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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.

Reflections on the future of legal identity

Mariana Dahan's picture
What is “legal identity” and what might its future hold? This was the question discussed at the Future of Legal Identity Colloquium in The Hague, Netherlands last week.

At this workshop, a variety of social scientists, historians, policy researchers and development practitioners examined the various forms of civil registration and identification currently used and introduced around the world. Participants considered the opportunities and implications of the choices that poor states, in particular, currently face.

An interesting outcome of these eclectic discussions was the need to disentangle the terms “legal identity,” “citizenship,” “identification,” “registration” and “ID documentation.” This will not only allow the international community to properly understand the development problems we are seeking to address, but also help to better identify the ways to achieve them.

Indeed, in some limited respects, people possess a legal identity whether or not they are registered — for example, a criminal suspect’s right to get a lawyer or to remain silent.  Registration, in turn, may not be an entitlement to citizenship. Many countries still see citizenship as based on local or clan-based knowledge and personal attestation.

The number of people with indeterminate citizenship in Africa is probably far larger than the number of stateless people now identified. Sophisticated ID programs cannot resolve such questions and may exacerbate the difficulties of those excluded.  They need to be preceded by political dialogue and, where necessary, legal reforms to reduce the risk of exclusion. An understanding that legal identity exists in many forms encourages us to first ask which legal identity/identities we are seeking to advance and for what developmental ends[1] .

Exploring Digital India's transformative plans

Rajendra Kumar's picture
In August 2014, the Government of India approved Digital India, an ambitious national program aimed at transforming India into a knowledge economy and making government services more efficient and available to all citizens electronically. Over the next three years, the program envisions a national optical fiber network will connect thousands of India’s most distant gram panchayats — village-level governments — with a total population of more than 800 million.

This infrastructure will support government reform and change the way services are delivered. It is also expected that the program will help create thousands of new IT jobs, give a boost to the domestic manufacturing of electronics and, as a spin-off effect, lead to emergence of new services and flourishing e-commerce.
India’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) is the agency that help develop and now is driving the implementation of this transformative agenda. We asked Dr. Rajendra Kumar, Joint Secretary for e-Government, to tell us more about Digital India, the challenges this program is meant to address and the solutions that are envisaged. Read Dr. Kumar’s selected responses below, and click here to download the full version of the interview.

Digital India, the ambitious initiative of the Indian Government, aims to bridge digital divide and bring high-speed Internet and government services to the rural and underprivileged parts of the country by 2019. What are the key development challenges that Digital India is addressing and why was investment in ICTs chosen as the main solution?

India is sitting on the cusp of a big information technology (IT) revolution. We have to leverage our massive Indian talent and information and communication technologies (ICTs) as growth engines for a better India tomorrow. This is embodied in the following statement: IT (Indian Talent) + IT (Information Technology) = IT (India Tomorrow).

Baltički autoput podataka: Kada ćemo mi imati balkanski?

Natalija Gelvanovska's picture
Izvor fotografije: Data Logistics Center
Pre par meseci su Estonija, Letonija i Litvanija završile petogodišnju gradnju Baltičkog autoputa – kičme širokopojasne mreže koja koristi prednosti postojećih optičkih kablova koji poseduju tri baltička energetska postrojenja. Optička kičma dugačka 3000km prolazi kroz baltički region povezujući nove mega centre za podatke u severnoj Evropi Talinu sa čvorištem za podatke zapadne Evrope u Frankfurtu i ima mogućnost daljeg povezivanja sa Rusijom i Belorusijom. Izgradnja i funkcionisanje baltičkog autoputa je odličan primer regionalne saradnje i zajedničke infrastrukture.
Baltički autoput je proizvod nekoliko aktera - Data Logistics Center (deo od Lietuvos Energija, državne holding kompanije litvanskih snabdevača energijom), Latvenergo (državne kompanije za električnu energiju u Letoniji), i Televõrk (podružnica privatne energetske firme Eesti Energia iz Estonije). Za razliku od drugih ova mreža je građena tako što su kablovi sa optičkim vlaknima polagani preko visokonaponskih dalekovoda i gasovoda koji pripadaju energetskim kompanijama, umesto korišćenja različitih segmenata operatera za telekomunikacije koji su već bili “priheftani”. Sada klijenti baltičkog autoputa imaju mogućnost da koriste regionalnu infrastrukturu iz jedne tačke.

Autostrada Baltike e të dhënave: Kur do e ketë Ballkani një të tillë?

Natalija Gelvanovska's picture
Foto nga: Data Logistics Center
Para disa muajve, Estonia, Letonia dhe Lituania kanë përfunduar ndërtimin 5 vjeçar të autostradës së Baltikut - rrjet backbone i broadbandit (brezit të gjerë) i cili shfrytëzon asetet e kabllos optike të tri kompanive energjetike Baltike. Backboni fibër pa nyje prej 3000 km që përshkon tërë regjionin e Baltikut, lidhë mega qendrat e të dhënave të Evropës së veriut në Talin me hubat e të dhënave të Evropës perëndimore në Frankfurt dhe ka mundësinë e zgjerimit të lidhjes me Rusinë dhe Bjellorusinë. Ndërtimi dhe operimi i autostradës së Baltikut është shembull i shkëlqyeshëm i bashkëpunimit regjional dhe i bashkëndarjes së infrastrukturës.
Autostrada Baltike është krijuar nga Data Logistics Center (pjesë e Lieuvas Energija, kompani shtetërore aksionare e furnizuesit Lituanez të energjisë), Latvenergo (kompani energjetike shtetërore e Letonisë), dhe Televork (subsidiar i firmës private energjetike Eesti Energia në Estoni). Për dallim nga të tjerët, ky rrjet është ndërtuar duke shtruar kabllon optike përgjatë linjave energjetike të tensionit të lartë dhe gypat e gazit të cilat i përkasin kompanive energjetike, e nuk janë përdorur segmentet e ndryshme të rrjeteve të operatorëve të telekomit të cilat janë të "arnuar së bashku". Tani klientët e Autostradës së Baltikut kanë mundësinë e shfrytëzimit të infrastrukturës regjionale pa nyje nga nj pikë e vetme.

Now that there's a Baltic Data Highway, when will we have one for the Balkans?

Natalija Gelvanovska's picture
Photo credit: Data Logistics Center
In January, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania finished the five-year construction of the Baltic Highway – a broadband backbone network that takes advantage of fiber-optic assets from three Baltic energy and utility entities. The Highway is a seamless fiber backbone of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) across the Baltic region, connecting Northern Europe’s new mega-data centers in Tallinn to Western Europe's data hub in Frankfurt, Germany, with the possibility of extending connections to Russia and Belarus.

The construction and operation of the Baltic Highway is a great example of regional cooperation and infrastructure sharing — and there are many lessons we can learn from it.
The Baltic Highway was created by Data Logistics Center (part of Lietuvos Energija, a state-owned holding company of Lithuanian energy suppliers), Latvenergo (a state-owned electric utility company in Latvia) and Televõrk (a subsidiary of private energy firm Eesti Energia in Estonia). Unlike previous data highways, this network was built by laying optical fiber over high-voltage electricity lines and gas pipelines that belong to energy companies, as opposed to using different segments of telecommunications networks that have been “stitched together.” Today, Baltic Highway clients have the opportunity to utilize one seamless regional infrastructure system from a single point.

What would it take to implement a similar project in the Balkans?

The benefits of e-Visas, and how to overcome implementation challenges

Radu Cucos's picture
The Electronic Visa (e-Visa) has emerged as one of the most innovative services implemented in the area of freedom of movement and people-to-people contacts.

E-Visa allows the management of the visa application process to take place entirely in a virtual environment. Everything is done with the help of the Internet: the visa application and supporting documents are submitted online, the payment is made online and the decision on the application is communicated online. Some of the best examples of e-Visa services I have encountered are implemented by the authorities of Australia, Turkey, New Zealand and Georgia.
Serving as Chief Information Officer at the Moldovan Foreign Service, I had the opportunity to lead the development of the Moldova e-Visa Service in partnership with the World Bank’s eTransformation project.

The Moldovan e-Visa service was launched on August 1, 2014. So far, we can make the following observations and conclusions about the benefits of e-Visa:

Crystallizing a digital strategy in the "Pearl of Arabia"

Dr. Salim Sultan Al-Ruzaiqi's picture
Known as the “Pearl of Arabia“ for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the Sultanate of Oman is also striving to adopt economic reforms that are in accordance with global market expectations and demands of our time. The country is currently undergoing a transition to a knowledge-based economy as outlined in its economic vision 2020. Information and communication technologies are at the core of this transformation, serving as the key enabler of economic diversification.
A view of Muscat, Oman's capital.
Photo: Andrew Moore, flickr

Oman’s national e-Governance initiative — which is called eOman — came into effect in 2003 and since then has been serving as the main framework for Oman’s digital transformation, including ICT industry and infrastructure development, creation of better public services and development of human capital. Since 2009, Oman has been consistently recognized by the United Nations Public Service Programme for its efforts.
We asked Dr. Salim Sultan Al-Ruzaiqi, Chief Executive Officer of the Information Technology Authority (ITA) of Oman — the agency responsible for the implementation of eOman strategy — to share with us the key solutions his agency has been working on to tackle the country’s development challenges and to highlight some of the lessons learned. Read Dr. Al-Ruzaiqi’s selected responses below, or download the full version of the interview here

Can you tell us some of the key points of the Oman Digital Strategy (e.oman)?
Let me start first by emphasizing that His Majesty’s grand vision of diversifying the Omani economy was the key driver of embarking on developing and implementing e.oman. This grand vision was set out in the economic vision 2020 that included transforming Oman into a sustainable knowledge based society. In His address to Oman Council in November 2008, His Majesty stressed the need to develop the technological and practical skills of citizens and provide them with the resources and training required to enhance their capabilities and incentivize them to seek knowledge. His Majesty also directed the Government to simplify processes, adopt technology in its daily operation, and focus on electronic delivery of its services.

Big steps toward Ghana’s digital future

Kaoru Kimura's picture
“Digitization” is a relatively niche topic in within information and communication technology (ICT), but the demand for “digitization” in the development field has grown significantly over the last few years, especially in Africa.

When we say “digitization”, you may think that it is just scanning or capturing paper records into a digital format. That’s partially correct, but the actual work cycle of digitization goes beyond what you think. It includes the whole process of transforming the data on paper records into “digital data,” which we can identify, search, access, retrieve, update, and archive electronically.

The steps toward digitization start with categorizing physical (original) paper records (e.g. sorting, listing and boxing) and assessment of the volume of workload.  The depth and potential impact of digitization is huge. The digitized records will reduce errors and transaction costs in public administration. They will also improve government accountability and the quality of national statistics.

Eventually, digitization will support more timely and accurate data to a country’s Open Data Portal. Digital public records data from different government entities could be integrated, and eventually the government will provide more seamless and efficient public service delivery (e.g. births registry linked to issuance of national ID, passport or driver’s license). In addition, the process of “digitization” will result in the creation of digital job opportunities for unemployed youth who have been trained to digitize records.

Through collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation’s “Digital Jobs in Africa” initiatives, our team delivered a Digitization Capacity Building Program late last year. The main objective of this program was to build the institutional capacity of priority government agencies that are managing critical public records and therefore have a powerful need for digitization.

Burkina Faso's revolution - an extreme case of Open Data and government transition

Liz Carolan's picture

Literally translated Burkina Faso means “land of the upright people.” It has long been one of West Africa’s most stable countries, despite having one of world’s lowest GDPs and being surrounded by countries with serious security issues, like Mali and Nigeria. In October 2014 Burkina Faso found its way onto TV screens around the world - a 36 hour popular uprising forced long-term leader Blaise Compaore from office. An interim administration was appointed and elections are planned for 11th October 2015, the first for 30 years without Compaore’s candidacy.

Open Data - Burkina Faso
One unexpected outcome of Burkina Faso’s revolution has been a strengthening of the country’s open data initiative. The interim administration, reflecting on some of the root causes of the revolution, is looking to transparency, as well as youth employment in ICT, as a stabilizing force (you can find the minutes of their last cabinet meeting online here). A small, dedicated government team built an alpha open data portal and pilot app the summer before the revolution, together with volunteers from civil society and some support from ODI and the World Bank. It was presented at the ODI Summit by the Director General Alfred Sawadogo.

In early March, World Bank colleagues and I visited Ouagadougou again to work alongside government officials to support a strategic action plan for the next phase of Burkina Faso’s open data initiative, including a grant from the World Bank focused on climate change adaptation.