• Future of the Internet

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    The problem with “the seven keys”

    From time to time, articles are published about "the seven people who control the keys to the Internet.” These articles, while probably well-intentioned, are completely incorrect. Let’s be absolutely clear: there are no keys that cause the Internet t [read more]
    byDavid Conrad | 02/Mar/20174 min read
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    From time to time, articles are published about “the seven people who control the keys to the Internet.” These articles, while probably well-intentioned, are completely incorrect. Let’s be absolutely clear: there are no keys that cause the Internet to function (or not to function)

    ICANN will hold its next public meeting in Copenhagen on 11-16 March 2017. More information here.

    The so-called “keys to the Internet” only relate to one function, and even then, they can only be used in extremely narrow circumstances. It is important to understand what these keys do, to see why they do not control the Internet.

    First and foremost, the keys being talked about belong to just one single part of the Internet – the mechanism for authenticating the data in the domain name system (DNS), called DNSSEC.

    It is based on a hierarchy of cryptographic keys starting at the root of the DNS. The cryptographic keys for the root of the DNS are managed by ICANN.

    These cryptographic keys are kept in two secure facilities over 4,000 kilometers apart, and are protected with multiple layers of physical security such as building guards, cameras, monitored cages and safes.

    The innermost layer of physical security is a specialized device called a hardware security module (HSM), which stores the actual cryptographic keys. An HSM resists physical tampering, for example, if someone attempts to open the device or even drops it, the HSM erases all the keys it stores to prevent compromise. ICANN keeps two HSMs at each facility.

    The root zone cryptographic key cannot be used outside an HSM. The system that has been designed to operate an HSM requires many people to be present.

    Some of these people are technical community members from around the world, known as Trusted Community Representatives, and others are ICANN staff. Each person has a specific role in activating the HSM, which happens in a regular event we call a “key ceremony.”

    But what if some event rendered the HSMs inoperable (e.g., a catastrophic bug in the firmware)? Even this extremely unlikely scenario needs a recovery plan, so ICANN keeps a backup for each root key, in a highly encrypted form, in a safe at each secure facility.

    If something happened to all four HSMs, ICANNcould buy a new HSM from the same manufacturer and restore the root keys using the backup. In this scenario, our security policy requires additional Trusted Community Representatives be present to restore the backups that ICANN holds.

    This is where many of the articles talking about “the keys to the Internet” get the story wrong. The Trusted Community Representatives are each given a physical key (some are metallic, others are smart cards) that is used during a key ceremony. The type of physical key depends on their specific role.

    Some Trusted Community Representatives are selected as “Cryptographic Officers” that activate HSMs during routine ceremonies. Others are selected as “Recovery Key Share Holders” that activate the backup in the disaster recovery scenario.

    In both instances, the physical key these representatives hold is only used to activate materials that are stored within the secure facility, and do not contain the root zone’s cryptographic keys. By themselves, and without having access to ICANN’s secure facilities, the keys cannot be used to access the protected root key.

    For that to happen, the representatives would all have to be inside the secure facility and the safe holding the backup smart cards would have to be open. Unless all the multiple layers of physical security fail, that scenario can only happen during a planned key ceremony.

    The other problem with the story about the keys is that the Internet is much more than DNSSEC. The Internet consists of many different systems, and the DNS is just one of them. Controlling one aspect of the Internet, such as DNSSEC, does not lead to full control of other aspects.

    So, the next time you read about “seven people who control the keys to the Internet,” you’ll know that the Trusted Community Representatives perform a valuable service, but for a very limited operation.

     

    Picture credit: TiBine

     

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  • Telecoms

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    The competition vs investments debate jeopardises EU leadership opportunities in 5G

    EU leadership on 5G will depend on the ability of policy makers to think out-of-the-box, and beyond old debates. Instead, they should keep focusing on universal, technology neutral and future proof principles. On 26th January, the industry and research c [read more]
    byFederico Poggi | 14/Feb/20173 min read
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    EU leadership on 5G will depend on the ability of policy makers to think out-of-the-box, and beyond old debates. Instead, they should keep focusing on universal, technology neutral and future proof principles.

    On 26th January, the industry and research committee (ITRE) of the European Parliament organised the first hearing on the future of electronic communications following the legislative proposals tabled by the European Commission in September last year.

    Listening to the discussion it emerged clearly that the debate is increasingly heating up and that, at least when it comes to the future of pro-competitive access measures, two clear opposite camps are shaping up: on one side, consumers, alternative telecom operators and regulators (BEREC) that ask to maintain the pro-competitive framework that guaranteed high  broadband performances and low prices in most EU countries for the last 15 years; and, on the other side, dominant telcos (ETNO and GSMA) and some financial institutions such as HSBC loudly advocating for a deregulatory agenda that would grant higher profits to few selected players and for their investors.

    Connected to this policy fight there is a much more strategic ongoing battle, the one on the future of 5G and on the way to ensure EU leadership in the development of this emerging technology. How 5G will finally develop and what will actually deliver is not consensual yet.

    A recent study recently published by the European Parliament precisely on this topic raises several concerns and affirms that established telcos are trying to steer current and future 5G policies towards a precise scenario, i.e. 5G as the new generation of mobile communications based on exclusive spectrum licenses (just like 3G and 4G). In this model/scenario only few players share the consumer market for faster and more reliable mobile communications.

    But 5G could mean much more than this. The goal that Europe could set for itself is that 5G will finally enable full convergence between fixed and mobile data communication services. On top of this seamless connectivity any provider should be able to create and offer new services, that is the emergence of totally new and innovative platform.

    In order to do this, it is essential that policy makers think out-of-the-box in an open manner and that, with this view, they refrain from defining rules today that could set development of 5G on an old path. Policy makers should keep focused on universal, technology neutral and future proof principles.

    In this respect competition has played in the past and will play in the future as enabler of innovation and of investments. A pro-competitive framework in terms of access to spectrum resources combined with well-studied regime for spectrum sharing where possible will be crucial to give to Europe its much desired leadership in 5G.

     

    Picture credit: Andrew J. Russell

     

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  • Innovation

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    Why a crackdown on fake news is a bad idea

    Attempts to censor alleged "fake news" on the Internet will backfire massively. The main stream media and main stream politicians should rather make a better effort to convince people. The internet is open to them too. One of the promises of the internet [read more]
    byŽiga Turk | 09/Feb/20178 min read
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    Attempts to censor alleged “fake news” on the Internet will backfire massively. The main stream media and main stream politicians should rather make a better effort to convince people. The internet is open to them too.

    One of the promises of the internet has been that it will bring about better democracy (here and here, for example). Even before the web was invented, Vannevar Bush, the creator of the hypertext concept and the Memex machine expected that science and information will lead to a better society (source).

    Since 1990s, when those ideas started to materialize, everybody saw that the internet was vastly increasing the access to information and the ease of connecting people.

    The conventional wisdom has been that better informed citizens would be making better political decisions and that the more connected people will also be forging a more tightly connected society. This would both lead to e- (for electronic) or i- (for internet) democracy.

     

    The peak of eDemocracy

    In retrospect, it would appear that the peak eDemocracy optimism was reached in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama as the president of the United States.

    His was one of the first campaigns where the internet played a major – some would say decisive – role. Facebooks’ revolutions, Ukrainan and Arab Springs, reinforced the hope in the positive change that information technology can bring to the world.

    Social media like blogs, Facebook and Twitter were the heroes of the day. Revolutions were won on Twitter and dictators toppled on Facebook.

    And then Brexit and Trump won. No longer are the social media the heroes of the day. On the contrary. The internet is now blamed for results that were not what the main stream media and the intelligentsia recommended.

    There is an old saying that goes, “On the internet no one knows you are a dog”. On Facebook no one knows your news company has a skyscraper on Manhattan or offices on Fleet Street.

    You could be a teenager in Macedonia or an independent writing for Breitbart News or an anonymous blogger. The internet would carry your messages in exactly the same way as if you were a “proper” media.

    Social Networks would disseminate news based on enthusiasm of readers’ recommendations, not based on pedigree.

     

    Brexit and Trump

    For the first time people’s opinions were largely shaped by their peers not by professional opinion makers and thought leaders. We, the people, were the gatekeepers, not the main stream media.

    Greener’s Law – don’t argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel – was proven wrong. It is a version of a saying “you don’t argue with children or the journalists”. The first would in the end throw a stone into your window, the journalist would always have the last word.

    Trump was able to wage a frontal war with main stream media and was able to win it. On the Internet, the social media has the last word.

    Ending up in the losing side, the main stream media invented excuses and concepts such as fake news and post truth. It had the opposite effect.

    People were reminded, on the internet, that it was the old media that has been biased and openly colluded with one of the sides in the UK referendum and US elections. News from main stream media was labelled “fake news” too, just as was from the new media.

     

    Internet as a threat

    For the main stream media and main stream politics the internet suddenly fell of grace – it is not a tool of human rights and democracy any more. Free and open internet is not seen as an asset of our democracy but a threat.

    Politicians, particularly in Europe, are speaking openly about the threat that Facebook and other social media are for democracy. They are calling for the regulation of social networks (Germany, France, EU).

    They would like to ban fake news and make sure that only the properly verified content can be spread by the users. It is tragic to see how happy the internet companies are to comply (Facebook), instead of standing firm and not letting any form of censorship interfere with the free exchange of ideas on their networks.

    The established politics and media cannot afford that democratic procedures – with the help of social networks – bring about a wrong result again. In 2017 there will be very important elections in France and Germany and the anxiety is understandable.

    But calling results of a democratic election or a referendum wrong is the essence of a failed understanding of democracy and of the impacts of internet on democracy. That it causes wrong results. That democracy reaches wrong decisions.

    What happened to the maxim that “in a democracy the people are always right”?

     

    Friction free democracy

    Bill Gates famously said that the essential contribution of the internet is that it reduces friction in the economy. That it brings buyers and sellers closer together and is providing more information about each other.

    The same that was said about the economic market can be said about the political market. There is less friction between the will of the people and politics. There is more information about the people and about politicians.

    It would be wrong to re-introduce friction – with measures that are essentially censorship by some kind of an Orwellian ministry of truth. In Germany an organization called Correctiv will be telling what is the Truth and what is not. In France a panel of old media representatives will be doing the same.

    I have no doubt in the good intentions of all that. As I have no doubt that the social media companies are playing along not because of good intentions but because of business interests.

    I am just afraid that it will backfire. Backfire massively. And the stakes are simply too high. The very existence of the European Union is hanging by the thread of the French elections. And with the existence of the European Union the existence of European Civilization. It can’t be protected by former superpowers individually.

     

    Use the level playing field

    Instead of shaping the internet according to their wishes, the main stream media and main stream politicians should make a better effort to convince people. The internet is open to them too.

    They will need to do better than calling someone a fascist or a populist. The net should be used to debate issues not exchange labels and hashtags. It should be used to argue. To speak to people’s fears and dreams. This is not populism, this is democracy.

    Will we get a wrong result? When asked if the French Revolution was a positive or a negative event in history, chairman Mao answered that it may be too early to tell.

    This may be a post truth story but it helps introduced my point. Which is, it may be too early to tell if Brexit was wrong. I think it was a mistake. But I also think blaming the internet for it is a mistake as well. And drawing policy decisions from this wrong diagnosis would lead to even graver mistakes.

    The internet is making democracy more challenging and open. Having friends and support in main stream media is not enough anymore.

    People, not just journalists, are gatekeepers and they need to be convinced. So let’s stop bashing Facebook, let’s stop blaming Russian hackers, lets scrap the ideas for censorship of social networks. Let’s stand for the freedom of speech with includes freedom to fake news!

    The so called populists thrive on “us” vs. “them” narrative. People have sympathy for the underdogs. They elected Trump and chose Brexit against the better advice of the dominant speech in the main stream media.

    If that domination spreads to the social media as well, the job of “populists” would only be easier. Whole internet cannot be controlled. Somewhere they will read how unfair the battle of their David against the enemies’ Goliath is.

     

    Fake news neutrality

    Out societies need more trust. And that means trusting people that they will be able to distinguish between true and fake themselves. And trust the idea that true can win over fake without tilting the playing field against the fake.

    Let’s trust in the power of true and the weakness of fake enough to keep the internet and the social networks “fake news” neutral and open to all.

     

    Picture credit: AlexaGrace8495

     

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  • Data Economy

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    Why the EU struggle to regulate data protection should continue

    All parties and stakeholders should continue to work hand in hand for high data protection's standards all over Europe and generate the trust that is needed to reap the benefits that the digital revolution can provide. The biggest lie on the Internet is [read more]
    byFiona Fanning | 01/Feb/20175 min read
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    All parties and stakeholders should continue to work hand in hand for high data protection’s standards all over Europe and generate the trust that is needed to reap the benefits that the digital revolution can provide.

    The biggest lie on the Internet is ‘I have read and understand the Terms and Conditions’. At best one briefly scans a document that would otherwise make for a long and tedious read in legalese, especially for a non-English speaker.

    In truth, no one really reads the fine print. To be perfectly blunt, who has the time – or desire – to ponder over a lengthy legal document in order to obtain access to a service or app?

    Yet service providers continually ply us with their increasingly invasive privacy policy conditions. We are left with no choice but to accept them. The options are clear: ‘take it or leave it’. This is particularly dangerous in the realm of e-government, e-banking and e-commerce.

    Users of these services often have no other alternative. But by accepting their terms, they weaken the control they have over their own data. It is unclear whether these conditions are always lawful and proportional.

    Furthermore, users are obliged to accept regular updates. Previously, one had the option of installing them or not, but not anymore.

    These obligatory updates occasionally lead to critical problems and after an update, users must verify their privacy settings, as changes can be made without explicit notification. To make matters worse, public authorities sometimes ask us to use these technologies to interact with them.

    Actions can and should be taken to protect European users. New ICT technologies should guarantee the privacy of potential users prior to their introduction. Effective privacy enforcement should be guaranteed by demanding privacy by design and fostered by mechanisms that prevent the unnecessary collection of data.

    The handling of personal data should be more transparent. Companies should collaborate on these issues, and regulation should define what minimum level of security is reasonable.

    In addition, appropriate levels of security should be insured by the reliable implementation of updates. New data protection mechanisms should also be introduced to prevent the domination of major service providers’ stringent privacy policy conditions.

    A number of alternative approaches are possible.

    Prior to the introduction of new operating systems, services and applications, a certificate of conformity as proof of compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation and national Data Protection Acts could be required. A permanent independent group of experts could be established to execute mandatory checks.

    Service providers could adopt a more preventive approach. The existing opt-out approach could be replaced with an opt-in model, whereby the transfer of personal data is explicitly authorised by the user and default settings initially prevent such a transfer.

    Service providers could clearly inform users what data is transmitted and guarantee that none will be without their explicit authorisation. They should also ensure that third parties cannot obtain this data.

    The European Commission’s recent proposal to introduce new legislation to guarantee privacy in electronic communications is a step in the right direction.

    But all parties and stakeholders should work hand in hand to protect consumers and companies and generate the trust that is needed to reap the benefits that the digital revolution can provide. Together let us stop the biggest lie on the Internet.

    Read the CEPIS Statement “Critical technological dependency requires a revised privacy policy of major service providers

     

    Picture credits: InsideOut Project

     

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  • Telecoms

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    Is Donald Trump (at last) waking up to the reality of digital markets?

    Donald Trump’s willingness to change his stance against the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger is a sign of realism. US President should take a clear position in favor of the country's digital industry. This is the only possible approach if the US is [read more]
    byAndrea Giuricin | 27/Jan/20176 min read
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    Donald Trump’s willingness to change his stance against the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger is a sign of realism. US President should take a clear position in favor of the country’s digital industry. This is the only possible approach if the US is to maintain its leadership in the digital market.

    President Trump demonstrated a welcome realism towards the economy last week, declaring that he had not yet “seen any of the facts” regarding the risk of monopoly associated with the merger between AT&T and Time Warner.

    The new US President put the US Telco operator’s offer for the TV market leader under the spotlight in October during a campaign speech in which he warned about the risk to competition linked with creating a group that was too big.

    While this type of risk is a significant factor to consider in a liberal economy such as the US, it is important to understand what “too big” actually means in the telecoms and digital market.

    If we look at the new digital market, which includes huge internet groups (Google), logistics groups (Amazon), content producers (Netflix) as well as traditional telcos and TV operators, it is easy to see that the definition of “too big” has dramatically changed.

    Today we must understand that competition is not confined to a single country, but that we have a real global digital market.

    When AT&T bought DirecTV it was clear that the Americas was being treated as a single area, but it is equally easy to understand that an OTT such as Netflix aims to reach a global market.

    The latest financial results of Netflix underlines this, showing that the non-US markets will soon form the largest part of its revenues.

    The competition in the digital market is not just vertical (Google enters several markets), but it is more and more horizontal in terms of geography. There is a new challenge, clearly recognized and outlined by President Trump: the rise of Chinese companies.

    The two leading countries in terms of the number of mobile connections are China and India, with over 1 billion subscribers each. Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping advocated for an open economy and the end of protectionism at the World Economic Forum. It was a nice speech, but in reality Chinese competition is difficult to fight given the many barriers to entry in its market.

    The big players from China are targeting digital markets globally with companies such as Alibaba or WeChat operating in a number of markets, not just in Asia but worldwide.  It is becoming clear that operators such as AT&T in fact risk becoming too small to compete on this global stage..

    So, would the merger between AT&T and Time Warner create too large a player?

    AT&T realized several years ago that it was impossible to compete in a digital market without content. The decision to buy Time Warner following DirecTV is the right strategy to ensure continued competitiveness in a global world, especially when considering the expanding Chinese companies.

    President Trump’s outlook on the economy is clear and it should lead to him taking a position in favor of US operators. This is the only possible approach if the US is to maintain its leadership in the digital market together with the high value-added jobs associated with it.

    To make America great again, the US needs realism from its President on this AT&T and Time Warner deal.

     

    Picture credits: Jack Skipworth
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  • Innovation

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    Why digital skills are the currency of future societies

    One of the key instruments we need to boost digital skills are partnerships on all levels and between all stakeholders - business, schools universities, research centres and the institutions. "A remarkable new invention can’t transform society until so [read more]
    byEva Paunova | 10/Jan/20173 min read
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    One of the key instruments we need to boost digital skills are partnerships on all levels and between all stakeholders – business, schools universities, research centres and the institutions.

    “A remarkable new invention can’t transform society until society has learned how to use it effectively”, writes Ryan Avent who is the economics editor of the Economist and together with whom we took part in a key event that launched the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition.

    The Coalition is a tiny little revolution within the digital revolution that marks the understanding of all business sectors, and not only the ICT companies, that digital skills are the currency of the future societies.

    According to predictions made by the International Data Corporation, by 2020, 50 percent of the G2000 (The Forbes Global 2000 is an annual ranking of the top 2,000 public companies in the world by Forbes magazine) will see that the majority of their business depend on their ability to create digitally enhanced products, services, and experiences.

    Additionally, by year-end 2017, over 70 percent of the G500 will have dedicated digital transformation and innovation teams.

    Already today, 70% of all jobs require at least moderate levels of digital skills – a number that will raise up to 90% in the coming few years.

    In this situation the worst we can do is to leave education systems alone in supplying new, skilled labour force for the current demand.

    That is why one of the instruments we need are partnerships on all levels and between all stakeholders – business, schools universities, research centres and the institutions.

    As we have experienced in the past, labour markets can sustain a lot of digital disruption. Nobody was in favour of innovations back in the day when the industrial revolution was happening.

    Although some industries were worse off, those who did innovate back then, were the ones who later were in need of new type of labour force.

    This new demand made people start skilling up themselves and applying for the new type of work. This is why I think we need to invest in skills and partnerships between businesses, schools and universities and policy-makers, so we align the supply and demand of skilled workers. This is the way we can make the best out of the occurring transition.

     

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  • Future of the Internet

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    The Internet Governance Forum enters its second decade

    The 10-year extension of the IGF mandate is a testament to the IGF’s significant evolution over the past decade as the leading global forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues. What's next? As the Internet continues to evolve at breakneck speed, [read more]
    byNigel Hickson | 21/Dec/20166 min read
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    The 10-year extension of the IGF mandate is a testament to the IGF’s significant evolution over the past decade as the leading global forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues. What’s next?

    As the Internet continues to evolve at breakneck speed, many critical issues still need to be addressed. A major area is Internet governance. This broad realm encompasses both governance of the Internet (essentially the business of ICANN and other technical organizations) and governance on the Internet (a range of issues affecting services and content, such as privacy and cybersecurity).

    Last year, the U.N. General Assembly approved the renewal of the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) for another 10 years. Born in Tunis at the end of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the IGF has evolved to serve as the leading global forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues. Since the first forum in 2016, the IGF has been an annual event.

    The IGF now gathers a growing number of experts from academia, civil society, governments, industry and the technical community. Traditional topics of Internet governance involve setting rules, standards, policies and providing technical support so that the world can be connected on the global Internet. Going beyond the technical issues, the IGF also deals with complex social, economic and transnational issues related to the use of the Internet.

    Getting to where we are today has been both a challenging and rewarding journey that is still in progress.

    The IGF has gone through times of skepticism about both its continued existence and its ability to fulfill its mandate. Over time, the IGF has gradually expanded beyond its narrow circle as a “discussion only” forum to include processes that can produce tangible and useful outcomes, seen in the Best Practices Forums (BPF) and the Dynamic Coalitions. The 10-year extension of the IGF mandate is a testament to the IGF’s significant evolution over the past decade.

    Earlier this month, over 2000 participants from 83 countries came together in Guadalajara, Mexico, with hundreds more participating remotely, to attend the 11th IGF meeting, the first since the mandate’s renewal.

    As in previous years, ICANN’s Board directors, community leaders and senior staff attended the IGF. But unlike past years, the role of ICANN and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions did not take center stage in Guadalajara.

    This is thanks to the Internet community that worked hard over the past few years to finalize the transition of the U.S. Government’s stewardship of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community. Instead, this year’s debate was focused on lessons learned from the IANA transition as a recent and successful example of a multistakeholder process in action.

    With over 200 sessions, the 2016 IGF agenda covered the standard topics of Internet governance such as access, diversity, privacy and cybersecurity; plus more current issues related to online trade, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Links between SDGs, Internet governance and the IGF figured strongly on the agenda, with a main session and several other workshops organized on this topic. A common sentiment this year was that the IGF should focus more on the SDGs; a stance that was conveyed clearly during the “Taking Stock” session on the last day.

    ICANN’s participation at IGF 2016 was led by CEO Göran Marby and Board Chair Stephen Crocker. Primary objectives were to emphasize the successful IANA stewardship transition as an example of how ICANN’s multistakeholder processes work, and to encourage participation in the ongoing work of ICANN’s Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees.

    ICANN’s goals are to continue supporting the multistakeholder model in Internet governance and contributing to global policy discourse with all interested parties – activities that are within ICANN’s mission and scope.

    On the day before the event, ICANN organized a town hall session to reflect on the evolution of ICANN’s multistakeholder processes using the IANA stewardship transition as a case study. Presenters sought views from participants on their experiences with ICANN and how they envisage the challenges ahead.

    In addition, ICANN community and organization staff planned and conducted workshops and roundtable discussions on a variety of topics such as the IANA transition, the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) Program, the role of noncommercial users in ICANN, law enforcement in the online world, and Asia and the next billion Internet users.

    So, what’s next?

    Geneva will host the 2017 IGF next December, and already discussions about strategic focus are underway. Holding the event in Geneva, the second home of the U.N. and to 192 government missions, may boost the participation of governments from developing countries and of non-U.S. businesses, both issues at Guadalajara.

    The IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) will meet early in the new year to determine the focus for the 2017 IGF. At the top of the agenda will be how to deal with the call made by many in Guadalajara for more attention to meeting the targets of the SDGs. No doubt, the MAG may want to concentrate on other issues like human rights and global trade accords.

    After all, the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is based there. Once the focus is set, preparatory work can begin for the Geneva IGF.

    All in all, 2017 will be an interesting year in furthering key goals in Internet governance.

     

    Picture credits: kvitlauk
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  • Innovation

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    The road to inclusion in Europe is digital

    As increasing number of services and consumers go digital, the social and economic cost of financial exclusion is likely to increase exponentially if governments together with the private sector do not address this issue with speed. Encouragingly, positiv [read more]
    byAnn Cairns | 16/Dec/20163 min read
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    As increasing number of services and consumers go digital, the social and economic cost of financial exclusion is likely to increase exponentially if governments together with the private sector do not address this issue with speed. Encouragingly, positive steps are being taken at EU and national levels.

     

    For too long financial inclusion has been considered an issue which mainly affects the developing world. In fact, according to recent Mastercard research, over 130 million people are unbanked or underbanked across Europe[1].

    When individuals and small businesses cannot participate in the financial system and as a result transact exclusively in cash, a significant amount of wealth is stored outside of the financial system, making credit scarce and expensive. Individuals and economic growth suffer.

    In Europe, the financially excluded are not always those we think they are. Mastercard’s The road to inclusion 2016 study found that more than one in eight of the financially excluded have lived in the same country all their lives. A third is employed full time and 35% are aged 18-34.

    As a socially responsible business, Mastercard recognises the role it can play in driving inclusive growth by addressing this challenge. Across the globe we are sharing our digital payments expertise with governments and others with the aim of reaching 500 million excluded people by 2020.

    This is key as access to technology via smartphones among the financially excluded has increased significantly from 29% to 49% over the past 3 years and interest in mobile banking has more than doubled over the same period.

    Business has a role to play, but governments must provide leadership. Encouragingly, steps are being taken at EU and national levels. In 2014, the EU adopted the Payment Accounts Directive, which aimed to achieve greater financial inclusion.

    This translated into the right to a basic bank account – which is to be enshrined in national law across Europe. Basic current accounts must be guaranteed for every person in Europe.

    By taking a lead on tackling exclusion and unlocking growth in this way, policy is likely to have a positive effect on people’s lives and government revenues.

    The global digital economy is flourishing, and it relies on electronic payments to enable businesses, governments and individuals to connect. However, as an increasing number of services and consumers go digital the social and economic cost of financial exclusion is likely to increase exponentially if governments together with the private sector do not address this issue with speed.

     

     

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  • Future of the Internet

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    How the EU plans to shape the ‘Internet of tomorrow’

    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 ini [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 14/Dec/20165 min read
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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?

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    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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  • Innovation

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    Unleashing digital skills in the 4th industrial revolution

    Making sure that labour markets are fair and function properly today and tomorrow is at the heart of the debate that is taking place across Europe. To succeed in the transition towards a digitalised economy, we need to improve our skills systems. The wor [read more]
    byMarianne Thyssen | 08/Dec/20163 min read
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    Making sure that labour markets are fair and function properly today and tomorrow is at the heart of the debate that is taking place across Europe. To succeed in the transition towards a digitalised economy, we need to improve our skills systems.

    The world of work is transforming. Across Europe, many fear that increasing automation and digitally-powered business models will destroy jobs and put workers in a race against machines.

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    I believe however that digitalisation, if steered correctly towards our principle of social fairness, can be a force for better quality work, unleashing higher productivity and helping to finance more and better social security. Data shows that most of our workplaces have improved.

    Many jobs have become more interesting and engaging. And, the share of workers receiving paid training grew from 26% to 38% in 10 years. Of course, this is essential because during the same period, the share of workers who declare that they face complex tasks at work increased by a corresponding 50%.

    These additional opportunities are real – however, new forms of work can also be linked to lower and less predictable incomes. And while young people may be quick to embrace new flexible forms, they too – like the generations that came before – share the aspiration to progress towards stable careers and incomes that enable them to lead independent lives. We need to be alert to the risk of fragmented and unfair practices.

    An immediate risk is the gap between ‘great jobs’ and ‘lousy jobs’.  Automation and digitisation are likely to accelerate such polarisation.

    To address these divides, we need to make our labour markets places where workers and employers feel safe to take risks. We need to support smooth transitions on the labour market, whether from job to job, to self-employment or to further training.

    To succeed in transitions, we need to improve our skills systems. The Commission has put forward in the New Skills Agenda a proposal for better skills intelligence – understanding skills bottlenecks and anticipating needs, including through stronger business-education partnerships. Education needs to be more responsive to labour market needs.

    Moreover, the European Commission’s work on a “European Pillar of Social Rights” is an important contribution to addressing challenges of the digital economy by trying to anticipate and influence new trends.

    Is the European social model fit for purpose for the 21st century? And how can we make the European social model future-proof? Making sure that labour markets are fair and function properly today and tomorrow is at the heart of this debate that is taking place across Europe until the end of the year and I look forward to the European Young Innovators Forum’s contributions before I launch proposals next year!

    The article was initially published on www.unconvention.eu.

    Picture credits: Jan
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