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Towards a free, open and secure Internet

Samia Melhem's picture
Photo: Free Press/flickr
The world is becoming more digitized, interconnected and dependent on the Internet for opportunities and economic growth. Today, there are 7.4 billion cellular phone subscriptions in the world, which means citizens of the poorest countries can access cell phones more easily than toilets and sanitation.
 
The Internet of Things (IoT), which brings in the promises (and perils) of totally interconnected devices, is already mainstreamed in our everyday lives, with sensor-equipped cars, phones, utility meters and even houses. Our refrigerators, equipped with sensors, are making decisions for us, based on their capacity to analyze data and execute embedded algorithms related to dietary needs.
 
But how can these advances help ensure more free, open, secure and empowering connectivity rather than a host of undesirable side effects?
 
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – which surveys the ICT sector on an annual basis through a formal survey involving regulators, operators and original equipment manufacturers – the Internet of Things (IoT) is currently composed of 25 billion connected devices around the world. According to the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this number will grow to 50 billion devices worldwide by 2020.  These devices collect vast amounts of information on industrial, organizational and personal behavior, and gathers users’ preferences that can be leveraged to improve delivery of products and services, health, education, entertainment and shopping.
 
Therefore, IoT will bring important socio-economic advantages to those connected – but without guidance, proper policies, legislation and globally adopted codes of conduct (“netiquette” as we used to call it), it could also bring a range of challenges.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Watchdogs Under Watch: Media in the Age of Cyber Surveillance
Center for International Media Assistance
The report looks at the implications that electronic surveillance–of e-mail communications, telephone calls, visits to websites, online shopping, and even the physical whereabouts of individuals–presents for privacy and for freedom of expression and association on the one hand and for national security and law enforcement on the other. Striking the right balance between these fundamental human rights and the need for governments to protect their citizens poses a daunting challenge for policy makers, civil society, news media, and, in the end, just about everybody.

Measuring what policymakers want from academics
Washington Post
An increasing number of unsupported, but plausible, claims assert a widening gap between the policy and academic communities in international relations. Certainly both IR scholars and IR practitioners perceive a growing gap between the academic and policy communities. But how would we know if there were an actual gap and whether it was growing or shrinking? Scholars have addressed this question by drawing upon personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Joe Nye and Steve Walt have argued that academic research is increasingly irrelevant and inaccessible to policy practitioners. Others, such as Peter Feaver and Mike Horowitz, offer a more qualified take but provide no systematic evidence. So we still need to do what Kate Weaver has suggested: “mind — and measure — the gap” between what scholars are researching and what policymakers are demanding.
 

New Study Offers Us Fresh Insights into the Attitudes and Behaviors of Online Users in the Middle East

CGCS's picture

Damian Radcliffe outlines a new report from Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology on internet behaviors in the Middle East. To read the full report, click here

Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) published a new full length study on the attitudes and behaviors of internet users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The 20,000 word study benchmarks the experience of the online population in the region against global users in five key areas: access to technology, attitudes towards the internet, levels of concern, trust in online actors, and user behaviors—demonstrating in the process that, despite clear cultural considerations, MENA is not an outlier.

In fact, compared to their global counterparts, online users in the Middle East are among the most enthusiastic commentators about the positive impact that the internet has on their lives.

Quote of the Week: Philip Stephens

Sina Odugbemi's picture

So what follows, Snowden? On the evidence so far, not a great deal. The biggest heist in the history of intelligence was supposed to change the world – to expose the calumnies of the secret state and redraw the boundaries in favour of individual liberty. For all the sound and fury, little has changed.”

- Philip Stephens, associate editor and chief political commentator of  the Financial Times.

Multilateral Cooperation in Promoting a Safe and Secure Global Internet

Natalija Gelvanovska's picture

At the end of October I was attending the annual meeting of Internet Governance Forum 2013. As you may know, it is the biggest forum worldwide discussing Internet issues (over 100 countries and 1500 participants this year). The IGF embodies “multi-stakeholderism” which serves to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet. While there is no negotiated outcome, the IGF informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors.