I had the pleasure of being on the panel of re-decentralising internet at Futurefest, last summer. (when England was still in the world cup and the weather was super warm) Feels like so long ago. I’m quite glad its audio only because I was sat in the sunshine sweating a lot!
The internet isn’t where we want it to be. With power increasingly centralised in the hands of very few players, citizens have little say in where we want the internet to go next. But challenging existing dynamics won’t be easy: we find ourselves caught in the crossfire between the dominant American models (driven by Big Tech) and the increasingly powerful Chinese model (where government reigns supreme). Is there scope to create a third, European model, where citizens and communities are in charge?
In this session, we discuss alternative trust models for the internet. This session is part of the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative. We will hear from Manon den Dunnen, strategic specialist at the Dutch National Police, Ian Forrester, Chief Firestarter at BBC R&D and Marta Arniani, innovation strategist and founder of Futuribile / Curating Futures. Chairing will be Katja Bego, senior researcher at Nesta and coordinator of the Next Generation Internet Engineroom project.
Don’t get me wrong some of it did make sense but I felt like they were shooting the messenger not listening to the message. Now to be fair I was listening in the shower and getting ready; so may have missed some key parts while washing my hair. But by the end I was shouting out loud, have they never heard of the Quantified Self?
The point of time well spent isn’t about Tristan dictating some rules from on high. Its meant for us to question our relationship with ubiquitous connected technology and the way the companies behind them influences our lives.
Berners-Lee warned of “two myths” that “limit our collective imagination” when looking for solutions to the problems facing the web: “The myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate. On both points we need to be a little more creative,” he said.
“I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions,” he said.
Berners-Lee has always maintained that his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, his vision to create an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries” has been challenged as the web has become more centralised.
Its very much why I was interested in space wrangling the decentralised space at Mozfest last year. Centralised power corrupts I maintain. Tim is right we need a better vision but rather than spend all that effort trying to reform a horribly broken system of corruption, greed and power. Make an viable alternative which makes the existing model obsolete… (love Buckminster for this great quote)
Its time to build a public service internet which maintains its values, diversity and distributed nature of the public; as an alternative to whats currently seen as the whole internet… We don’t need a new internet, we need competing services with different business models which can talk to each other and give options to the people.
You want a private park which is nicely maintained and don’t mind paying for the privilege? Fine. But if you want a park which is public and has a lively community because its free to the public due to taxes. Fine too. Similar to health care, libraries, transport in Europe, you can pay but there is a baseline.
Critical when thinking about the digital divide and the next 1 billion people.
This still leaves a gaping “digital divide” that exacerbates existing inequalities: you are more likely to be offline if you are female, poor, or live in a rural area or a low-income country.
“To be offline today is to be excluded from opportunities to learn and earn, to access valuable services, and to participate in democratic debate,” Berners-Lee said. “If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042. That’s an entire generation left behind.”
Two years ago, the UN declared internet access to be a basic human right on par with clean water, shelter, food and electricity. However, in many places, getting online is prohibitively expensive – the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband in Malawi is more than 20% of the average monthly income. In Zimbabwe, it is nearly 45%.
The internet for most people is the private internet. Its the property of the 5 stacks and the wanna-be startups fighting for position in the patriarchy (hey lets call it what it is). Its a place of attention grabbing, advertising, monetization.
I had a lot of time for Tony and he was one of the people who attracted me to the BBC. I had no idea he had only joined 2 years before myself. But he was incredible and pulled no punches in what he felt was right. A lot like Tom Loosemore and others, he was public service to the bone. Something which I personally think it critical as more and more of our public services are being suffocated to death… slowly…
Frankly the BBC needs more people like Tony and he will be sadly lost. I found this part really interesting…
I would never have left the BBC but the opportunity is greater than I could have imagined,” he said. “I was good for the BBC because I was so unlike them, and didn’t want to be like them. But I told them that they have to shape this challenge, the internet, before it shapes you.
I feel the same, if I was to leave it would have to be such a great opportunity. in another public service focused company. I also feel like I’m right for the BBC because I don’t fit the BBC mould. I would go as far as to say he has Humility, Craft and Hustle.
I’m sure I wrote or have said somewhere how I was not a fan the BBC, mainly for its lack of diversity in programmes, especially around underground music (hey I was young and a raver). It just didn’t reflect anything which spoke to me sadly. I didn’t even engage with the other (arguably much more important) aspects of diversity but it most likely played their part in forming my opinion.
The BBC is changing, not quite fast enough for me but the people make the difference. Like a recent q&a with a high-ranking person, where someone asked about more women in engineering. I was thinking in my head this is important of course but it’s about diversity not just gender. The answer, had me clapping my hand in my head. Its about diversity of people, thought and approaches. Perfect, I had to write a email afterwards thanking that person.
People like Tony and others are rare because the system filters them out. I’m sure I wouldn’t have got into r&d if it was to apply, and even now in my 12th year (yeah beleive it or not! It just happened around my birthday) I’m still not looking to fit in. Its not in my nature as a outlier… But likewise theres no hiding from the daily challenges and politics. As Tony said…