Setting Priorities: Question and Responses
Respondents were asked the following:
If you were in charge of setting priorities about where to spend the available funds for developing information and communications technologies (predominantly the internet) to improve the world, how would you rank order the following international concerns? Please number these from 1 to 4, with 1 being the highest priority.
An extended collection hundreds of written answers to this question can be found at:
Overview: Most say building network capacity and technology knowledge should be top priorities.
More than three-fourths of respondents – 78% – identified building network capacity and the knowledge base to help people of all nations use it as the first or second priority for the world’s policy makers and technology industry to pursue. It was selected as the first priority by 51% of the survey participants.
Following closely as a priority was “creating a legal and operating environment that allows people to use the internet the way they want, using the software they want,” which gained support from 64% of respondents as either the first or the second international priority. Falling far down the list were the other two choices in the setting of priorities – “developing and ‘arming’ an effective international security watchdog organization” and “establishing an easy-to-use, secure international monetary microcredit system” – which each gained only 8% of respondents’ votes as a first priority. Many respondents wound up including support for two or more of the priorities in their written elaborations. They most often combined the ideals of total access/tech knowledge and an open legal and operating environment.
Accessibility and the knowledge to use that access to advantage are seen as key priorities.
Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that bringing the tools of connection to as many people as possible and teaching them how to benefit from these tools will help improve the world.
“Capacity building should be the prime focus,” wrote Rajnesh Singh, a leader in the Pacific Islands chapter of the Internet Society.55 “Not just machines, but people and getting them to do new and wonderful things with technology.”
Fred Baker, president of the board of trustees of the Internet Society, responded, “Education is key to internet deployment and use, and is something I am directly involved with.”
“Providing access and literacy is paramount,” wrote Howard Rheingold, internet sociologist and author. “Without affordable access, knowledge of how to use the technology and the legal and operating environment that permits innovation, we won’t see the creative explosion we say with personal computers and the internet.”
Robin Gross, executive director for IP Justice, wrote, “Building an open, inclusive, and inter-operable infrastructure is the most important because all of issues will depend upon the infrastructure.”
Ed Lyell, an expert on the internet and education, wrote, “We enhance the positive potential of global communication commerce only by bringing as many into the network as possible. To continue to expand the current digital divide will bring on negatives of jealousy, income disparity, have/have not battles, etc. This is a case when the economic common good must be nourished while minimizing the potential greed of individualized privatization. By this I do not mean government-run – but a structured system of individual incentives for excellence that lead to positive collective improvement.”
Many respondents agreed with Tunji Lardner, CEO for the West African NGO network, wagonet.org, who wrote, “The challenge remains helping the majority of our brothers and sisters in vast underserved places in the world.” Lutfor Rahman, executive director of the Association for Advancement of Information Technology at Pundra, Bangladesh, added, “Everybody should know the benefit and problems of using the internet, and this should get first priority.”
“My priority would be to build a 100-mg-per-second broadband pipe into every home,” said Rob Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Nan Dawkins, co-founder of Red Boots Consulting, wrote, “While ensuring access certainly impacts the internet’s potential as a change agent, it is important to remember that simple access is not enough. Giving a man (or woman) a laptop and a cheap connection is not sufficient to change his/her plight. The internet is a tool with some potential, but it is probably not within the top 100 factors that can drive significant change in the world.”
Many respondents pressed for an operating environment that is open, fair and full of innovation.
Respondents also put “creating a legal and operating environment that allows people to use the internet the way they want, using the software they want” at the top of the priorities list. Their concerns in this realm include: the positive and negative effects of a software monoculture; regulation’s influence on security, trust, innovation and access; and the outcomes caused by the imposition of various limitations by those in prevailing power structures.
“The social institutions of exchange and basic law (which requires some enforcement ability) are the most important for real development,” wrote Bruce Edmonds of the Centre for Policy Modelling at Manchester, UK. “This will allow new online institutions to emerge.”
Wladyslaw Majewski, of OSI ComputTrain and the Poland chapter of the Internet Society, responded, “The only listed goal worth significant funding is to defend and promote human rights and activities.”
“Giving people the ability to develop their own strategies and appropriate technologies as they see fit will always be a more powerful method of ensuring equitable uptake than by top-down measures or by allowing current power groups (e.g. corporate interests) to define the future environment,” argued Mark Gaved, of The Open University, in the U.K.
John Quarterman, president of InternetPerils and an internet pioneer, wrote, “Without software diversity we’re at the mercy of the monopoly software vendors, both directly and even more indirectly through ease of exploit of such software and especially ease of spread of such exploits, not to mention through the warping of political and social systems that happens as monopolists fight to maintain control … Distributed security is what we need, and the most effective first step is to deal with the software monopoly problem.” Baker of the Internet Society responded, “I would simply leave (this) to anti-trust law.”
Jeff Hammond, vice president for Rhea and Kaiser, wrote that innovation will trump any monoculture. “Creating a legal framework for the internet should focus on intellectual property alone,” he argued. “I do not believe that the goals of ‘using the internet the way they want’ means that a political solution should be sought for infrastructure or technology platforms. Political solutions are typically about discouraging human activities. Innovation is about encouraging human activities, many of which will be failures. If a software monoculture results, it will be because it is the solution that solves the greatest number of problems for the greatest number of people…it will also be temporary until the problems it creates are solved by the next wave of innovation.”
“Any effort to improve the world by means of development of information and communication technologies should be based on empowerment of the individual as user and various groups of users, and not be conducive to a business monoculture. In other words, the current trends of corporate domination in the area should be reversed. Public interest should be the top priority,” maintained Mirko Petric, of the University of Zadar, Croatia.
Ross Rader of Tucows Inc. wrote, “Various current legal environments are threatening to tear apart the fabric of the network (i.e. U.S. intellectual property law, communications regulation, etc.). This trend must be reversed. Without a fundamental right to choose platform, service, and application, there is very little merit left in the network. The edge must be left to its own devices, despite the economic pursuits of big business.”
Robin Berjon of the World Wide Web Consortium and Expway wrote, “If there is no environment for open standards and multiple platforms, none of the two remaining points will be feasible, so I would place it at the top of the priority list because it is a prerequisite.” And Glenn Ricart, a member of the Internet Society Board of Trustees, put it this way: “The highest priority is to make sure that the Internet can continue to foster economic and social growth and development for everyone (in all cultures) via innovation, competition, and free speech (e.g. uncensored and unmonitored packets).”
“[We must] embed the openness with which the internet began, the culture of creativity and connection and sharing and transparency. Standards will help that harmonization. Political and legal support will follow and should not lead … governments and commerce should have less valence than civil society and academia,” argued Sylvia Caras, a disability rights advocate for People Who.
Simon Woodside, CEO of Semacode Corporation in Ontario, Canada, responded, “The legal environment today is excellent, and bodies such as ISOC, ICANN, and IETF, along with world governments, should continue to nurture and protect the open nature of the internet.”
Some respondents selected this priority as the first on their list and then made sure to emphasize the fact that the internet should remain as unregulated as possible.
“Digital Rights Management, ‘trusted computing’ that bakes restrictions into hardware, and extensions of copyright law such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are roadblocks that could strangle a global creative renaissance before it can take root worldwide,” Howard Rheingold argued.
Jim Warren, a pioneer technology-policy advocate and activist, responded, “I do not imply that government and laws should do much. Quite the contrary – I want government and laws to mostly GET OUT OF THE WAY! First and foremost, government mostly serves itself first (and serves its most powerful supporters second) – and that is perhaps the foremost danger.”
If the network is not secure and trusted, will it be used?
At a June 2006 technical conference in Boston, Microsoft officials reported that a significant percentage of the world’s computers have been infected by keystroke loggers, Internet Relay Chat bots and rootkits. Microsoft said that between January 2005 and June 2006 it removed at least 16 million instances of malicious software – one virus, Trojan, rootkit or worm in every 311 times it scanned one of the 270 million computers running the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.56
“Security has to come first. As long as we have … Trojan, spyware, malware, we will not be able to gain any true integrity of the internet,” insisted Terry Ulaszewski, of Long Beach Live.
A vocal minority of survey respondents pointed out that the communications network will not be used or useful if it is not seen as a safe place to be, no matter how well-connected everyone is. “Unless we find ways to curb spam, identity theft, cyber extortion, virus writing, and other such criminal activity, people will not WANT to use the enhanced IT environment that the other three choices present,” explained Eugene Spafford, executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security. “Technology alone (or even primarily) cannot solve this problem – we will need international response to bad actors, with appropriate investigation and punishment.”
Anthony Rutkowski of VeriSign, a company that includes a team of malware detectives based out of Dulles, Va., called the Rapid Response Team, responded, “Cybersecurity and infrastructure protection will remain the highest priority. Next-Generation Network legal norms, regulations, and standards will likely have proliferated so as to all for flexible use to the extent that is achievable given other priorities like security and infrastructure protection.”
Amos Davidowitz of the Institute of World Affairs wrote, “People will not use it if they do not feel secure, so access and security are the primary goals.”
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, responded, “We need stronger safeguards for privacy and human rights before enabling greater security authority.”
There were notable expressions of concern about whether it would be wise to create an internet police agency.
Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, is the group effort of 184 nations to facilitate cross-border police cooperation. It has been in existence since 1923, and has seen crime shift online in the past decade. It has limited influence, but is has concentrated some efforts on internet crime and crime prevention. It hosted its first international cybercrime conference in September 2005.57 In March 2006 an Interpol spokesman called on international politicians to make it easier for cybercrime to be fought across borders. He cited gangs that work online from Russia, China, the U.S. and other nations to target internet users across the globe.58
In responding to the survey scenario of “developing and arming an effective, international security watchdog organization,” several participants wrote in support of the way that individual nations are working separately and together right now in preventing crime and leveraging punishments.
“Billions of dollars are already being used to build an effective international security watchdog organization,” wrote Charlie Breindahl of the IT University of Copenhagen. “It goes under names such as NSA, CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. Some of it is legal, some illegal. If there is a need to fulfill in this area, it is to put in place an international cyberpolice controlled by the UN; that possibility is moot, of course.”
Alejandro Pisanty, vice chairman of the board for ICANN and CIO for the National University of Mexico, responded, “A single ‘watchdog organization’ seems less preferable, and less viable, than an active network of national, functional, and cross-national and cross-functional bodies with solid agreements among them.”
A counter argument was sounded by John Browning, founder of First Tuesday: “A specialist tech-security watchdog sounds like a really bad idea: use a computer, go to jail.”
Fredric Litto of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil said “incentivated communication” (providing business groups and individuals with various incentives to encourage their continued use of communications tools for the common good) is a better answer than employment of such a force, adding, “Leave policing to the last stage, you might not even need it.”
And many people voiced strong dissent regarding the concept of a formalized international internet-security group. Glenn Ricart wrote, “I will not willingly choose to give up my privacy so that some international security organization can decide to intervene when they think it appropriate.” Cory Doctorow, blogger and co-founder of Boing Boing, wrote, “Why do we need internet cops? How about internet architecture that helps users protect themselves instead?”
Rajnesh Singh responded, “ICTs have become a new tool for criminals and terrorists, and it is important to think about and take the necessary protective measures, however this must not be at the peril of freedom of expression and basic human rights.” Ted Coopman of the University of Washington-Seattle wrote, “Any international ICT police force would not (based on my read of history) be used to protect people or infrastructure in general, but protect those in power from those who are not.”
“Qui custodiet ipsos custodies? An effective international security watchdog organization will limit the possibilities of the other three [priorities to choose from on this list],”wrote Alec MacLeod, of the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Scott Moore, online community manager for the Helen and Charles Schwab Foundation, wrote, “A centralized ‘enforcement unit’ is utter bullshit. A watchdog group should do just that – use their resources to inform and spread the warnings so that people can be prepared. Arming a central organization against internet criminals is like trying to destroy bad weather.”
Lynn Schofield Clark, director of the Teens and the New Media @ Home Project at the University of Colorado also emphasized the ideal that members of civil society can work together to help patrol the internet. “We need a watchdog organization to oversee criminal and terrorist acts carried out through the use of ICTs; and we really need a series of well-supported, lower-level watchdog organizations to ensure that ICTs are not utilized by those in power to serve the interests of profit at the expense of human rights. We need ICT specialists to augment the work of important organizations already in existence that are fulfilling this watchdog role. The need for the watchdogs will only increase as time goes on.”
Here is the state of play on internet policies and enforcement policy.
A treaty to help nations deal with cross-border crime has been in the works for many years. The Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention is open to signature by all nations, but conflicts over sovereignty and worries about speech and privacy rights have stalled it regularly since its beginnings in 1997.59 Only a few nations have signed it, but the work continues. The Organization of American States and the Council of Europe held a joint cybercrime conference in December 2005, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum also conducts annual conferences. Representatives of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice conduct cybercrime workshops in cooperation with representatives of many other nations.60
Individual countries have developed resources to educate internet users and help them identify and report crimes. In the U.S., five federal agencies and 13 private organizations announced the January 2006 launch of OnGuard Online (www.onguardonline.gov), a site with information about monitoring credit history, the effective use of passwords and other security measures, and recovering from identity theft.61
Some see the enhancement of economic systems as a top priority.
Throughout the survey many respondents noted that economics is critical for the creation of a better world. Consistent with that assertion, some of them ranked the fourth item as a valuable priority. While a few respondents replied that it is not possible to make such a system secure and few selected it as a first priority, some said it is a worthy goal to work toward.
“The open-source development model must be applied to currency,” wrote Douglas Rushkoff, author and teacher. “Interest-bearing, centralized currency is the final obstacle to a collaborative international network.”
“Microcredit programmes have shown themselves to be some of the most useful and culture-enabling programmes yet developed. It’s brilliant that people should be able to find them independent of the intermediaries currently involved in brokering the programmes,” wrote Elle Tracy, president and e-strategies consultant for The Results Group.
Ricart responded, “The ordinary industrial finance system will get around to arranging an international monetary microcredit system as it is feasible to do so. Credit cards are getting close. I want trusted intermediaries to assure me that Ubu and Kwana’s farm really exists and that the pictures are not from somewhere else.”
Singh wrote, “A microcredit scheme would reach out to a new capital market that would benefit primarily those in the developing world who would otherwise find it hard to finance their small ventures. The funder would decide on the risk and partake in the necessary course of action (hopefully) without banking bureaucracy – a very practical outcome.”
Dan McCarthy, managing director of equity funds company Neuberger Berman Inc., responded, “Communities on eBay/PayPal/Skype, Google, or Western Union could facilitate microcredit well before 2020.” And the Internet Society’s Fred Baker wrote, “I don’t know that microfinancing as a vehicle for international philanthropy actually works, but finding ways to extend credit/debit card systems to developing countries can be a way of helping them close the digital divide in commerce.”
There were those who disagreed. David Weinberger of Harvard’s Berkman Center wrote, “Microcredit will just make it easier to charge per bit. I’d hate to lose the froth of sharing.” And Paul Craven, director of enterprise communications at the U.S. Department of Labor, wrote, “I don’t think it is possible to build a ‘secure’ international monetary microcredit system.”
There is a virtue to putting all the priorities together.
Most respondents couldn’t resist including comments on the entire list of suggested priorities in their elaborations. Following are a few tightly woven responses.
Syamant Sandhir of Futurescape responded, “Basic safeguards need to be set up in a global legal framework that builds on current growth and increasingly takes in new communities. Keeping peace in these now global communities would be paramount and on the basis of this safe and secure framework a microcredit system that helps communities would emerge.”
“These are all critically important policy pursuits,” wrote Jim McConnaughey, a senior economic adviser active at the NTIA in U.S. policy on access and the digital divide. “One result that I would expect to happen would be a natural flow towards greater democratic tendencies in many developing and even developed countries, including more participatory debates and a higher rate of participation in political elections (through secure electronic voting).”
Seth Finkelstein, author of the Infothought blog and an EFF Pioneer Award winner, wrote, “1) The legal environment just might kill technological development. It’s a palpable threat. 2) Diversity is helpful. 3) I have my doubts microcredit is solvable, but it’s potentially useful. 4) Although scary, criminal and terrorist acts are relatively rare in the grand scheme of things.”
Joe Bishop of Marratech AB wrote, “1 and 2 will bring commerce. Commerce will create some equalization of wealth in places where it does not now exist. That will prompt 3. Governments will take care of 4 out of paranoia.”
Kerry Kelley, vice president for SnapNames.com, responded, “1) Making the Internet friendlier to native languages, so that people can communicate more easily cross-culturally. 2) Being able to trust that who you are communicating with is who they say they are – as opposed to a security watchdog. 3) Reducing ‘taxes’ and ‘tolls.’ Cost of bandwidth, ISP subscriptions, PCs and an ‘affordable’ micropayment system are key. 4) Doing what we can to head off the balkanization of the Internet into incompatible systems. These are more where I see priorities lying personally. Some are a re-phrasing of the above.”
Steve Cisler, a developer of world-wide community networks (including public-access projects in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Uganda), was among several respondents who said the meeting of basic human needs is the only real priority in many vast regions of the world today. “Non-internet-related problems are a much higher priority than any of these,” he wrote, “though I realize money will flow to these technological/policy challenges without taking care of more basic problems. This comes from the eight months I spent offline talking to people not using the Internet. It’s just not a high priority – except those of us/you in the ICT world.”
Over the past few years some people concerned about the degree of U.S. influence over internet policy decisions have lobbied for more international voices to be heard. Because most of the innovation of the network architecture took place in the United States and the U.S. was the first nation to overwhelmingly adopt the internet in day-to-day communication, it had exercised the most control in network decisions. But the world caught up with (and some nations have surpassed) the U.S. in regard to internet proliferation and usage over the past few years.
In the beginning years of the new millennium, leaders of the United Nations and its affiliated communications organization the International Telecommunication Union called together representatives from all nations for an effort called the World Summit on the Information Society. This spawned the Working Group on Internet Governance – a body assigned to make recommendations about worldwide involvement in the positive development of the internet as a tool for all.
There was some speculation that an international organization under the jurisdiction of the United Nations would be created to replace ICANN and the Internet Society. Representatives of the U.S. and other nations opposed this idea and seem to have won their point during negotiations in 2005. ICANN will remain the key authority through 2011, with the Internet Society’s Internet Engineering Task Force and Internet Architecture Board also making key decisions. The WGIG eventually recommended in the fall of 2005 that a new international consulting body – the Internet Governance Forum – should be formed. The UN announced that this group is “a new forum for multi-stakeholder dialogue on internet governance.”
The IGF’s power is expected to be limited to identifying issues to be addressed in order for all people to benefit from digital communications networks. At its first meeting in Athens in October 2006, the pre-identified talking points are openness, security, diversity and access; and the meeting announcement reports that “capacity will be a cross-cutting priority.”