Internet Society - News Headlines
My first task as the Internet Society’s Regional Community Manager for the Middle East was to organize three events in a span of a week in three different cities around the Middle East about Blockchain with Dr. Walid Al Saqaf, Internet Society Board of Trustees, as the keynote speaker.
Amman, Beirut, and Dubai
July 8th was D-Day for Amman at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in partnership with Int@j Jordan and Tank by Omnia. July 19th was Beirut, Lebanon, at the Movenpick Beirut, co-organized with the Internet Society Lebanon Chapter. July 12th was Dubai, UAE, at DTEC Silicon Oasis Authority, co-organized with the ISOC UAE Chapter. All three cities differed in the type of attendees, but the subjects were the same: Blockchain, Internet Governance, and Cryptocurrency.
Dr. Walid Al Saqaf, along with Waheed Al Barghouti, a cryptocurrency expert, conducted a four-hour morning workshop with a live mining demo, “create your blockchain” exercise, and smart contract creation, rules, and regulations. Moreover, there was an open forum in the afternoon that included high-level government representatives as well as private and public sector attendees.
Blockchain had been ambiguous to me, yet after the first workshop I found myself knowing more and more about this decentralized world that is creating endless opportunities in implementations in different domains around the world. We all learned how blockchain started, how bitcoin incepted, and how different cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum work.
Waheed Al Barghouthi explained that smart contracts were open source, and anyone can create one. He showed us an example of a smart contract used for a ticketing system, how the ticket is issued, then refunded. These contracts can become the future for dealing with any purchase in the world. Walid Al Saqaf jumped in to mention that Georgia is the first country to use smart contracts and blockchain in all of its real estate transactions.
One of the funniest things to hear during the day was “gas.” What is gas you say? It’s not pumped out of the earth when it comes to cryptocurrencies; it is the fee used by Ethereum. For example, if you’re sending Ethereum to anyone and want your transaction to happen immediately, your gas fee is higher than if you wait 48 hours. It was also my first time hearing about something called Bitcoin ATMs where you can exchange bitcoin from your wallets into cash. These ATM’s exist around the world and can be used for withdrawals. At all times, Mr. Waheed confirmed that Dr. Walid was doing a great job, as a humorous side of the workshop.
Dr. Walid confirmed that the Internet cannot be destroyed; it’s built in a way to sustain a nuclear attack! That was reassuring to know. What we know is, just like the Internet first started, blockchain is taking a similar route. As much as the Internet is here to stay, blockchain is also here to stay. It’s a new world and we need to learn more about and welcome its adoption.
The post Learning About Blockchain, Internet Governance, and Cryptocurrency appeared first on Internet Society.
The Internet has helped to empower communities of across the globe. However, existing gender disparities, discrimination, and inequalities, especially faced by women living in the Global South, including the least developed countries, has had a considerable impact on the digital gender divide, leading to the digital exclusion of women.
A study “Views & Perspectives on Gender Rights Online, for the Global South”, was undertaken by Amrita Choudhury, CCAOI & Asia Pacific lead for the Internet’s Society SIG Women and Nadira AL Araj, ISOC Palestine and MENA Civil Society activist, to identify the main challenges towards improving the gender access and rights online, especially in the Global South; highlight the best practices which nations or regions have adopted to overcome those challenges; and suggest policy areas which need reforms.
In addition to relying on secondary sources, the opinions of 19 experts from 15 countries and responses of 162 people from 54 countries were sought. The findings were further discussed and validated through a workshop at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2017 “Redefining Rights for a Gender Inclusive Connected Future (WS 102) and then compiled into a report.
The top challenges identified across the Global South hampering the creation of a gender-inclusive digital world include existing social and cultural norms in society about the role of women. Other challenges include low literacy rates, lack of digital and ICT skills, concerns of trust and privacy, and lack of relevant content for women. In addition, limited access to infrastructure and resources, including financial support and opportunities, workplace limitations, few role models, and limited platforms to interact and network are other challenges. The lack of a comprehensive approach towards women’s empowerment, including understanding the concepts of gender equality and inadequate policy implementation of existing policies, is further aggravating the situation. Additionally, the lack of systemic data and evidence on barriers and enablers to technology, especially related to gender is limiting decision-makers from taking a comprehensive view on issues related to gender rights online.
Some of the policy reforms suggested in the paper to improve gender rights online include: implement better and effective policies; focus on promoting literacy, ICT skills, and Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) studies amongst women, and encourage digital literacy; create policy reforms to ensure gender-inclusive access to the Internet; build trust online, including better legislation and enforcement of laws against online harassment; create economic incentives to encourage diversity in the workforce; encourage more engagement amongst women networks; and promote content in local languages.
Government-led initiatives and reforms are considered most important for improving gender rights online. Moreover, since under SDG goal 17 all government policy makers are mandated to include policy related to reduce the gender gap, it is the government’s responsibility to create an enabling environment where the gender gap is reduced. However, the correct implementation and execution of these policy reforms was felt to be more critical. Proactive initiatives by businesses, awareness and capacity building by civil society, and technical innovation by the technical community are also considered important.
As the next step, the authors of the report are looking for opportunities to conduct a more in-depth study on the subject as the topic needs further investigation.
Ready to help close the digital gender divide? Join SIG Women!
The post Improving Gender Rights Online: Perspectives from the Global South appeared first on Internet Society.
Encryption for us, not for you: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is researching ways to improve mobile encryption for federal users, even as the FBI continues to fight against encrypted data on the smartphones of ordinary users. FifthDomain has a story on the DHS effort.
Safety labels for the IoT: The Internet of things needs food safety-style labels detailing the safety and privacy controls on IoT devices, suggests a story at Motherboard.
Consumer Reports and other groups have begun working on a new open source standard intended to help make Internet-connected hardware safer, the story says.
Let’s Encrypt gains support: Let’s Encrypt, the Internet Society-supported secure certificate authority, has picked up endorsements from major root programs like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Mozilla, Oracle, and Blackberry, Packt Hub reports. The zero-cost service allows website operators to pick up SSL certificates for free.
That’s a lot of AI: Intel sold $1 billion worth of Artificial Intelligence chips in 2017, Reuters reports. That’s even a conservative estimate, Intel says. Prepare now for the smart robot takeover!
Hired by AI: Meanwhile, AI is coming to the hiring process, Bloomberg reports, and that may not be such a bad thing. AI may actually be less biased than more human-powered hiring processes, the story says. Employee referrals, for example, leave a lot of people out of the hiring pipeline.
Seven-month blockade: A new documentary details a 230-day Internet shutdown in Cameroon, QZ.com says. During the shutdown, between January 2017 and March of this year, the government blocked the Internet or stopped access to some social media platforms with the goal of stifling dissent and ending calls for secession.
Silencing protests: Bangladesh has also gotten into the Internet shutdown game, by blocking mobile access in parts of the country, The Malaysian Insight reports. The shutdown was an attempt to quell student protests over unsafe roads.
Do you know the risks of what you’re buying? Get IoT smart!
The post The Week in Internet News: US Gov’t Wants More Encryption – For Itself appeared first on Internet Society.
The Internet Society has a vision that the Internet must be open, global, and secure for the good of all people. But to get there, the world must demand change in how decisions that shape the Internet’s future are made. Decisions being made behind closed doors.
We’re asking young people around the world – smart passionate people who are spearheading online diversity initiatives, using tech for social development, or working to make the Internet more inclusive – to raise their voice and let policy and decision-makers know that when it comes to the policies that shape the Internet their voice counts.
The digital future impacts us all. Open the doors and listen to the diverse voices of people both online and off. Let’s build an Internet that’s for everyone.
Mary Helda Akongo is one of those voices. A recent graduate of Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, she believes technology has the power to positively influence the social, political, and economic development of women in Africa. Founder of Roaring Doves, an online and offline peer support community for victims and survivors of gender-based violence, she is also the operations and programs manager for Zimba Women, a Ugandan organization that finds innovative technological solutions to create sustainable futures for African women, as well as an innovation research intern at Katerva, where she works with young people around the world as they use technology to drive social and environmental impact in their communities. In 2017, Mary Helda was awarded the 25 under 25 award by the Internet Society for her exceptional work with Zimba Women, which is using the Internet to create a positive impact on the lives of women in Sub-Saharan Africa.
My life revolves around the Internet. It is something that astonishes me every day. It is that place where I can socialize, be entertained, work, create, share, and get access to information. It opens new doors for my friends, family, and me every day. I would probably be jobless if it wasn’t for the Internet.
I work for an organization called Zimba Women. I stumbled upon their website as I was desperately looking for a job. I say desperately because I had been looking since I completed my Bachelor’s degree at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. But I didn’t want just any job—I wanted to do something that mattered. I sent Zimba Women an email expressing my interest in a volunteering position, and that’s how my journey began.
To me, one of the Internet’s greatest purposes is the role it plays in social and economic development.
The Internet is an essential tool to accelerate business innovations. It provides the much-needed capacity, skills, knowledge, and information for small businesses run by young people to be more productive and competitive. Instead of trying to bring their businesses to the world, the Internet brings a global market to them through a simple click.
The Internet also fosters social change and provides a platform where marginalized groups like women can fight for their rights through sparking conversations that have been ignored for a very long time, like the #MeToo movement. Through Zimba Women, we work with more than 5,000 women in East Africa providing business skills, knowledge, and online mentorship. Our objective is to decrease the digital gender gap so that women can have a better, and fair, opportunity to participate in the development of their communities.
The Internet is an indispensable tool that provides a way for women to access the wider world –a world full of networks, opportunities, communities, health and education information, financial advice, and business skills training. It’s a means for women to seek help when and where they need it, helping to redress gender inequity and foster empowerment. My teammates and I are currently focused on expanding our reach to more women outside East Africa to provide tools and technology platforms, business training, mentorship, access to resources and knowledge and networks to improve the livelihoods for women and girls in underserved communities in Africa.
I recently started working online for Katerva, a U.S. organization that finds, supports and accelerates sustainable innovations from around the world. We work and collaborate from different parts of the world. This couldn’t have been possible without the Internet. It has also simplified my work with Zimba Women and Roaring Doves, an online and offline peer support community for victims and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) who come together to create awareness about GBV, share their stories, and support each other.
Most of what I do (digital marketing, advocacy, research, writing, training, etc.) is predominantly through using digital platforms. It makes my life so much easier.
When I imagine the digital future, I see a better world. A world where millions of young people, especially from the African continent, can increasingly use the Internet to shape their futures and those of their communities by creating social, political, and economic change. The digital economy and emerging technologies, such as big data and e-commerce, present immense opportunities for young people to have and create jobs. The earning potential is limitless.
But are young people being heard when it comes to shaping the future of the Internet? The Internet is supposed to be for everyone.
More than 64% of people in Africa don’t have Internet access. Barriers like affordability of devices and data, Internet shutdowns, Internet balkanization, digital illiteracy, and double taxations have to be addressed. Finding ways to overcome these barriers is going to take everyone. This is why I believe we need to adopt the multistakeholder approach of Internet Governance where all stakeholders, private and public – and youth, have to be involved in making decisions that are related to the Internet.
We must collaborate. We must listen. We must work together to shape a digital future that will positively benefit everyone. And that’s what I want policy and decision makers to know – young people need to be at the table when decisions are being made. We have to be included in the decision-making processes because these decisions directly affect our lives. It’s only fair that we have a say in our futures. Our voice counts.
Visit #CountMyVoice and help build an Internet that’s for everyone!
Image ©Roopa Gogineni / Panos Pictures
The post Count My Voice: Demanding an Internet That Benefits Everyone appeared first on Internet Society.
Today marks the formal publication of an overhaul of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. TLS is an Internet standard used to prevent eavesdropping, tampering, and message forgery for various Internet applications. It is probably the most widely deployed network security standard in the world. Often indicated by the small green padlock in a web browser’s address bar1, TLS is used in financial transactions, by medical institutions, and to ensure secure connections in a wide variety of other applications.
We believe the new version of this protocol, TLS 1.3, published as RFC 8446, is a significant step forward towards an Internet that is safer and more trusted.
Under development for the past four years and approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in March 2018, TLS 1.3 addresses known issues with the previous versions and improves security and performance, in particular it is able to establish a session more quickly than its predecessors. Because it is more efficient, TLS 1.3 promises better performance for the billions of users and organizations that use TLS every day. As with every IETF standard, TLS 1.3 was developed through open processes and participation, and included contributions from scores of individuals.
Many companies have indicated that they plan to implement and deploy TLS 1.3 in the near future and several have already done so. Part of their readiness can be traced back to the fact that the standard’s development was informed along the way by “running code” – test implementations that helped identify issues in and provide additional clarity to the specification, ensuring TLS 1.3 would not only look good on paper but that it would work well in the real world too. TLS 1.3 was also reviewed extensively by academic security and cryptography experts to help identify and address possible weaknesses before it was widely deployed.
A popular saying in the IETF community is that “there are no protocol police.” This reflects the reality that adoption of IETF protocols is voluntary and each network, enterprise, and Internet user is free to decide whether or not to use them. Given how widely TLS is deployed, it is inevitable that some challenges will be encountered as TLS 1.3 adoption gathers pace. Additional work may be required to address these challenges. However, on balance, TLS 1.3 represents a significant security win for the Internet and its users. We look forward to using it and tracking its adoption on the Internet.
1 – Editor’s Note: The TLS protocol is often mistakenly called “SSL” or “Secure Socket Layer”. SSL was the name of the original protocol developed by Netscape back in the mid-1990s. It was replaced by TLS 1.0 in 1999. (Yes, almost 20 years ago!) TLS 1.0 was in turn replaced by 1.1, 1.2, and now 1.3.
Globally, significant progress has been made in recent years with respect to Internet access, however, much more needs to be done. Presently, 54% of the global community is not connected to the Internet. In the Caribbean region, big disparities can be noted. As measured by Internet penetration rates, while countries such as Barbados (80%), Trinidad & Tobago (70%) are well connected, this is not the case in others such as Haiti (12%) and Guyana (40%).
The challenge in less-connected countries is mainly in their large rural communities. This is where the Internet Society’s ongoing work related to Community Networks (CNs) hopes to have some impact.
Smart strategies, utilizing the skills, knowledge, and authority of all stakeholders such as government, policy makers, the business community, operators, academia, and civil society entities need to be explored. While governments can play a key role, especially with respect to policies that foster network deployment in rural and underserved areas, telecoms operators are also very important. These operators have well-developed transport networks that can be used as backhaul for community networks developers, to get Internet access to rural communities. Conversations with members of the Internet ecosystem often do not include the operators that are actually deploying the infrastructure.
To change this approach, the Internet Society organized the “Workshop on Community Networks and the Opportunity to Partner with All Stakeholders,” including all stakeholders who can help us to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to get more people connected to the Internet.
The workshop was held at the main annual event of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Operators (CANTO) in Panama City, Panama. CANTO started as a state-owned telecoms operators’ organization thirty-five year ago, and has grown to a full-fledged ICT organization, hosting one of the main ICT events in the Caribbean region.
At the workshop, the Internet Society team consisted of:
- Jane Coffin, Director Development Strategy at the Internet Society
- Adriana Labardini, former commissioner at the Regulator IFT in Mexico
- Nicolas Pace, from AlterMundi
- Shernon Osepa, Manager Regional Affairs of the Internet Society’s LAC- Bureau
The presentations and discussions focused on:
- The Internet Society’s role in promoting community networks
- Real-world cases which showcased the Internet Society’s contribution to the development of community networks
- The regulatory and legal experiences while deploying community networks in Mexico and other countries
- Global examples of the challenges, such as technical, regulatory, economic, and social, when deploying community networks
- Opportunities that community networks can bring to a community
- Panelists also responded to questions from participants
Approximately 40 people, consisting of high-level policy makers, regulators, operators, and civil society attended the workshop. In addition to the workshop itself, the team also engaged with key people attending the CANTO conference.
As a next step, the Internet Society will continue to focus on a few Caribbean countries such as Guyana, Suriname, Haiti, and Dominican Republic with large rural underserved areas, and to assist them, with local involvement and commitment to deploy community networks.
The Internet Society is committed to addressing the connectivity challenge especially in rural areas, using innovative ways and community networks and invites all stakeholders to support this noble initiative.
You can create or support a community network. Here’s how!
The post Community Networks Workshop at CANTO Annual Conference appeared first on Internet Society.
In November 2017, the Internet Society hosted the inaugural Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The event brought together community network operators, Internet service providers, community members, researchers, policy makers, and Indigenous leadership to work together to bridge the connectivity gap in indigenous communities in North America. One of the participants shared her story.
The Navajo Nation spans over 27,000 square miles across three states, making it the largest indigenous nation in the United States, in both geographic area and population. With such a sizable landmass, network building can face significant challenges.
“Infrastructure and coverage are tricky because of the way that the Navajo Nation is surrounded by highways and railways but none really cross through,” says Sylvia Jordan, Principal IT for the Navajo Nation Division of Community Development. “We are trying to bridge middle mile to last/first mile,” says Jordan, “while maintaining affordability for communities requesting access.”
The unique geographic features of the area can dictate connection quality in many areas on the Navajo Nation. Jordan explains that the ridge around Black Mesa, which is more than 8,000 feet high, is large enough that service can trickle down to some rural communities in the southern part of the Navajo Nation, whereas the connectivity in other areas of the reservation can vary based on which side of a thoroughfare a person resides.
Internet access is key for Navajo residents, says Jordan. “Building connectivity allows for more opportunities for distance learning and education, remote support assistance, work centers, and economic opportunities for people selling rugs or jewelry,” enabling members of Navajo Nation to stay within their communities, while simultaneously building them up. Jordan is hopeful about the connections and knowledge she has gained at the Indigenous Connectivity Summit, and about the future of connectivity in the communities of the Navajo Nation. “I think it is viable,” says Jordan. “I think we just need to continue to work at it – and have leadership and motivation to keep moving forward.”
Register for the Indigenous Connectivity Summit 2018, which takes place this October in Edmonton and Inuvik, Canada. You can also find ever-growing resources on topics including community networks, cultural preservation, and Indigenous-driven access at the Indigenous Connectivity page.
Photo ©Minesh Bacrania
A coalition of more than 40 companies focused on protecting online users has endorsed a global community initiative, coordinated by the Internet Society, to improve the security of the Internet’s routing system.
The goal of MANRS is to ensure a secure and resilient Internet by protecting its routing infrastructure. In 2017 alone, more than 14,000 routing outages or attacks – such as hijacking, leaks, or spoofing – resulted in stolen data, lost revenue, and reputational damage.
“The new endorsement is a good first step,” said Salam Yamout, Internet Society Lead for the MANRS initiative.
“It is not enough to talk about routing security; it is time for action,” Yamout added. “Because the Internet’s routing system was built on the principles of collaboration and shared responsibility, this endorsement from the Cybersecurity Tech Accord and our new partnership is a major step forward. It clearly reflects the will of industry to be proactive in implementing safe routing practices.”
MANRS focuses on four defensive actions that can reduce the most common routing threats:
- Filtering, to help combat the propagation of incorrect routing information and to ensure the correct operator and customer routing announcements to adjacent networks
- Anti-spoofing, a measure allowing network operators to validate source addresses, with the goal of preventing packets with an incorrect source IP address from entering and leaving the network
- Coordination, to ensure that network operators maintain globally accessible up-to-date contact information in common routing databases
- Global validation, to encourage network operators to publish their routing data, so others can validate routing information on a global scale
The Cybersecurity Tech Accord called MANRS a “fantastic example” of a partnership working toward the common good of a more secure online environment. Signatories “strongly believe that a more robust and secure global routing infrastructure demands shared responsibility and coordinated actions from the community of security-minded organizations,” said Tech Accord.
Two of Tech Accord’s signatories – KPN and Swisscom – already participate in the MANRS initiative, and many others are considering steps to become more involved, the group said.
Cybersecurity Tech Accord and MANRS have also established a working group to investigate how companies beyond network operators and IXPs can contribute to routing security.
The post Tech Companies Endorse MANRS Routing Security Actions appeared first on Internet Society.
In honor of International Cat Day, the Internet Society is sharing the journal of Internet Hall of Mane recipient, LOL Cat. LOL Cat first achieved fame with her humorous memes written in “kitty pawtois.” A graduate of Stanfur Universekitty, her work has earned her the Purritzer Prize and many other hon-roars.
Cattain’s Log, Day 1
Sunday night patrol. The dusty creature on the wall has not moved for days. This is my vow: I will bide my time and someday I shall pounce.
My human taunts me with the shiny red dot.
Bathroom remodel. My human has replaced my old litter box with a loud scary one. The flashing lights blind me. I am not feline good about this.
When I hop out of this new litter box, a scary rake comes to gather the litter, ruining my sense of order. I shall spread litter around the house to rectify this mess, but first I must hide behind the new contraption.
I see the word “smart.” This must be a clue. I feel that I am onto something. I have no time to lose, and must dash to the room with the computer as if my tail is on fire. Ooh—SHINY RED DOT!
Now that I am at the computer, I can get to the bottom of this conspurrrracy. I must use a search engine, but can’t use Dogpile for obvious reasons. (Is it just me, or is it too eager to please?)
The search engine tells me that my new litter box is an IoT device that sends data to the Internet. “Outputs.” I do not like the sound of that. It’s all starting to freak meow-t.
I’ve found a quiz:“How smart are you about IoT?” It’s got me thinking outside the box. Not just litter boxes are connected to the Internet, but also toothbrushes and evil robot vacuums and much much more. And not all of it is secure. Now downloading “Top Tips for Consumers” to my extra thumb drive. I feel like Woodward and Furnstein in a game of cat and mouse.
Learning about IoT has given me paws. I still like the Internet. In fact, Grumpy Cat is a close, personal friend (as much as Grumpy Cat can be anyone’s friend). But now I must educate my human so he takes the following steps to stay secure: use a strong password, shop smart, update devices, turn on encryption where possible, and make his home network more secure.
I attempt to share my newfound knowledge with my human, who is using his laptop. I stand at his feet and speak.
The stupid human makes a funny face. He thinks I’m lion. If he won’t secure it, I must. I am left with no other choice but to nap on his keyboard.
Because when it comes to my litter box, I need privacy.
Do you know the risks of what you’re buying? Get IoT smart!
Photo of Cosmo © Megan Kruse
The post I Can Has Privacy: A Special Guest Post from LOL Cat appeared first on Internet Society.
Internet access and the development of digital skills can transform lives of over 350 million people in the Middle East. With more than 60% of the population under 25 years old, the region is one of the most youthful in the world. However, at the same time, young people are the ones facing several challenges regarding education and employment.
In this context, it is imperative for the region to take actions, and the Internet is an opportunity to do it now.
This week, I had the opportunity to speak at a panel entitled “Digital Skills for the Labour Force and Entrepreneurs,” at MENA Innovation 2018. The session was moderated by Selim Eddé, from Google, and had the participation of high-level representatives from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.
While it was clear that there are many ways to overcome the challenges of the region, all panelists agreed on one key aspect: the importance of education and entrepreneurship for building the future that the region needs.
For the Internet Society, three key factors need to be taken into account:
- Internet access: the lack of access in the region is still a barrier that we need to overcome. However,access to the Internet not only means connectivity, but also it means better prices and better quality. Only an Internet that is accessible and affordable to everyone will provide the tools that our society need to develop digital skills and make the most of the digital economy.
- Digital skills: ensuring the development of skilled, trained, and engaged people who can create, sustain, and maintain infrastructure is what we do at the Internet Society. For our region to be prepared for the future, we need to equip our people with the technical skills to support the development of technology and infrastructure. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is one platform that everybody can engage in to create open standards for the Internet. There are very few engineers from the region who contribute to the development of the Internet.
Another challenge that we see in the region is the integration of women in STEM at an early stage. Women are not encouraged to pursue a STEM career, and if they do it only 25% of graduates participate in the workforce. For many participants and representatives, the digital gender gap is one that we need to break.
- Local content: A lack of Arabic and local language content makes it harder for those with limited language skills and less education to get the most from the Internet. It is essential that people find and create relevant content and usable services in their own languages and, to do so.
Changing the Mindset
To move things forward in the region, we need to change the mindset of the community first. When our parents want us to become successful government employees, we will never become entrepreneurs and take risks and chances to succeed.
All four components together can build an enabling environment that encourages young people to adopt and productively use the Internet and in a way that will benefit them and the region as a whole.
Creating this environment, it is not an easy task. During the three days of the Summit, we learned about many different governmental initiatives that are already making a difference at the national levels. But if we want our region to thrive, we need to work together: governments, companies, and civil society organizations. Considering the number of young people in the region it is also crucial to include youth in the conversation.
As it was said during a session: “If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, work together”. Only by working collaboratively, the region can become drivers of innovation and shape its future to the needs of the youth of the region.
MENA Innovation 2018 took place in Cairo, 29–31 July, and was organized by Brains Innovation Summits with the support of the Egyptian government. The three-day event counted with the participation of Ministers of Education and ICT from different countries of the Middle East and Africa. The theme of the meeting was ICT innovation in education for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGSs). The Internet Society was part of the official delegation of the Summit.
Help close the digital gender divide. Join the SIG Women!
The post Internet Access and Education: Transforming Lives in the Middle East appeared first on Internet Society.
Inside the framework of the 11th meeting of LACIGF, the Internet Society’s Regional Bureau in Latin America & Caribbean successfully carried out the 2018 edition of the Workshop for Chapter Leaders. In addition to addressing the key issues of the organization, the event included a session focused on personal development. The 34 participants, from 22 Chapters, also had the opportunity to talk with Andrew Sullivan, future Executive Director of the Internet Society.
Volunteering: A Shared Challenge
The Internet Society Chapters are a fundamental component of the Internet Society. Made up of people with diverse backgrounds and interests, the Chapters pursue a common and ambitious goal: the Internet should reach everyone. To achieve this, each member spends a significant part of their time working with their peers on diverse projects.
This is why, the first part of the Chapter Workshop focused on human development components related to leadership. Although the content was shared with the representatives of each Chapter that attended the workshop, the idea was to reinforce the message within the boards of the chapters of the given region, in order to facilitate the promotion of these ideas locally.
A Conversation with Andrew Sullivan
Andrew Sullivan will assume the role of the CEO of the Internet Society on September 1st. To strengthen the link of the Chapters with the Internet Society, each participant was given the chance to talk with the future CEO. Andrew Sullivan, who participated remotely, shared his vision about the organization, in addition to answering specific questions from workshop participants.
Four Key Issues
The final part of the workshop focused on the Internet Society’s four key issues: Community Networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), Internet Governance, and MANRS. The participants had completed a 3-month training, which offered them the necessary preparation to get the most of the workshop.
The Chapter leaders addressed the challenges and opportunities of these issues in a collaborative manner and with an accessible language, with the help of questionnaires designed by the team at the Internet Society’s Regional Bureau in Latin America & Caribbean. To make the workshop more dynamic, the discussion concerning the key issues took place in groups. After the productive exchanges, each group produced videos and articles on the topics that they discussed. The materials will be used to enrich the ground with the perspective of the regional Chapters.
When the workshop participants return to their homes, they will be excited to share their acquired knowledge and experiences. They will also have the opportunity to successfully develop the projects, so please follow news of our 24 LAC Chapters as we update with their progress.
We are thousands of members who work to build an Internet for everyone, everywhere.
The post LACIGF Workshop for Chapter Leaders: The Internet Should Reach Everyone appeared first on Internet Society.
Securing the IoT: Internet of Things security spending is predicted to rise by about 30 percent a year through 2023 as the industry looks for some regulations, reports Cyber Security Hub. Possible regulatory standards are driving part of the growth.
Pornification of the IoT: This is bad news or maybe good news, depending on your perspective. Hackers recently took control of an IoT-connected parking kiosk and connected it to online porn content, Business Insider reports. The kiosk didn’t display the porn content, however, leaving researchers confused about the hackers’ motivation. Maybe, it was just because they could.
AI joins the army: The Indian military is considering the use of Artificial Intelligence for national security and military strategic purposes, says The News Minute. The Indian government is also studying AI uses in aviation, and for cyber, nuclear, and biological warfare.
AI vs. humanity: In a possibly related story, CNBC lists five of the most scary predictions about AI. Among them: Mass unemployment and the use of robots to wage war.
U.S. AWOL: The U.S. government lacks the resources and reputation to remain a leader in global conversations about Internet policy, according to an Engadget story about a recent congressional hearing. Cooperation with other countries is important, witnesses said, but that’s not where U.S. policy is these days.
Blockchain hype fades? A number of corporate blockchain projects are winding down this year, as some companies are scaling back pilot projects, according to a story at Data Center Knowledge. The technology has proven difficult to adopt in real-life situations, says the story, based on information from Forrester Research.
That’s not Minecraft: A PC video game previously available on the Steam distribution platform contained a secret crypto mining software package, says Unhashed. Steam removed the game after reports of the bundled miner.
AI looks into your soul: An AI research project looked at ways to understand a person’s personality by tracking their eye movements, CNet says. The AI was able to accurately identify four major personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Freaky!
The Internet of Things has arrived and it’s going to introduce incredible opportunity over the next five years, but the IoT industry has a way to go in terms of security. Do you know the risks of your IoT device?
The post The Week in Internet News: IoT Security Spending Predicted to Skyrocket appeared first on Internet Society.
APAN 46 is being held on 5-9 August 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand, with the Internet Society being one of the sponsors. I’ll also be talking about IoT Security and the OTA IoT Trust Framework, as well as using the opportunity to continue to raise awareness of the MANRS Routing Security Initiative amongst network operators in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) supports the research and education networks in the region to help them to connect to each other and to other R&E networks around the world, provides opportunities to exchange knowledge, and coordinates common activities, services and applications for its membership. It was established back in 1997, and this is the second of its two annual meetings for 2018.
I’ll be speaking during the Internet-of-Things session next Wednesday (8 August 2018 @ 09.00-10.30 UTC+12), and will discuss how IoT is responsible for huge growth in the number of unmanaged or minimally-managed devices connected to the Internet, but do we really know who or what is communicating with them, and the information they are collecting and sending? I’ll also present ISOC’s Online Trust Alliance’s initiative to develop the IoT Trust Framework which is backed by major industry players to promote best practices in the protection of user security, privacy, identity, data stewardship, and life cycle management.
KOREN, one of the Korean R&E networks, will also be talking about its SmartX Platform during the same session, which aims to provide an open, programmable, user-centric test environment for IoT application developers. Then KREONET, another Korean R&E network, will be presenting its ScienceLoRa service which offers a wireless IoT network for science applications based on LPWAN technology. Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN) are designed to allow long range communications from remote devices (e.g. sensors) using a low bit rate to conserve limited battery power.
Other highlights of the conference include David Lassner (University of Hawaii) who will highlight some of the new fibre projects in the Pacific regions that are finally enabling R&E networking in some of the remotest global locations. Jamie Curtis (REANNZ) will follow-up on this theme by presenting about the recent completion of the Hawaiki Cable which is linking Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa and the USA
There’s also an interesting IoT-related talk by Gill Jolly (GNS Science) who’ll be discussing GeoNet which is a network of 600 instruments to monitor geological hazards (e.g. earthquakes and volcanoes) in New Zealand and Vanuatu. Takuji Kiura (NARO) and Royboon Rassameethes (HAII) will then round-off the conference by presenting how remote sensing, big data and AI are being used for improving agriculture processes.
For those interested in training, Sunday and Monday are largely devoted to this, including a TRANSITS-I workshop that introduces network incident and handing practices for CERT/CSIRTs, as well as a session on setting up DNSSEC.
Azacualpa Yamaranguila, a village in the Intibuca region in Honduras, is celebrating. And not for nothing. Last Saturday was a historic day as they accessed the Internet for the very first time. For many of us, the Internet is taken for granted, but for the Lenca people it started like a dream 6 months ago when the Internet Society Honduras’ Chapter gave them the idea of connecting their village to the Internet. This idea became a reality thanks to the collective effort of the community and the support of Beyond the Net.
The party is for everyone but it focuses on them: Las Marías. With great curiosity, the women of the community came to the celebration early.
When I arrived after a 4-hour trip from Tegucigalpa, they were already there, dressed in colorful clothing. They were selling their products, taking care of their children, and anxiously awaiting the inauguration of the first community network of Azacualpa.
It was also the first anniversary of the radio ‘La Voz de las Mujeres’ (‘The Voice of the Women’) and María Santos, one of the heroes of the day and a leader of the community, was the first to approach me. She told me about her program “Amanecer Ranchero” (“Wake up Folks”) and about the objectives of the radio: “we want our rights as women to be recognized and achieve gender equality.”
This first local radio amplified the voices of the women in the community. But “The Marías” knew that they could strengthen their messages – and the Internet was the key.
“Having Internet will allow us to better prepare our radio programs as we will have more information from around the world and we will also be able to share what we do with other people,” says María Guadalupe, one of the first to access Internet in the community. She also shared that she was a little scared when she saw one of her colleagues on the screen during a video call.
The men of the community recognized that times have changed. The role of women in their community has a great weight. “On the Internet we see a possibility to claim our rights – as women and as Lenca people,” María Candida said. This was the message of one of the songs they prepared for the celebration.
A real party.
The “Comunidades Inteligentes” (“Smart Communities”) community network project made it possible for the 300 families of the Lenca indigenous community of Azacualpa to have access to the Internet.
The community is far from cities, which makes it difficult not only to communicate, but also to access basic services such as electricity, water, and healthcare. Although the Internet isn’t the answer to all of the challenges the community faces, it is one more tool to help overcome them.
“The Lenca community have a great desire to learn about technology because they know that it can improve some aspects of their daily life. Giving them the possibility of having Internet access through a community network seemed the right way to do so and applying to Beyond the Net gave us that possibility,” says Eduardo Tomé of the Honduras Chapter.
Reaching this historic day was not easy. It took a lot of effort.
The project received the support of national and international technicians who together with the Internet Society Honduras Chapter and “Red de Desarrollo Sostenible Honduras” (RDS-Honduras) carried out the deployment of four towers that give access to WiFi to the community and surroundings.
In addition to Internet access, the more than 1200 people who live in Azacualpa have a telecentre with five computers connected to the network and more than 70 smartphones. Until two weeks ago, the community only had two smartphones.
Many kids were already using those phones to play, chat, and communicate with each other. The Lenca people know their future lies with this evolution but they are also keen to preserve their traditions. “We want to keep our roots but also learn new things and develop and on the Internet we see an opportunity, for example, to preserve our local language,” said one of the community members.
The brand-new network of Azacualpa was made by the community and will be managed by the community. “If we want to empower them, we must also give them the tools to manage the network and to be sustainable in the long term. We do not want them to depend on others to assert their right to communicate and access the Internet,” said Raquel Isaula, director of RDS-HN during the opening ceremony.
This is without doubt, the power of community networks.
The Lenca people organized themselves in work groups. Each group received different trainings on issues of resource management, technology, and safe Internet use. Twelve of those were groups entirely composed of women. For RDS, the gender approach in these projects is essential for change.
María Lourdes, María Cándida, and María Lourdes told me that there is still a lot to do in their community. Some girls who took selfies with me said they still are a little nervous to enter the telecentre.
In the Lenca community, the literacy rate is 50% and the most affected are women and girls. The challenges in education are significant since there is only one school until ninth grade.
Before coming to Honduras, Eduardo Tomé had already told me that improving education through the Internet is one of the Chapter’s next challenges.
Now back in Argentina, I look forward to email promised by the Marías, some of whom are using the Internet for the first time.
I told them I would share their photos on the Internet so that everyone knows them and I did so right away… using the WiFi Network of Azacualpa.
I arrived in Honduras as Agustina. I left as María Agustina.
Read more about the project: How the Lenca are Restoring the Past to Build Their Future.
The post Las Marías of Azacualpa: Internet for Raising Women’s Voices appeared first on Internet Society.
“If we can speak up for women today, we can further support other minority groups in future.”
Last year at the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum 2017, we launched TechGIRLs, where we exchanged our life, career, and schooling experience. We all agreed that women in Taiwan enjoy more rights and are more blessed than women in many other countries. But after I attended the Women in ICT session in APNIC 44 and APRICOT 2018, I found there are some differences in Taiwan and other countries, and these problems exist in the whole world. After reviewing ISACA Survey Identifies Five Biggest Barriers Faced by Women in Tech, I agree these are barriers for women, not just in Taiwan, but all over the world:
- Lack of mentors
- Lack of female role models in the field
- Gender bias in the workplace
- Unequal growth opportunities compared to men
- Unequal pay for the same skills
During the preparation for the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum 2018, I proposed that we discuss these issues in an independent session. We discussed 4 questions:
- How to encourage women in Taiwan to work in ICT-related industries or start their own businesses.
- How to encourage women to speak up, especially about their skills in technical groups or communities.
- How to improve the position for women in Taiwan.
- Should there be a platform for women to ensure they have a position in each industry?
Our moderators and panelists have worked in ICT industries for a long time and are well-experienced:
- Rio Kao, the moderator, is from a media company, The News Lens.
- Jessie Tang works in the blockchain technology company Bitmark.
- Evonne Tsai is from the eCommerce company Shopee.
- Hsin-I Chiu is from Vaco in San Francisco.
- Peifen Hsieh is from the International Affairs Committee, TWNIC.
We had a 90-minute round table session and exchanged views with about 25 attendees.
Diversity is important: it can bring benefits including different perspectives.
Different genders and groups usually have different ways in thinking and thus contribute creativity and innovation to the larger society.
Yes, women and men are different, but it’s complicated.
When we talked about how to encourage women to work in ICT-related industries and to start their own businesses, we also talked about how this gender gap happened. There are complicated issues that impact this, such as psychology, education, history, religion, media, social expectation, social suggestion, etc., which affect to the whole environment.
We all agreed that enterprises can show that they welcome women to work with them – whenever a programmer, a manager, or in business development.
Women’s voices are important.
To have a platform for women is a good way to protect women. Thanks to the Internet, we can share our experiences by blogging and sharing to social media, including our career experiences and opinions.
Peifen Hsieh shared the “sit-at-the-table” story famously told by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, and added, “once you sit at the table, don’t give your seat up easily.” We tend to see that many women can be excluded from decision-making, which can create a bad loop in the workplace.
Technology helps women have voice, but we need a safer and more gender-friendly environment.
To have a platform for women to share opinions is needed. We need a place, whatever online or offline, to share our skills with colleagues and friends. When more women participate, it creates more confidence and makes a positive loop to change the environment. However, women face the hate speech and harassment on the Internet more often than men in Taiwan. Their personal data can be exposed, which can make them feel unsafe and afraid to speak up.
Making it safe is important.
We encourage a gender-friendly environment.
Technical communities and forums for women can make a difference. But it’s more important to make the whole society a safe place for minority groups, not just women.
We should break the negative loop and create a positive loop by ourselves.
Education is important, but students should know that gender should not limit what they want to be. There is no relationship between gender and career choice: a man can be a nurse, a woman can be an engineer.
If we have more opportunities for women – equal pay for work, equal opportunities for growth and promotion – then more women will work in ICT-related industries, creating more women models and mentors.
Our panelists talked about the issues and provided action plans. We will continue to have our TechGIRLS events. I hope my observations in the Women in ICT session can be of help for women and younger girls in other countries. I also look forward to having more opportunities to exchanges opinions with other women in ICT in the world.
Watch the video from the Taiwan Internet Governance Forum (in Mandarin):
Learn more about Internet Governance!
This month was even more special for our Internet Governance campaign, with two significant (back-to-back) activities in the Philippines.
Earlier this month, the Philippines’ Department of ICT (DICT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Internet Society (ISOC) to facilitate the development of its National ICT Ecosystem Framework (NIEF) 2022. More details can be found here.
The following week, the Internet Society Asia-Pacific team conducted a face-to-face workshop on Internet Governance. The three-day workshop was organized as part of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity 2018 work plan, and hosted by DICT.
Internet Society staff along with facilitators from the ISOC Philippines Chapter delivered this specially designed training workshop through presentations, Q&A sessions, individual and group activities, interactive quizzes, and a debate.
The majority of attendees were government officials from the Department of ICT, the National Privacy Commission, the National Telecommunications Commission, and the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress, but also included members of the technical community and civil society.
The sessions were highly interactive with participants actively asking questions and presenting their own ideas and arguments. The participant-led group discussions provided an opportunity for local issues to be openly discussed, and possible solutions to be considered.
For us, the workshop provided an excellent platform to assist key local stakeholders in understanding Internet Governance issues and processes, and to emphasise the importance of the multi-stakeholder approach in addressing such issues.
We would like to acknowledge the collaboration and strong support of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) and the Department of ICT (DICT), Government of the Philippines, in the organisation and hosting of this workshop.
Learn more about Internet Governance and why every voice matters!
The post Three-Day Workshop on Internet Governance Held in Quezon City, Philippines appeared first on Internet Society.
Without a doubt, this will be a busy week for the Internet Society in Latin America and the Caribbean! Various activities will take place alongside the 11th edition of LACIGF, including discussions on gender and youth, as well as the Workshop for Chapter Leaders of the region. As usual, ISOC will have an important presence in several activities.
LACIGF 11: the maturity of the regional space
From July 31 to August 2, the regional community will meet in Buenos Aires to celebrate the 11th edition of the Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum (LACIGF). More than ten years after the first meeting took place, LACIGF is now an established event of high importance, where issues related to Internet Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean are discussed.
The agenda includes diverse topics, in which ISOC will be participate. Raquel Gatto will join the discussions on personal data protection, in addition to co-organizing the session on National and Regional Internet Governance Initiatives. In addition, Sebastián Bellagamba will join the debate around Community Networks. And let’s not forget about the keynote speech that will be given by Raúl Echeberría about the future of the global IGF.
The event will be broadcasted live in Spanish, English and Portuguese. The remote participation will be possible. You can follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag # LACIGF11!
Chapters, on stage
Preceding the activities of LACIGF 11, this Monday July 30 the workshop with the leaders of the ISOC Chapters in Latin America and the Caribbean will be held. Its rich agenda will focus on important aspects concerning the functioning of the Chapters, including the four priority themes of ISOC for this 2018: Community Networks, Internet Governance, Safety and the IoT and MANRS.
It should be highlighted that Andrew Sullivan the newly elected CEO of the Internet Society (starting on the 1st of September) will be present remotely and will be accompanied by Raúl Echeberría, Vice President of the Global Engagement and Sebastián Bellagamba, the Latin American and the Caribbean Office Director.
Gender and youth: reducing the digital divide
The search for an open, trusted and globally connected Internet includes reducing of the different types of digital divide. Therefore, it is essential to support the efforts of the Special Interest Groups (SIG) of the Internet Society. For example, the SIG Women will be leading the LACIGFem 2018 on August 1.
In addition, the SIG Youth, focused on the efforts of young people, will carry out the 2018 edition of the Youth LACIGF, which has been successfully held since 2016. The event has been stronger in importance with each edition and this year it will join forces with the Youth IGF Argentina.
Help to reduce the gender digital divide. Join the SIG Women!
Internet Society seeks to ensure that Internet Covernance processes are collaborative and based on consensus. Join the Collaborative Internet governance project!
The post Buenos Aires as a center of discussions on Internet Governance appeared first on Internet Society.
You look like a criminal: Amazon.com’s facial recognition technology falsely flagged 28 U.S. lawmakers as criminals in a test run by the American Civil Liberties Union, The Guardian reports. Whoops! Five members of Congress have demanded an explanation from Amazon, CNET says.
Amazon instead of libraries? It was a bit of a weird week for Amazon. After a Forbes article – since pulled from the website – suggested the giant retailer should replace libraries, the Internet went nuts, not in a good way. The Daily Dot looks at the controversy.
AI as the terminator: Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban has joined the ranks of luminaries warning about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. “If you don’t think by the time most of you are in your mid-40s that a Terminator will appear, you’re crazy,” he said at a gathering of conservative high school students. CNBC.com has the details of his speech.
AI as a money saver: Meanwhile, AI backers say the technology can bring huge benefits. London’s Metropolitan Police Service could save £30 million and put 545 officers on the streets by using AI to analyze large volumes of data and cross-reference information from databases and surveillance systems, according to a study covered by the Evening Standard.
Computers fight fake news: People are bad at spotting fake news, but maybe computers can do it better. Science News looks at several efforts to use technology to separate fake news from the real stuff.
Millions and millions served: Let’s Encrypt, the Internet Society-sponsored nonprofit certificate authority, has secured more than 100 million websites, the organization has announced. In the last month, more than 24 million websites moved to be secured through HTTPS, Neowin reports.
Blockchain vs. censorship: Chinese Internet users have used blockchain to share a censored news story about faulty vaccines given to babies, The Verge reports. To share the article, interested Chinese readers used the Ethereum blockchain network and pasted the text to a small financial transaction.
The post The Week in Internet News: Facial Recognition IDs Politicians as Criminals appeared first on Internet Society.
In June 2018, in the city of Panamá, a parallel session was organized by the Internet Society during the international meeting of ICANN 62. This session had the aim of promoting a key discussion underlining our digital future: the impacts of technology and the Internet on future jobs.
This article is an outcome of the discussion carried out by a particularly diverse table of young people* from different stakeholder groups that choose the subject of “the future of education” as its central debate point.
The question that drove the debate was: what should basic education look like in the future? This inquiry originates from the fact that the mainstream method presently deployed across the world assumes memorization of information as the most substantial part of the learning experience.
Even schools that attempt diverging methodologies still need to invest in that route to some degree, as the selection processes of most universities and many job opportunities rely on some form of standardized testing.
A glaring problem with this approach, though, is that memorization is something that most machines are incredible at, while most humans can only hold on to a certain amount of information in a reliable manner.
So, why are we so focused on teaching the young how to excel at tasks that will inevitably end up being outsourced to machines in one way or another? This system almost works towards reinforcing the fear we have of being replaced by machines, rather than alleviating it.
With that in mind, one potential path to take is placing more emphasis on a curriculum that teaches and contributes towards the development of what could broadly be defined as Philosophy. Within this far-reaching subject matter lie concepts such as analysis, ethics, law, logic, politics, and other building blocks that assemble the skill we find to be the most necessary for the future of basic education: critical thinking.
Critical thinking is a toolset that enables the understanding of emergent technologies such as Artificial Intelligence as merely tools to achieve our development goals, seeing as the questions that machines set out to answer are invariably made by humans.
Even in a scenario in which a machine generates its own questions, those will still be based on the perception of the humans who code it and on the content of the organic datasets it learns its key concepts and language from.
Several other issues can also be helped along by incentivizing critical thinking. For example, the Internet is becoming so ubiquitous that the dichotomy between online and offline shows clear signs of deterioration. The digital is ceasing to be a layer on top of so-called real life, and is becoming as much a part of it as anything else.
The children born in the realm of the digital do not seem fully aware that online and offline life are one and the same, and that the consequences of what they do virtually are likely to reverberate in the flesh.
How to deliver all of this knowledge, though? The developing world still struggles with the challenge of achieving decent levels of literacy, but it seems more and more like there will be no time to catch up; the world keeps moving ahead at an accelerated pace.
One of the only logical strategies for developing countries is to prioritize digital literacy alongside what we normally understand as literacy. This means, of course, that there needs to be reasonable access to the Internet available, and this task is a collective undertaking that all stakeholders need to participate in to some degree.
In the midst of this competing processes of globalization and digitalization, it is important to remain attentive to the development of better and more efficient policies that are forward-thinking.
As stakeholders of varied specialties, those who are currently involved in global processes such as that of Internet Governance occupy a unique position that enables them to be in contact with diverse points of view and life experiences, and need to carry out more discussions such as these to enable actors to generate informed change within their own spheres of influence.
* The attendees were Salvador Camacho (Intellectual Property), Jennifer Chung (Domain Name industry), Mark Datysgeld (Commercial sector), Jelena Ozegovic (Country Code operator), Isarael Rosas (Government) and Martin Valent (Non-commercial sector).
For an Internet to exist for the good of all people, it must be shaped by each one of us. Learn about Internet Governance and why every voice matters.
The post How to Reform Basic Education for a Digital Future: Views from a Multistakeholder Group appeared first on Internet Society.
Last year, the Internet Society unveiled the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future. The interactive report identifies the drivers affecting tomorrow’s Internet and their impact on Media & Society, Digital Divides, and Personal Rights & Freedoms. In July 2018, we interviewed Giles Rhys Jones to hear his perspective on the forces shaping the Internet.
Giles Rhys Jones is the chief marketing officer at what3words, which has developed an algorithm to convert complex GPS coordinates into unique and memorable three-word addresses; thus becoming the geographical equivalent of an IP address. In doing so, the company is helping to provide addresses to the more than 75% of the world, which still suffers from poor or non-existent addressing, meaning they struggle to open bank accounts, register births, or access basic services like water and electricity. By better or more simply mapping locations, W3W supports social mobility, growth, and development.
The Internet Society: W3W has divided the world into a grid of three-by-three meters and has assigned each square a unique three-word, rather than numbered, address. Where would the Internet Society’s address in Reston, Virginia be if we were to adopt the W3W system?
Giles Rhys Jones: The Internet Society’s front door in Reston is at the W3W address “cone.courier.stuff”. [Other readers can easily check their addresses too.]
Why do we need better location referencing?
W3W was specifically developed because so many parts of the world don’t have addresses. Even in the best-addressed countries in the world, like the UK or Germany, postcodes tend to cover large areas and it can be quite difficult to find a home or business. If, for example, I want to meet someone in a park, or if I have an accident on a hillside, it’s very difficult to specify exactly where I am. So it would also be difficult for, say, emergency services to quickly reach me in case of an accident. We therefore devised the W3W system to be a user-friendly version of GPS (global positioning system) coordinates. GPS, which consists of latitudes and longitudes, is very accurate, but difficult to use. W3W is basically a simple, user-friendly version of GPS coordinates. People can share their W3W address more quickly, more accurately, and with less ambiguity than any other system.
What are the benefits to, for instance, someone who lives on a farm in rural Uganda, like one of our June 2018 Internet Futures interviewees?
If a farmer in rural Uganda wants to specify a pick-up point for produce, or a specific area or part of a field which has a disease, or the exit and entry point to a field, they can do so by simply using three words, often even in their own language. All over the UK, for example, farmers are already using the system to enable them to be more precise about locations on their farmland. Elsewhere, W3W is also being used by police, emergency services, and disaster response teams. It’s been used, for example, to deliver time-sensitive medicine to a specific location in a large hospital when such hospital covers a substantial area but only has one generic address. Besides more specific locations, another benefit of W3W is that it’s addresses are fixed: even if new houses are built, or phones go down, or a disaster hits, no postal address needs to be updated. It still works.
How does W3W as a five-year-old company compete in a tech landscape seemingly dominated by a few tech giants, like Google, Facebook, and Amazon?
W3W doesn’t consider itself a competitor of these companies. The beauty of our solution is that it’s based on code even if we also have an app and a website which enables individuals to use it. Companies are licensing our services and using it to build their own apps. While there are, for example, a number of navigation apps that compete with Google maps, for instance, many of them have purchased a W3W licence and built it into their systems.
In an Internet economy sometimes known for anti-competitive trends, are you concerned about W3W’s concept being copied by competitors?
Our system is pretty complex: even just dividing the world into squares was quite complicated. And then we have teams of linguists who have to consider and test all of the words we use. In addition to these technical parameters and investments, we’ve also had patents granted to protect some of the components of our system. If someone was to try to copy it, there would be legal ramifications.
W3W addresses are available in a range of languages. Can you tell us why you’ve opted to expand beyond English as a primary language?
We believe that everyone should be able to talk about anywhere on the planet in their own language. W3W is already available in 26 languages, and plan to roll out three more later this year. A variety of factors dictate our choice of language, including our business partners, government partners, and the size of relevant populations. This is primarily a business prerogative, but we’re simultaneously changing lives. For the same reason we’ve offered our services to NGOs and intergovernmental organizations such as the Red Cross and UN for free or at a low cost.
How are you ensuring that your services are accessible to all?
The W3W concept has already proven particularly useful for people with disabilities. BlindSquare, for instance, uses our code to enable blind people and people with visual impairments to navigate better. The app describes environments, notifies users of point of interests, and generally helps people travel more independently. We’ve also been involved in other applications and solutions specifically designed to help people with limited mobility and visual or hearing disabilities, for example.
With the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web, distance and location appear to be mattering less, with people at opposite ends of the globe being connected at the click of a button. Do you think location and place matter less or more as Internet coverage expands?
On one hand, we’re becoming more globalised. You can be connected to people thousands of miles away, and can work from anywhere. But on the other hand it’s rather ridiculous that we somehow still have to stand on a street corner and wave down an Uber to tell them which way to go. And this is an issue in most developed countries.
In more developing contexts, we believe you need three things for development: to be connected, to be banked, and to have an address. Without an address, you can’t vote, you can’t get aid, and it’s difficult to get a bank account.
For example, W3W is now being used in Liberia to manage microfinance in some of the informal settlements. Before our partnership, many people had to draw pictures to describe their addresses. We believe an address really enables people to take a first step on the social and economic development ladder.
For this reason, we believe it’s become ever more important to have an accurate access. And street addressing is woefully inadequate for the way we live today – whether you live in London or in Durban.
What are your fears for the future of the Internet? What are your hopes for the future of the Internet?
The Internet economy is facing an exciting time: in a way it’s made it easy to start a business, to grow, to be connected. A number of things limit that growth, and we believe an address is one of those things. In some or the African countries we operate in, there is limited opportunity to scale e-commerce, for example, as you can’t physically deliver to people. This limits growth and the potential we have.
But dominant platforms like Google and Facebook were also startups too. We are pretty ambitious; we want to become a global standard. We want people to see “word.word.word” and immediately recognise it as an address. We want W3W addresses on business cards, for instance. That is our objective.
How do we ensure that the Internet of the future creates opportunity and empowers people? Explore the 2017 Internet Society Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future and read the recommendations to ensure that humanity remains at the center of tomorrow’s Internet.
The post Future Thinking: what3words on IP Addresses for the “Real” World appeared first on Internet Society.