Emerging Issues in Internet Governance

Below are my edited opening remarks from the Plenary Session on Emerging Issues at Hyderabad, India, December 6 2008

Thank you very much, and good morning, everybody. I think it helps in examining subjects like this to pull ourselves away from our immediate environment and, as best we can, look into the future, and see if we can identify some of the issues and some of the factors that we are going to address. So, to me, the next billion users of the Internet is going to happen, and happen very rapidly. It will be over perhaps by the time we meet again. But the last billion, well, it’s going to take some time. The first billion took 20 years, as was pointed out. I think by the time we get to the last billion, we have some order to difficulties and that might take us out another 20 years.

So in order to do so, I’d like to welcome you all to IGF 2028. The IGF 2028 meeting is taking place in Reykjavik, Iceland. I’ll explain a little bit why we’re there later. I’m participating virtually from Australia for various reasons. And I’m on high-definition conference link from Australia, being able to participate from there. So thank you for the opportunity. The other piece of news I must relate 20 years enhance is, Australia has just beaten India in the cricket for the first time in 20 years. So that is a great thrill for me. Thank you. When I’m talking about the last billion, I should say that we — that there are some people who are, obviously — we’re not talking about the last billion of the world’s population. I think we can leave out everybody who arrived yesterday and/or probably everybody under the age before three. But we do start to pick up at the age of about three or four, as I know from my grandchildren, who hop on the net and play games. So we do have three-and four-year-old users. I guess there are also a number of people who simply don’t want to have anything to do with the Internet. So that’s okay, too, I’m excluding them. I’m including in the last billion people who see there is advantage for their family, for their children, to be connected here and all the advantages that other people have from the Internet, they want them. So they’re in and we’re trying to deal with those.

So let’s get of profile of where they are, as best we can. And let me say that quite a few of this last billion are in developed countries. They are in rural pockets, which have not been connected and are very hard to connect, in countries like Australia it could be the remote indigenous communities. Who are amongst the last billion. So we certainly have pockets still in developing countries. And we have urban poor in developed countries who also will be part of that last billion. But to a large degree, the last billion will be those who are slower in adopting, at this point in time, will still be so. And that will be the case. So there are areas on the planet that will need higher concentration than others in order to bring the equity that does derive from all of us from having access to this thing. Quite a few of the last billion won’t be able to read or write. That won’t be a problem for them because a lot of the uses they will have will be around gaming or around downloading, downloading videos, downloading music, these sort of factors. So that’s not a problem but it is an interesting factor because then the tool for literacy that exists with the Internet becomes a very interesting thing that starts to come to the fore. So these are the things that are happening. And the other factor that comes in with the last billion that’s very interesting for us is multilingual. You ain’t seen nothing yet. But the time we get to the last billion and some of the languages we have to deal with, it starts to become quite complex.

Let’s talk about the devices we use with the last billion, and very few of them are going to be computers. Most of them are going to be mobile devices. We are going to be in a mobile world. And some of these devices will be mobile phones, some will be what we used to call PDAs and all sorts of smaller devices, but the computer won’t be amongst the dominant devices at that point in time. That raises fairly interesting issues, and we will come back to those as we start to talk about infrastructure and so on. But as I said before, the dominant — some of the dominant media we use at this point in time will not be the dominant Internet media with the last billion. The concentration will be more towards what our kids do, which is the downloading, the texting, the games. All these things come into this space. There’s a ramification of these things with mobile and we will get to it. Let me talk about some of the issues and try and structure this a little bit. And I am not going to paint the whole picture, but perhaps raise some questions and some ideas which are a part of the picture for you to fill in yourself and see how you think we ought to address some of these things.

Now, why are we in Reykjavik, Iceland? We are in Iceland because Iceland is the fastest growing Internet economy on the planet. Iceland, the basket case economically of the great depression of 2008 has jumped ahead because of the major project under way to create the carbon neutral Internet. Iceland’s vast geothermal resources have been put to use, and major server farms — in fact, most server farms in Europe, most major locations in Europe, a lot of government data centers in Europe have all relocated into Reykjavk to get near the geothermal thing. Other areas of the world with good renewable energy resources have also jumped ahead, too. So there is a great new economy and a great number of new possibilities arising from this. Some of the other features that we’ll see is most of us will have our biodegradable mobile phones. We have started with the carbon neutral Internet to start to address the major problems of junk. And I know one of my fellow panelists is going to raise this issue later. In getting to this carbon neutral Internet we have started to create a vastly different architecture and start to really use the way that the Internet works in a vastly different way.

Let’s talk about the infrastructure for this. So you might think that usage will probably be about six times what it would be at the moment. That would be nice. One of the factors that’s interesting to look at is the high end users of Internet bandwidth at this point of time are using 10,000 times the bandwidth of the normal — of the low-end Internet user. So there’s a vast discrepancy. And what is going to happen is more of us are going to move to this bigger group, the 10,000 — 10,000 times normal usage pattern of Internet usage, and this will happen more and more as particularly in developing countries. So I don’t think we will have anything like 6 times. We might be looking at 60,000 times the current capacity is needed. I would say conservatively we are definitely looking at 10,000 times the current capacity by 2028. That has a number of ramifications for the way we do things. I mentioned video. We ever not just talking about the recreational video and YouTube downloads, we are talking medical video, the high-image conferencing which allows me to participate from Australia. These sort of things are all part of this too. This creates a number of issues. One of the issues here is shared infrastructure. Is everybody going to roll out, ever telco, every ISP, going to roll out parallel infrastructure to across every country to try and do this or are we going to look at shared infrastructure models to create efficiency and to create this global network which we need. How are we going to cope with this vastly bigger issue?

And what’s this going to look like? Let me give you a couple of ideas. First of all, we are looking at the mobile Internet to a very large degree. And as I say, the dominant use will be mobile. Now, back in 2008, the mobile device was a strange hybrid. It used non-Internet standards when it connected by voice, but some of them did, but in fact some of them, the cheaper ones went over to what is called Internet standards to use this and then there was Internet standards for dial-up and other standards being introduced and there was quite a bit of mess. Now, I think this eventually, to deal with the expansion of all of this, led rise to the new standards institution which was created in about 2010 which was the IETFTU. The IETFTU looked to harmonize all the standards which were going on in the Internet area and telephony area to create this big globally connected network. The major work of the IETFTU was the workshop which was trying to reduce the number of standards to less than 10,000. And this was consuming a lot of energy as people started to try to get this to a workable number of standards. However, there was the new organization which has just arisen and I ask you to think about how strong it was and this is the III. This is the Internet intersect initiative. This was sort of like the WWW. They figured that the IETFTU were never going to cope. The IETFTU was far too old, far too staid. The IETFTU didn’t get it, and a lot of innovators have moved to the III. The III was looking at a clean-slate approach, and it had taken place, and many of the users were starting to use the III standards and the new III network. The III network had all these wonderful applications and became the platform for innovation because the other platform had got to the stage where innovation was becoming more and more difficult. And some of the people there remembered the thoughts of Robert Kahn at the IGF way back in 2007 who started to say the Internet standards and the Internet standards body are starting to ossify and become not capable of handling new areas of innovation. So that was an interesting fact that came in.

So what does our governance look like in 2028? Well, it would defy all known management logic if the current structures in their current form were able to cope. They won’t. By 2028, things will have been changed. Things will be moving very fast. I think the new motto which, because of the pace of all of this adoption, will be if it’s about to break, fix it. And that will be the dominant motto by which we start to look at the emerging governance models. One of the interesting questions around this is going to be jurisdiction. It will still be an issue. And we are living in lawyers’ paradise. Internet is the lawyers’ paradise where various countries all think they have jurisdiction of various thoughts over the same domain name. Where privacy issues and sort of issues as to who should do what are all out there. We have industry self-regulatory regimes start to go spring up, but governments are also, in their own way, setting up their regimes. Do we have an industry self-regulatory regime dealing with most of these issues or do we have a government regime separately? What is the structure that is going to deal with these tremendous emerging issues around intellectual property and privacy and individual rights and human rights and the content that’s offensive in one country but not offensive in another. How are we going to deal with all of those. So as I say, I think we are in lawyers’ paradise as we start to deal with these jurisdiction issues.

That’s about it, I think. I hope 2028 provokes you to start to think. If I just summarize that very quickly, the areas where I think we have issues is how we deal with climate change and environment issues, how we deal with infrastructure, how we deal with access, how we deal with ossification and standards and how we deal with governments as we go forward. Very interesting, and I hope I provoked some thinking.

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