A more people-centered internet: Developers plan for the new digital future

Global Business

A more people-centered internet: Developers plan for the new digital future

According to the World Economic Forum, a milestone in connectivity has just been achieved with 50-percent of the globe now having access to the internet.

That’s why in Silicon Valley, one conference is taking a look at the future from the viewpoint of many who gave the internet its beginnings.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

With 50percent of the world now on the internet, Silicon Valley’s Constellation Research brought together those who helped build it to focus on a People-Centered Digital Future.

The inventor of the World-Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee recently took his new startup – Inrupt — out of stealth mode.

Its mission is to take back the web from the giant tech companies that have profited from centralizing it.

But Berners-Lee admits, activity on the internet these days is far more complicated.

“When you try to fight against hate speech, wait a moment we are fighting for free speech,” said Berners-Lee. “When you for the right to face an undetermined – the identity of your attacker – when you are maligned, which is one of the rights of a human being in a lot of democracies, well that’s counter on the internet to this right to have anonymity.”

Vint Cerf is widely known as the father of the internet for having co-designed the internet’s architecture.

He’s concerned about the internet of things and who will pick up the pieces during times of failure.

“What happens if your refrigerator attacks somebody?” asked Cerf. “Do you send the refrigerator to its room? Or do you unplug it as punishment but your ice cream melts. It’s not exactly clear where liability should be placed,” Cerf said.

In connection with this event, the World Economic Forum launched a paper Our Shared Digital Future. It pointed out that 74 percent of businesses can expect to be hacked this year and that by 2020, the average internet user will have more than 200 online accounts.

Computer science professor Wendy Hall has studied the growth of the internet and visited China many times where she worked with colleagues at Tsinghua University.

“We have a big elephant in this room and it’s called China,” Hall told the audience.

Hall says the remaining 50percent of users to go online will largely be composed of people in rural China, rural India and rural Africa.

“In some ways, it’s a safer place to be on the internet in China than it is in the West,” said Hall, who is also Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Southampton. “There’s less crime because the government have made it so. So you get this sort of safety versus loss of civil liberties in our terms. And of course, we can’t pretend to understand what it is like to be in China.”

That’s why Hall says moving forward in carving out agreements on the governance of the internet, China, Africa and India cannot be ignored.

“It’s not predictable how this is going to play out,” said Hall. “My main point today, is if we are going to have a people-centered internet and talk of what are your rights in the digital world, we have to think of it from a global point of view.”

Hall believes if the internet were to fragment along geographical or geopolitical lines, international trade could suffer.

That includes confusion over where one should be taxed and holding companies and individuals responsible for doing harm on the internet to citizens of other countries.

Father of the Internet’ Vint Cerf discusses his thoughts on how the internet has evolved

CGTN’s Mark Niu spoke with Vint Cerf, who co-designed the architecture of the internet and has a place in the Internet Hall of Fame, about his views on the future of the digital world.