IEEE at the 2015 Internet Governance Forum

Advancing technology and policy connections

5 January 2016

The 10th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held from 9 to 13 November in João Pessoa, Brazil, provided a unique opportunity for IEEE to introduce its activities and connect with the IGF community. With the goal of fostering greater information exchange, knowledge growth, and capacity building, IEEE played a key role in guiding discussions where public policy and technology intersect.

One of the IEEE-hosted sessions, “IEEE@IGF: Advancing Technology for an Open Internet,” gave an overview of IEEE’s mission to advance technology for the benefit of humanity, and explained how the organization works with its partners globally on issues related to open standards, Internet governance, cybersecurity, and privacy. 

The IEEE Internet Initiative was brought to the forefront of discussion, promoting the value of the Internet in innovation, market and economic growth and social prosperity, the importance of information sharing, and greater understanding between policy makers and technologists. This serves as the foundational goal of the IEEE Internet Initiative, which helps connect the technical community to global policymaking for Internet governance, cybersecurity, and privacy to inform debate and decisions and to help ensure trustworthy technology solutions and best practices.

The session also helped illustrate how technical experts continue to work through IEEE to expand Internet interoperability, fuel innovation, and hone solutions that support an open Internet and sustainable development. Standards play an important role, and IEEE is a leader in this arena by facilitating development of standards for the Internet that span wired and wireless connectivity, encryption, data security, and more. And with many initiatives to drive forward interrelated, emerging technology spaces such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, cybersecurity, and big data, IEEE can work with all stakeholders to advance technologies across a variety of domains.  

Another IEEE-hosted session was “Internet Governance, Security and Privacy in 2030,” where participants addressed Internet security and privacy issues related to today’s evolving digital world and economy. With an eye to the future, IEEE presented four Internet privacy and security scenarios envisioned in 2030, exploring both positive and negative impacts. With two panels discussing various points of view on how the Internet will evolve, the resulting key observations included:

  • An expectation that governance of the Internet will likely be indistinguishable from governance of society in general. Addressing political and economic issues on the Internet will be more difficult than addressing technical issues.
  • While there is a lot of optimism about the future of technology, there is an element of resignation about security whereby insecure systems could get deployed with the hope that “someone else” will fix them.
  • Consent for data collection and use may not be the right model if it imposes a burden on the end user, and accepting terms of use of data doesn’t mean end users understand them. Potential benefits of data analytics and algorithms are compelling, but better understanding of ethical data use is needed.
  • Trust is essential, but it is difficult to know how to achieve it and measure it.
  • Fragmented governance systems may require policy efforts to be layered. Some issues can be addressed locally or regionally, while others globally.
  • Transparency is an important principle—not necessarily for universal understanding, but to allow technical experts to properly evaluate options.
  • Those polled would surrender all personal data, and voluntarily be implanted with devices, even facing a very small risk of death from a hack or malfunction, for an ensured lifespan of at least 200 years.
  • Risk analysis is key to resolving the challenge of fast technical growth versus the need for policy to catch up. Making recommendations for when risk analysis is needed will help create one-size-fits-all solutions.
  • Technical boundaries could expand the same way that social boundaries did in the 1970s. The evolving Internet could present the same kind of generational challenge and the same type of tectonic shift.
  • Laws are becoming more intrusive than in past years. This raises major challenges to privacy, and may also differ based on generational and cultural differences.
  • Security is a major concern in emerging economies and countries, and building a positive infrastructure to address this is important.
  • Bandwidth and lack of IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi connectivity in many emerging economies must be addressed for users to truly understand privacy and security issues.

IEEE invites stakeholders globally to continue the conversation, and there are many ways to engage. Please visit the IEEE Internet Initiative website for more information, or the Internet Governance Forum website to access more information about IGF, including the output documents.

Karen McCabe is senior director of technology governance policy and international affairs for the IEEE Standards Association. 

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