Posted on 14/Dec/2016
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The European Commission has recently launched an initiative on the Next Generation Internet, aiming at looking into the Internet of the future, its opportunities as well as challenges. Jesus Villasante from DG Connect explains what to expect from this initiative.


The Digital Post:  What are the main goals of the initiative? What is it about?


Jesus Villasante: The Internet has become essential in many aspects of our daily life, for work, education and leisure. The future Internet will be even more pervasive, working with and through many different devices and sensors, and will present completely new functions and characteristics. We have launched the Next Generation Internet Initiative because we believe it is the right time to take a fresh look, with a broad and inclusive perspective, involving from the beginning the various stakeholders: from research, technical and business communities to citizens and civil society.

To help us establishing an initiative which has an impact on the evolution of the Internet, a number of preparatory measures have started:

– an open consultation where people can tell us what they expect from the Internet of the future, running until 9 January 2017

– in order to back up the consultation and provide additional information, we have created an open space for conversations, for additional information, background documents and other materials. This is also where we will launch additional discussions on those topics that raise most interest in the consultation, giving people the opportunity to provide more detailed contributions at a later stage.

– a call for support actions has just been launched in the Horizon 2020 research programme (objective ICT-41). The aim is to identify specific research topics and to create an ecosystem of relevant stakeholders.


TDP: What are the main concerns regarding the future of the Internet?

JV: The Internet becomes more and more important for people and for every economic or societal activity. It creates new business opportunities and new ways for social interaction, from the local to the global scale. Many Internet developments have surpassed any expectations in terms of benefits for citizens and economy. And yet, there are some reasons for concern about further progress. For example citizens lack of control on their own personal data or restrictions on Internet access because of geographical, economic or cultural reasons. These are areas that we need to work on and improve the current situation.


TDP: What are the further opportunities and benefits it could bring?

JV: The future Internet should overcome the shortcomings of today’s Internet. It should provide better services, allow for greater involvement and stimulate participation of people in areas such as public life and decision-making. Only if the future Internet is designed for humans it can meet its full potential for society and economy.

Just an example: today, many Europeans are still reluctant to do their financial transactions online. Fraud, data skimming or other security pitfalls make them hesitate. The Next Generation Internet Initiative should take a fresh look at this type of issues and offer new and reliable technological solutions. It should be designed for people, so that it can meet its full potential for society and economy and reflect the social and ethical values that we enjoy in our societies.


TDP: What is the right approach the EU should take to shape the developments of the Net and not being left behind?

JV: There are three crucial aspects:

First of all, the scope of the Next Generation Internet Initiative should be multi-disciplinary. This means we should address various technological questions and topics, ranging from interoperability to broadband. Also, we need to use more the various technological opportunities arising from advances in research fields such as network architectures, software-defined infrastructures and augmented reality.

Secondly, I think that whatever approach the EU takes, it needs to reflect the European social and ethical values: free, open and more interoperable, yet respecting privacy. Only when we are able to reflect these values on the Net, the future Internet can release its full potential and provide better services, more intelligence, greater involvement and participation.

Last but not least, we should get more people on board for this initiative. There are 615 million Internet users in Europe and many more worldwide which need to have a say in this. The shape of the Next Generation Internet Initiative is not decided behind closed doors, on the contrary: we want to reach out to the brilliant minds with excellent ideas. It is them and that community that can help us to move forward with this ambitious initiative. Of course the evolution of the Internet will be a global endeavour, but Europe shall make a decisive contribution for a better Internet.


Picture credits: Salvatore Vastano 
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