[Future of the Internet workshop] OECD Discussion Forum -- Some initial thoughts on OECD discussion, Francis F. Muguet.
1. The Internet is now a critical infrastructure and a global platform for communication and commerce. What should be the role of governments in its development and management?
It is assumed that by Internet, the Web is also meant.
The role of governments should be to "serve and protect", but not to necessarily govern. We do not believe in "zero-based regulation" or in the "market magics" that only lead to a "World Wild Web" ruled by robber barons.
Governments should enforce open interoperability with full open and free documentation, and free standards, so that Free Software can be implemented as well as a fair competition be preserved between all software producers, small and large.
The role of govermments should be to protect freedom and privacy of all citizens. The internet should not be be used as a means of remote surveillance and control with DRMs, spywares and other malwares.
In fact, we are currently at a crossroad, we are facing the choice between: an Internet for an Information Society of shared knowledge and freedom, or an Internet as a tool of enslavement of men and machines. People and Governments must be aware of all the stakes before it is too late.
Governance of the internet should be based on multi-stakeholder partnerships within an international public law framework as suggested within the UNMSP proposal (http://unmsp.org). Civil Society should always be represented, even in the case it is not a material contributor, as a comptroller of ethics. Special attention and regards should be given to the Free Software community that has provided and still provides all the software tools that are binding the current network together, as well as to the academic community that was/is also a key factor in the creation and evolution of the Web.
Concerning the development of the Internet/Web, Government should finance research on the next generation of the internet/web (faster network and Web 2.0). Government should not enact repressive legislations to preserve obsolete business models of music and video right holders and abusers, but instead implement creative new schemes to compensate the true creators, the artists, without the use of DRMs. (see the Global Patronage scheme: http://www.wsis-pct.org/pct-dadvsi.html).
Concerning the Information Society, it is felt that most Governments and most part of the Civil Society and the Business sector are simply not enough informed, because the public policy debate is deeply intertwined with complex technical questions. This problem is felt at all levels of public decision taking: diplomatic, legislative, and executive.
In this context, governments should entitle computer scientists, possibly in collaboration with social sciences and law researchers, to study and present public policy proposals, and encourage them to provide much needed advices. It is quite striking that there are no think tanks devoted to the Information Society, in sharp contrast with the field of Economics. Ways to encourage the formation of Information Society Think Tanks should be explored. Unfortunately in Europe and many other places, the statutes or traditions of many academic laboratories are not always permitting or encouraging to study and present public policy proposals. One avenue is to create, in association with existing Scientific Laboratories, Think Tanks, where scientists could find a suitable administrative and intellectual framework to prepare public policy proposals related to the Information Society.
2. The Internet is challenging existing business models. How can we ensure there is sufficient investment to meet the network capacity demands of new applications and of an expanding base of users?
It is guessed this question relates to network capacity:
There are complementary ways, governments should:
1/ take national initiative to build backbone fiber optic networks in the same way as they did for freeways.
2/ encourage local intiatives by cities or civil society to implement their own fiber optic network.
3/ preserve free competition between all businesses, severely punish large business monopolistic practises that try to crush competition, while retarding overall innovation by smaller companies (e.g. a small company CitéFibre providing low cost fiber optic at home in Paris).
3. Innovation is taking place at the edges of the network. How do we ensure that this continues and how can it be enhanced?
The fact that innovation is taking place only at the edges only means that something is definitively sick at the center. Big monopolistic outfits have been unable to provide innovations. In some cases, they have been unable to implement the results coming from their own talented researchers. It is urgent to start an overall reform of the Patent system to award patents only to truly innovative inventions, and not to allow patents on software concepts and business methods. From being protectors of innovations at the age of the steam engine, patents have become unfornately predators on innovation within the information society.
4. The Internet is perceived as not being secure, nor does it protect privacy. What steps should be taken to improve security and privacy and by whom?
Governments, after careful consideration of human rights and after open democratic debates, should implement themselves the decisions of their citizens when it is a matter of police, and should not abandon their role to commercial vigilantes. One example is to entrust ISPs with quasi-judiciary powers over their own network, creating de jure a new cyberfeudality, within a legal process that is reminiscent of the last days of the roman empire. Another example the creation de jure of private polices, while allowing, sworn in, but private agents of copyright holders to raid corporate and university computing services to check for allegedly protected material and illegal software.
Governments should ask scientists to present public policy and technical solutions instead of listening only to commercial vendors with their own agenda, and should finance coordinated research programs toward this goal.
Concerning the pollution of metadata that is preventing the advent of the second stage of the Web: the Semantic Web, there is a proposal to implement Semantic Web GTLs (see http://semantic.cc).
The proposed SWgTLDs should be conceived as medata pollution-free area, with many added benefits like empowering:
- a worldwide equitable marketplace
- a zone for living cyber-artists
- new types of linguistic domains to promote multilinguism and much improved automatic translation.
5. Ubiquitous networks are being deployed. What are the drivers of these developments? What will be the impacts on individuals and society?
One aspect of the ubiquitous networks is the emergence of the "internet of things and people": Digital Object Identifier, Object Naming Services with RFIDs (see http://www.wsis-si.org/DOI/index.html). They are the emerging realms of new governance. If a technology like RFIDs combined with Ubiquitous networks is implemented, without check and balance, it could lead to an Orwellian society, which is charcterised by ubiquitous surveillance.
Francis F. Muguet Ph.D
as co-chair of the Civil Society Working Group
on the Patents & Copyrights
at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
and chair of the Civil Society Working Group
at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)