Report: The Nature of the Digital Divide will Change – 2017 Global Internet Report

2017 Global Internet Report

The Internet Society (ISOC) was founded more than two and half decades ago. The global society, which operates on a non-profit front has tens of organizational members, was established to manage several internet-related standards in education, access as well as policy. In its existence, ISOC has been tasked to support and promote associations such as the Internet Research Task Force. Primarily, the foundation is dedicated to the activities for the internet model and contributes to the decision making process. Also, ISOC is responsible for promoting internet governance and so much more.

A couple of days ago, ISOC released a maiden report that has a lot of pointers about the future of the Internet. Dubbed “Paths to our Digital Future,” the report explains how the Internet has helped shape the world by improving lives in multiple ways. Such a profound development is manifested by connections between computers over the globe, a feat that has occurred fast in the past half a century. Over that time, new and robust devices have been developed to harness the power of connectivity that has given us functionalities that have surpassed the industry’s expectations.

In the 2017 Global Internet Report are several forces that have built the Internet to its current form. Such forces include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cyber threats, Internet of Things (IoT) as well as Internet Standards. Equally critical is the inclusion and elevated role of the government. Collectively, these forces are explored in the report and how they will influence critical areas like personal freedom and rights, the media and society, to mention a few.

In summary, the report has arrived at some key findings. Firstly, while IoT and AI are beneficial in many forms, their development could lead to what is termed as a ‘surveillance society.’ Ideally, there are serious ethical issues that spring from their use, including chances of collecting personal information. If strict guidelines are not put in place, such information may be used inappropriately (or is it happening?). Secondly, the report discusses increased security concerns that could undermine personal freedoms and rights. Well, cybersecurity issues are on the rise, and this mounts pressure on institutions and governing bodies to make decisions that could undermine the openness of global governance of the Internet. However, optimism is intact as young users especially in developing countries believe that they will use the Internet to improve the quality of their lives. Lastly, the report points out that the nature of the digital divide will shift as the Internet revolutionizes the global economy. This means that the digital divide will broaden its turf as it won’t be just about access to the web, but about the gap between economic opportunities available to some and not to others.

“Our extensive research clearly shows that just as when the Internet Society was founded 25 years ago, people believe that the Internet’s core values still remain valid – that it must be global, open, secure, and used for the benefit of the people everywhere in the world,” says Sally Wentworth, Vice President of Global Policy for the Internet Society.

“We found that people share a sense of booth optimism and disillusionment for the Internet’s future in equal measure. While there are not guarantees of what lies ahead, we know that humanity must be at the center of tomorrow’s Internet. the Internet must continue to benefit people and create new social and economic possibilities to fulfill the premise on which it was built. We shall heed the warnings in this report and begin to take actions today that will help to keep the Internet working for everyone, everywhere far into the future,” adds Wentworth.

To counter some of these issues, the report outlines a couple of recommendations, including one that suggests that human values have to spearhead technical development and use.

You can read the full report here.