fashion.
  • Capacity building: provide training to equip stakeholders with the skills to participate actively and effectively in multistakeholder processes.
  • Research: sponsor academic research and analysis on multistakeholder models and processes.

From the start, we have made it clear that any Internet governance activity of this sort must have a global focus and community support. We have also specified that this should not duplicate the important efforts of existing multistakeholder processes such as ICANN, IETF, and the IGF. We are also mindful that a number of multistakeholder initiatives and training programs already exist in the ecosystem and are doing important work. The goal of this effort would not be to duplicate, replace or centralize those efforts but rather to work collaboratively to advance our mutual goals.

We want to emphasize that we are at a very early stage and that the Internet Society has not made any decision to proceed. But we hope the feasibility study will provide a concrete set of ideas and recommendations for what might be an effective way forward for the community to discuss later this year.

In the meantime, if you have initial thoughts or reactions to how we might approach this issue, we encourage you to submit your ideas to multistakeholder@isoc.org. We will make sure that they are taken into account during the feasibility study. We also commit to our community that we will share the final report of the feasibility study before taking any action on it later this year.

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Technology

Connecting “Los Nevados” on the Roof of the Andes

Beyond the Net Journal: Venezuela Chapter

Have you ever been to Los Nevados?

Reaching this tiny village, located in the Sierra Nevada National Park at 2,711 m. above sea level, can be a real adrenaline adventure. The scary and dangerous cliff road leading to the town is one of the world’s most spectacular and dangerous. The rough terrain can get very muddy and slippery after rain, making it challenging to get through.

As you can guess, not less challenging was bringing Internet access to 2,000 inhabitants living in this remote area.

The idea to develop a wireless architecture to provide Los Nevados with Internet services and reduce their isolation came to Paola Perez, a computer systems engineer and Internet Society member. At that time she was based in Merida, the capital city, 69 km away.

Paola remembers: “Initially my dream was to bring connectivity to the Canaima National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage site, but I changed my mind when I recalled my friend Yeiny, who lives in Los Nevados. She attended university in Merida, but she couldn’t return to her village on weekends because she had no Internet connection to download the contents of the exams.”

Gabriela Muñoz (left), Paola Pérez (right)

Empowering “Los Nevados” through ICTs usage for social benefit” was funded in 2016 by the Internet Society in collaboration with the Venezuela Chapter. Although it seemed impossible to overcome the technical difficulties, the project team never lost sight of their dream to connect that remote place to the rest of the world. At the end, the talented and devoted team succeeded and also won the Chapterthon – a marathon open to all LAC Chapters to achieve a common goal for the development of their region.

The fruits of persistence are now providing endless benefits to Los Nevados, who are overcoming their physical and cultural isolation.

New educational opportunities are offered to the local students through access to relevant content and remote learning. Parents with children studying away at university are now using live chat and email services to get in touch.

Farmers, who represents the majority of the population, are exchanging seeds and marketing their products. Artisans are promoting their crafts online.

Not only los Nevaderos are now enjoying the Internet connection with unlimited services but also the visitors.” Paola explains: “It’s hard to imagine because it’s a place so difficult to reach, but about 500 people per month are visiting the village. Hikers use it as a base for climbing Pico Bolivar, the highest mountain in Venezuela (4,978 m). When there was no Internet connection all payments were only in cash, and people were not aware of it until they arrived at the site. Now tourists are able to book accommodations and make online payments.”

The Civil Registry of the village can finally provide inhabitants with any digital document downloadable from public websites. It is also possible to keep records of births and deaths in digital format, sharing the data with institutions. The “Village Radio Station” is using streaming technology to share in real time the news from the world. Los Nevados also take pride of publishing stories and photos about the community to preserve their traditions. The Internet has become an essential tool for information and citizen participation.

These are only few examples of how this project is empowering the life of Los Nevados and helping to achieve SDG goals 3,4,8,9.

Do you feel like renting a burro for three hours trek to Los Nevados, getting lost in the magnificent tropical zone of the Andes? Now you can book online.

Do you have a great idea?

Categories
Community Networks Growing the Internet

Let's Think Differently to Shape ‪Tomorrow

In 2015 the world made one of the biggest promises to itself in the form of 17 Global Goals set out by the United Nations. These goals – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – are aimed at achieving extraordinary things in the next 15 years. They are dedicated to fighting injustice and inequalities, ending climate change, beating discrimination, bringing in sustainable energy, and making sure no one goes hungry. 

We’re now into the second year of trying to keep that promise.  Let’s not shy away from reality. The task is a big one. Rough estimates say we’ll need at least $1 trillion of additional annual investment in developing and emerging economies to achieve them.

It’s numbers like these that have a lot of people wondering if achieving the goals is possible. We say it is.

Here’s what we need to remember: We will be able to get there faster, and in a way that lasts, if everyone, everywhere can access to the Internet and make the most of it.

For 25 years now the Internet Society has been home to a global community of people who are driven by common idea. That when people get access to the Internet amazing things can happen.

We can do things like share ideas, build communities, make tools we haven’t even dreamed of, help kids stay in school, and the list goes on.

But what makes that happen isn’t going to be a single business, government, or policymaker on their own.  And while it will mean these large players coming together – we need to move the thinking even further. 

We need to look at the everyday, sometimes overlooked individuals who are the champions of the Internet in the 21st century. 

These are people who recognize that to connect their friends, neighbors, and community, we need to shift our thinking. 

Let’s look at an example:

This week I’m speaking at Mobile World Congress in Shanghai, China. Sustainable Development and Innovation are among the seven themes of the event.

Fittingly, Asia has the largest group of Internet users in the world. There are more than 730 million in China alone, with 95% of those using mobile devices.  The mobile industry is often seen as distinct from, and perhaps even outside of, the traditional ecosystem that makes up the Internet. But every single person in the industry also has a critical role to play and together we can make things happen. 

Just recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) changed its policy to enable telecom operators and Internet service providers to share active network infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) took steps to advance fiber deployments between Pakistan and India – and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both of these actions have the potential to narrow connectivity gaps and bring the Internet to those who are not connected.

Another key example are community networks. Community networking offers a way for anyone, anywhere, to connect to the Internet as long as they have the right tools and support.

By empowering people to connect themselves and their underserved communities, they provide this opportunity. By giving access where traditional or commercial networks do not reach or serve, or areas where it may not be economically viable to operate, they offer a complementary alternative to traditional, commercial telecommunications networks. 

And this is something any of us can do. We’ve seen its success in the Wireless For Communities – a grassroots project that started in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation and has since been replicated first across Asia and is now moving across the world.

This is something all of us can do. Each of us can roll up our sleeves and build a connection for the world’s remotest regions, donate to help support those in the field, or any other number of ways. 

As we look towards the future we need to know that each of us has the ability to join in a global movement that can help us win when it comes to the SDGs.

Join us and celebrate what your contribution to bringing people online could be. Be part of this global movement of people around the world coming together to make change happen.


Image source: Wireless for Communities in India

Categories
Growing the Internet

Internet Society Launches Small Island Developing States Report

Today, we released a report on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) because we know that this report can augment discussions at the WSIS Forum in Geneva and beyond!

The WSIS Forum provides an excellent opportunity to highlight key development and access issues as colleagues and friends gather to discuss how connectivity helps to bridge digital divides, spurs innovation, enables trade, healthcare, families to stay in close contact with each other, and preservation of local heritage and culture.  As discussions in Geneva turn to “how to” achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal objectives, we know that “business as usual” has to change. See our Statement from the Internet Society’s VP of Global Engagement, Raul Echeberria, on the role we all play to fill in connectivity gaps and to enable communities to connect themselves, taking advantage of technology for development.

Why focus on Small Island Developing States?

Small Island Developing States are a distinct group of developing countries that are characterized by vulnerabilities as a result of geography, their small populations, limited export base, higher exposure to global economic disruptions, and frequent natural disasters. Many Small Island Developing States face challenges with Internet connectivity due to their remoteness and the high cost of crossing open seas. When you combine these factors with small populations and low economies of scale, higher connectivity costs and challenges result in delayed uptake.

The release of this report also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, where Small Island Developing States were recognized as a distinct group of countries with unique challenges for sustainable development.

What do we explore in this report?

We explore the health, financial, and educational impact of improved connectivity and the challenges for improving it, including economic, access, social, cultural, and environmental issues. And, we take a look at how internet exchange points (IXPs), Wifi, and emerging technologies can provide opportunities for improved connectivity and local network development. We make recommendations for improved policy and regulatory environments, looking closely at six (6) countries through case studies:  Cape Verde, Comoros, Haiti, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Local change happens with local heroes

This report stresses the importance of dialogue for local sustainable development and action that policymakers, regulators, business, international partners, and local actors can take to close connectivity gaps.  We believe that local solutions and new partnerships to connect communities are critical.  Communities are the new “first mile.” Let’s find ways to connect them.

We welcome your feedback on this report and look forward to any case studies or stories you would like to share with us.  Through partnerships and by empowering local people we can connect more people, improve people’s lives, and create socioeconomic opportunities.

Note:  We are extremely grateful to Mike Jensen and Michael Minges for their work on this report and the global community of experts who reviewed and provided input to this report.

Read the report.

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects

For Me the Internet Is Everything: Supporting Local Heroes in Armenia

Andranik, Sipan, Rudolf and Vahan have several things in common: they are young, they have dreams, they love music, and they love the Internet. The four of them are visual impaired.

They met through the Internet Availability Center at the Cultural House of the Armenian Society of Blinds (ASB).

I had the chance to visit the Center last year and Rudolf told me: “For me the Internet is everything. I cannot imagine what my life, my studies would be without it.”

The Internet Availability Center for visually impaired was created in 2013 following an initiative of the Internet Society Armenia Chapter supported by Internet Society Grants programme. Soon after its creation, the center became a meeting place for young people with visual impairments. They realized the importance of the reach of the Internet in their community  and came up with the idea to create an Internet radio for visually impaired individuals in the Armenian language.

Radio Menq (‘We’ in Armenian) went live on May 30th, 2017. The programs cover rights and privileges, practical problems faced in day-to-day life, and provides advice and solutions for those who are visually impaired. It also talks about opportunities and tells success stories from famous blind people.

The project was selected as one of the 90 ITU WSIS Prizes 2017 Champions. It was recognized as an innovative initiative to empower a local community through the Internet.

Sipan Asatryan, the editor of Radio Menq programs, told us: “It was a good surprise and an inspiration to me that our radio was nominated as one of Champions of the WSIS Prizes 2017. I think it shows that our audience liked our work targeted to increasing public trust toward visually impaired people, spreading proper information, and promoting tolerance toward visually impaired in Armenia.”

Igor Mkrtmyan, the Armenia Chapter President, shared:

“Blind people must believe in their own strength and abilities. After Radio MENQ went live, many participated in the radio either as a program presenter or a sound technician. Internet radio is becoming a path to new horizons and opportunities for blind people. Often there is a stereotype that the blind person can’t work on an equal footing. Internet work, whether in a freelance capacity or as part of a team, allows you to break down these stereotypes. The Internet enables people to be who they choose, to develop for themselves, and as a part of their community.”

Watch the video and meet the Radio MENQ team

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If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

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Categories
Growing the Internet

Sustainability in Armenia: ARMIX Adopts Solar Power

Given that within the coming years, another billion people are going come online along with billions more devices thanks to the Internet of things (IoT), we recognize that the community of Internet professionals and organizations cannot legitimately discuss access without addressing sustainability, especially as it relates to energy. Our support for ARMIX, an Internet exchange point (IXP) in Armenia, is testament to this, and reflective of our global development strategy. Around three years ago, ISOC donated 18 solar panels to ARMIX to help cut down on their energy bill and reduce their reliance on nonrenewable power sources. The panels provide around 4 kilowatts of power, and they constitute the first time that ISOC has donated such equipment to an IXP.

We recently spoke with Vahan Hovsepyan, the director of the ARMIX Foundation and a member of the ISOC Armenia Chapter, about what prompted ARMIX to reach out to ISOC with their request and how it has benefited them.

According to Vahan, the idea to reach out to ISOC came about when they decided to integrate renewable energy into their operations to promote green energy solutions as well as reduce their electricity costs and consumption. He added that ARMIX chose solar because they knew about a company installing solar panels in Armenia, and they did not have many other renewable alternatives to consider (such as wind). The Armenian government is also heavily promoting solar. For instance, a bill was being drafted at the time that included stipulations about returning additional capacity gained from renewables, solar in particular, back to the grid – and it become law in 2016. He also stressed that Armenia is in a unique geographic location since the country receives ample sunlight, and the panels largely do not have to be rotated since they are almost always exposed to the sun during the day.

Since the panels have been donated, their electricity costs have dropped by more than 30%. Moreover, Vahan emphasized that their reliance on nonrenewable energy has decreased as a result of the panels. “They have helped immensely, and we really thank ISOC for its support,” Vahan said, adding: “The solar panels are also drastically reducing the amount of electricity we obtain from nonrenewable sources.” And while they are only currently present at one of ARMIX’s three points of presence (PoPs), Vahan said ARMIX wants to expand the use of solar to the rest of their PoPs.

Vahan made one point clear: ARMIX wanted to set a good example of technology companies that help to change their physical environment. It also demonstrates the importance of an enabling policy environment and public-private partnerships to promote a cleaner, more sustainable environment. They are introducing the community to a new issue, in this case, sustainability, which Vahan considers a significant step forward.

When I spoke to Vahan, his colleague Hovhannes Alexanyan – the commercial director of ARPINET, a local Internet service provider (ISP) and member of ARMIX – joined. Hovhannes said the Municipality of Ejmiatsin, the spiritual capital of Armenia, installed LED lighting around the city, and is on track to get its investment back within a year. He stressed this program was implemented partly due to ARPINET’s success with solar power and energy savings, which served as its inspiration.

ARMIX’s success has not gone unnoticed, either. ARMIX is setting a good example for other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries in terms of promoting green energy and green infrastructure, along with the policies, strategy, regulation, and legislation to support it. Vahan said they are planning to host Kyrgyz colleagues that they met at an ISOC-sponsored IXP workshop, which was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in December 2016, to show them how they operate the IXP after they expressed interest.

Such collaboration and the success ARMIX has experienced represent a positive affirmation of why we do the work we do. And, of course, when his Kyrgyz colleagues arrive to visit, the solar panels will have a front-and-center position.

Categories
Artificial Intelligence Internet Governance Technology

The Future Internet I Want for Me, Myself and AI

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to bring immense opportunities, but it also poses challenges.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is dominating the R&D agenda of the leading Internet industry. The Silicon Valley and other startup hubs are buzzing about artificial intelligence and the issue has come at the top of policymakers’ agenda including the G20, the ITU, and the OECD, where leaders gathered this week in Paris.

AI isn’t new, but its recent acceleration can be explained by its convergence with big data and IoT, and the endless applications and services it allows. In the market, this translates into investments across all industries as stakeholders try to understand the potential of AI for their own businesses. For instance, at the beginning of the year, Ford motors announced a plan to invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence startup that is focused on developing autonomous vehicle technology. It’s an indication that AI is a hot topic beyond the traditional ICT sector.

How our community feels about AI

There is a growing expectation on the part of many stakeholders that AI and machine learning will fundamentally reshape the future of the Internet and society around it.

This is one of the trends we’ve observed in our own project about the Internet’s Future, where AI, together with five other areas, have been identified as key “Drivers” of change in the coming 5 to 10 years. There is a sense that “we may be experiencing a new [technology] Renaissance.” Indeed, in 10 years’ time AI technologies may dominate all aspects of our day to day lives from driving to banking or even working.

Yet, the uncertainties raised by our community about this technology in the context of the Internet are extensive. These include the potential loss of human agency and decision-making, lack of transparency in how algorithms make decisions, discrimination, the pace of technological change outstripping governance and policy, and ethical considerations.

A number of participants raised concerns related to the impact on industry and employment – and therefore society – noting the consequences of automation-led change across industries and business practices, and the possible increase in inequalities and societal disruption.

Will AI replace human labour?

The discussions at the OECD this week revolved around a specific issue: Will AI replace human labour?

What do humans do at work? They perceive their environment, learn, use language to communicate, plan and navigate tasks – all of them abilities that can be imitated to varying degrees by machines.

Looking back at the history of AI, the concept was born when a group of visionary researchers, including Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy, gathered in the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College to kick off the project to create computers programmed to act as humans. The risk – or opportunity – was embedded, although perhaps not consciously, in the group’s objectives: replicating human intelligence.

So, is it realistic that we could all be replaced by robots and algorithms?

It depends who you ask and how you analyse the challenge. So far the estimated impact on job displacement has had a broad range: from 9-47%. From the OECD to the University of Oxford, the measuring techniques are quite different. The numbers are alarming and should be taken seriously, but they also do not tell the whole story.

Shaping a future we can look forward to

Fears are natural, but should be put into perspective. Lets think about how AI could improve human performance and lives.

Deep learning has made tremendous progress in reasoning to the benefit of humans. See the example of the Go Game guru, Lee Sedol, who was defeated by “Alpha Go.” He explained that beyond personal disappointment, he also experienced a positive feedback loop. He learned from AI Go patterns and techniques and raised his own performance level. AI performing at the level, or higher, than humans is not necessarily a threat – it can augment intelligence and support our own development.

AI can have also have a positive effect on humanity, notably by drawing inferences from enormous sets of data. For example, in the pharmaceutical field, the combination of AI and big data expands the industry’s ability to solve new scales of problems, which in turn enables the acceleration of research and can bring major breakthroughs in drug discoveries and disease diagnoses.

Energy efficient homes, personal assistants that make our lives easier, etc. There are many other reasons and fields where hope – and even excitement – is possible.

But what we do know is that Artificial Intelligence is already a topic that has triggered hopes and concerns. Going forward it is important that we broaden and demystify the debate in order to balance the headlines with insights and facts. To this end, ISOC recently published a Policy Paper on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, introducing the fundamentals of the technology at hand and some of the key challenges it presents.

As one of our guiding principles from this paper clearly states: “The public’s ability to understand AI-enabled services, and how they work, is key to ensuring trust in the technology.”

Categories
Blockchain Building Trust Events Growing the Internet Human Rights Improving Technical Security Internet of Things (IoT)

EuroDIG 2017: ISOC Speaks on Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Human Rights, IoT, Internet Shutdowns and more

How do we create a more secure and trusted Internet within the multistakeholder model of Internet governance? That will be among the many questions addressed this week at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) in Tallinn, Estonia. From June 5-7, we will have an Internet Society team on site participating in many sessions. Our EuroDIG 2017 page has all the details – including links to live video streams – but at a high level here are some of the workshops we are participating in:

  • Plenary panel on cybersecurity
  • New business models and the Internet
  • Blockchain technology and internet governance
  • Community connectivity: empowering the unconnected
  • Criminal justice on the Internet – identifying common solutions
  • Workshop on human rights and IoT
  • Internet content blocking: from collateral damages to better solutions
  • Stress testing the multistakeholder model in cybersecurity
  • Drowning in data – digital pollution, green IT, and sustainable access
  • Forced data localization and barriers to cross-border data flows: toward a multistakeholder approach

Again, view our EuroDIG 2017 event page to see exact times and live stream links.

To stay up on our activities, you can follow us on social media – and follow the hashtags #eurodig17 and #eurodig on Twitter.

Please do say hello to our staff in the sessions – and tell us how you think we need to work together to build a stronger Internet and #ShapeTomorrow.

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Improving Technical Security Internet of Things (IoT)

There is No Perimeter in IoT Security

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not just a device connected to the Internet – it is a complex, rapidly evolving system. To understand the implications, analyse risks, and come up with effective security solutions we need to look ahead and take into account other components, such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

On Thursday, 8 June, at 1:30PM CEST, I am participating in a panel discussion called “Emerging Threats and Paradigm Shift” during the IoT Week 2017 in Geneva, where we will talk about many of these issues. In this post, I’ll expand on some of my thinking that will inform my comments on the panel.

It is still common to think of an IoT as a “thing” – a smart object, something that is not just a general-purpose computer, connected to the Internet. But this is not what the IoT already is, and certainly not where it is heading. And if we want to address the challenges the IoT brings, we need to look ahead.

We do not want just to have a light bulb whose colour we can change using a smartphone application. We want to automate our whole house so when we dine the ambient light is different from when we read a book, maybe different depending on the season, room temperature, or mood.

We do not want just to measure traffic movements along the city transportation system, but tie it with the temperature, air pollution, and other data gathered by thousands of sensors. And we want to optimize it by managing traffic lights and signalling preferred routes to cars.

Even now, the IoT is a complex system, where devices are just one component. Each component might be the system’s weakest link, so we need a holistic approach to security. Besides the complexity of the IoT system, we shouldn’t forget that it strongly ties with Big Data and AI, each with its own host of issues. And behind each of the components there are specific security challenges, and various parties involved.

The IoT is a system that should be analysed and addressed as a whole. Focusing on isolated components without holistic risk and threat analysis tends to provide temporal fixes (if any), and may significantly hinder the innovative potential of the IoT.

IoT Security is the responsibility of many

When we look at it as a system, we can enumerate quite a number of parties that can and should contribute to the IoT security:

  • Vendors of sensors and actuators (devices)
  • Middleware developers
  • Application developers
  • Protocol developers
  • Middleware platform operators
  • Application services operators

Outside the technical realm the number of entities is also significant:

  • Retailers and resellers
  • End-users: Home and Office users
  • ISPs and service providers
  • Insurance companies
  • Policymakers and regulators

To scale up we need a collective approach, addressing security challenges on all fronts. The Online Trust Alliance IoT Security Framework provides a great foundation listing the baseline requirements for security and privacy.

Guidance and recommendations, along with reusable security building blocks, are essential components of addressing the IoT security challenge, but why is security so hard? We need a collaborative security approach to ignite action and change in addressing IoT security challenges.

IoT security is hampered by negative economic factors, such as negative externalities and information asymmetry. This is not unique to the IoT; our recent analysis of data breaches revealed similar issues.

For instance, device vendors do not provide strong security because they do not bear the costs of security exploits. And consumers have no way to assess the security of the IoT system as a whole, thus diminishing motivation for the vendors to deliver secure solutions. Vendors are under intense competitive pressures to get their products to market as quickly and cheaply as possible, and to iterate with new versions rapidly. Security by design, done properly, costs money, requires skilled staff or consultants, and slows down the process. It cannot be “bolted on” as an afterthought – but that is how it is treated by many vendors, if they give it any attention at all.

When devices reach the end of their supported lifetimes, they usually do not vanish or become inoperable. They often end up in developing areas of the world where they may continue to operate for years or decades longer – un-locatable, unpatched, and vulnerable. There are other examples.

To understand how we can change this situation we need to look at the forces that can potentially drive improvements in this area. In my opinion, there are three main ones:

  • Market forces
  • Regulation forces
  • Societal forces

Market Forces

We hear loud voices that qualify the state of affairs as market failure. Indeed, businesses need to internalize some of the insecurity costs now spread among many others.

First of all, business should recognize the value of security. This may take time, but as the trends show it wouldn’t be too long before their customers see that value and demand adequate security and privacy protection. And then, those vendors who were looking forward and are prepared will have competitive advantage.

Now, companies also need affordable security. Why are known patches not applied? In many cases it is negligence – yes, but to a great extent it is because many companies do not even have a process in place for vulnerability management, nor a patching policy. Security is a process, not a state, and must be treated as such.

An important component here is affordable security – rational frameworks, security building blocks, automation, and information sharing.

Regulation Forces

The question – what and how?

One of the approaches is to use some level of regulation to support baseline security recommendations for connected devices. The challenge is to make it effective without stifling innovation. It must be not too coarse so that the requirements are meaningless, and not too rigid so that compliance tests are unbearable. How do we make sure that compliance requirements do not hinder agile development and feature and security updates to the devices? And as we know the IoT is not just devices, so it should be extended to systems and services.

As we said, security is not a state, it is a process, so the security posture of a vendor, or developer, or service provider in terms of QA and information security management processes gives better assurance than a one-off compliance check. For instance, a once compliant device may not meet the same requirements with the next software update. And here again, how to make this affordable, such that not only giants can afford certification?

And of course, not all IoT systems have the same security requirements, but for many of them security means safety and such systems should be in focus.

Importantly, regulators and policymakers should focus on supporting societal activities and foster the culture of security.

Societal Forces

We shouldn’t underestimate the societal force – at the end of the day, all parties involved are interested in innovative and secure IoT. They simply cannot afford losing consumer trust.

I mentioned several key players that take part in the development and operation of the IoT ecosystem. But simply calling on them to take responsibility and clean up their part of the street may not be effective enough.

Understanding the relationships between them, their motivations, and their incentives helps steer their behaviour and operation toward most favourable outcomes. For example, raising consumer awareness of the risks of connected devices can help establish ranking or certification programmes, like the one led by Consumer Reports in the USA: “The Digital Standard.”

What is crucial here is “norm setting” based on industry-developed and agreed principles and recommendations. A great example of such an effort is the Internet Society Online Trust Alliance IoT Trust Framework that includes 37 principles addressing privacy, security, and sustainability of IoT systems.

“Platforms” – the middleware that glues sensors and actuators in one coherent system, plays a key role here, not only by ensuring that the system is secure by design, but also by providing necessary pressure on the component suppliers (for example, through programs like MFi by Apple). They are in a good position in assessing security and privacy of the system as a whole, sometimes including the apps. Think of an IoT as a distributed smartphone!

If leading platform operators agree to a reasonable security baseline, like the already mentioned Trust Framework, and enforce compliance, that will have a significant impact on the whole IoT ecosystem.

The Internet and distributed information systems built on it demand a significant paradigm shift in how security challenges should be addressed. There is no perimeter one can protect, the “outward” risks are as important as “inward,” and care needs to be taken not to damage the fundamental properties of the Internet that allowed it to flourish. The key here is finding points of maximum impact for creating a collaborative environment centred around security and privacy. That is the only way to scale up to match the IoT phenomenon.

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Events IETF Technology

ISOC and AFRINIC Launch Inaugural Hackathon @AIS

The Africa Internet Summit (AIS) is an annual event that brings together network and system engineers from across Africa to learn new skills, which they take back to their work places to improve the Internet experience or connectivity for their local users and their community. The AIS event is in two parts: the first week comprises of technical workshops around different topics like Internet Services and Routing and the second week consists of conference meetings and plenaries discussing issues important to Africa’s tech environment.

A lot of the content at the technical workshop week covers services, standards or best practices defined in documents produced by the IETF.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the standards setting body of the Internet. In a bid to increase awareness on the work and importance of the IETF, ISOC’s Africa Regional Bureau has run a number of activities in Africa over the years including yearly update forums or talks at the Africa Internet Summit.

Participation, awareness and interest in the IETF is increasing in Africa and this year, the Internet Society and AFRINIC are collaborating on a hackathon to demonstrate how much of the work at the IETF is done: through rough consensus and running code.

The Hackathon is titled “Hackathon @AIS” and is the first event of its kind at AIS. The purpose of this hackathon is to gather able engineers from Africa to work on challenges based on IETF work and show them how work at the IETF is produced. In this pilot event, participants have been drawn from Kenya’s tech community, West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN), the UbuntuNET Alliance, and the Kenya Education Network Trust (KENET) to take part in the two day activity.

Expert facilitators will lead the two day event which will involve the participants working on solutions or implementations based on published standards or Internet Drafts being discussed at the IETF. The participants are from 12 different countries and following the event, they will be encouraged to run similar activities in their countries to further increase awareness and participation of engineers to the work of the IETF as well as join some of the IETF’s Working Groups that interest them.

The hackathon is also being documented to be shared with others who would wish to conduct similar activities here: https://hackathon.internetsummitafrica.org.

The event takes places on the 27th and 28th of May 2017.

Read more about ISOC at the African Internet Summit.