What We Are Doing, Why We Are Doing It
by Oleg Logvinov
There was a remarkable moment at an IEEE Internet Initiative event earlier this year that I felt nicely articulated why we are doing what we are doing—and the passion and sense of urgency with which we are doing it.
A participant at our IEEE Experts in Technology and Policy (ETAP) Forum on Internet Governance, Cybersecurity, and Privacy in Washington in February was explaining why he elected to come to the event. Of course, his company had market interest in the success of digital communications, and, of course, he had spent his career working in the field and had a professional pride in participating. Ultimately, he said, though, “I am a father and also a citizen of the world, and I am a user of these technologies. I have a strong interest in making technology work for everyone in the best way possible.”
Our world is undertaking a series of simultaneous, interrelated and historic transformations: connecting the unconnected, building out the Internet of Things (IoT), shifting to smart cities and relying more heavily on artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine communications, notably among them. Collaboration across the old professional, technological and geographic barriers is necessary if all of the multifaceted and unprecedented issues are to be successfully addressed to the collective benefit of all stakeholders. And literally everyone around the world has a stake in ensuring that we get this right.
For the first time, the IEEE Internet Initiative is connecting the world’s technical and policymaking communities for Internet governance, cybersecurity and privacy, in order to inform debate and decisions, to help ensure trustworthy technology solutions and best practices and to successfully address fundamentally new technology policy challenges.
The problems that we are attempting to solve or at least anticipate today simply did not exist just a few short years ago. The Internet is really not very old, and, before its proliferation, the world was fairly disconnected from each other across regions. Neither the technology nor policy solutions on which we rely today were conceived on the premises of the digital world that we imagine taking shape over the next decades.
For example, the IEEE Internet Initiative is heavily involved with facilitating conversation and collaboration in bringing affordable, universal Internet access to the almost 60 percent of the world’s population who remain unconnected today.
In conjunction with the World Bank, U.S. Department of State, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on 13 April in Washington, D.C., the IEEE Internet Initiative brought together more than 150 engineers, scientists, development professionals, industry leaders and others with global policy experts to explore real-world opportunities that exist to extend affordable access in underdeveloped and underserved communities. Subsequently, the globally scoped conversation is being taken to individual markets for a deeper dive into the specific challenges, barriers and opportunities that exist locally. Along multiple dimensions, the IEEE Internet Initiative is facilitating a two-way dialogue between the two historically disparate worlds of technology and policy in the drive to connect the world’s unconnected. In this light, we are working to connect people who do not have access by connecting people with the necessary policy and technology expertise.
And bringing these experts together is crucial. Sometimes, policymakers have not been aware of advancements in technology, and sometimes it has worked the other way around. The changes that are being undertaken today have such wide-ranging and long-lasting ramifications that we simply cannot afford such a disconnect to persist. Consider the IoT, in which more and more information is being exchanged among machines every day—and all of the types, ways and applications of information sharing that will take place in the years ahead cannot be predicted. Not only are the technological complexities of such an innovation great, the ethical and legal implications also are huge, with machines exchanging our sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) with other machines. These implications must be addressed as technology and policy are developed; the old way of serial development of technology and then policy will not suffice.
The IEEE Internet Initiative has established a neutral platform for meaningful dialogue to take place as development progresses. This is what IEEE does so uniquely well: bringing experts together around the table in open, balanced collaboration and extending local conversations to the global stage. It has been gratifying to see this dynamic at play within the IEEE Internet Initiative. Issues at an IEEE ETAP Forum in one market have been re-examined at another IEEE ETAP Forum within that market’s local context and peculiarities. Notions introduced at in-person events have blossomed into broader conversations online. Events are begetting other events.
Many ways are developing for you and/or your organization to engage through the IEEE Internet Initiative. This newsletter is one of the important ways we will be keeping you aware of opportunities to ensure that your unique technological/regional/business perspectives are understood and accounted for.
Oleg Logvinov is chair of the IEEE Internet Initiative and IEEE P2413™ Internet of Things (IoT) Architecture Working Group, and he is president and chief executive officer of IoTecha Corporation.
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