Monday Mar 31, 2008

The socio/economic impact

The rest of the morning was taken over with a panel presentation, which focused on the socio/economic impact of the changing internet. The first speaker was Andy Wyckoff from the OECD who spoke of a number of economic issues reinforcing the link between creativity and wealth creation. In fact the OECD are running a ministerial conference, see http://oecd.org/futureinternet, which has had massive and unexpected support from the OECD's member and candidate members. He also emphasised the need for openness & interoperability. He also argued that smarter interfaces will be needed to truly create an internet of people, and that is required before further evolutions will occur.

Led by Geert Lovink of Institute of Network Cultures, the panel explored the question of paying for creativity given the marginal cost to copy is zero. Will it be possible to implement a form of micro payments?

Another issue raised was the duopoly of the search engines. It was argued that it is necessary to have a diversity of search engines, and that fortunately, the smaller players are staying in the market and continuing to innovate. Search will remain the "killer app" of the internet, but where is the "only people are experts" dimension. Will the next evolution be people finders?. They may become more important than resource finders, and is a dimension of the NESSI problem. How will you find services, in a world of billions, with hundreds of thousands joing each day. (Obviously thats the vision, not today's reality).

Dag Johansen asked if can we build a 'push' search engine, and that its very important to protect one's privacy. He (and others argued) that many internet users are prepared to trade some of their privacy for free services and resources. In terms of his privacy, he deliberately uses multiple search engines to hide from those that wnat to know about everything he does, he also stated that he doesn't think Google is good enough to justify exclusive use. I am moving towards this behaviour and often use exalead which tries to use semantic technology to improve the search quality. Another thought this raised in my mind is that {english} schools are once again pretty poor, they're teaching how to use apps, not the internet, and so while todays children are being taught in class how to use Word to write a letter, they are missing how to protect your privacy and use firewalls and spam filters. Actually it would seem they are teaching how to circumvent poorly configured content filters. (Don't ban Google images for the UK & USA, if you leave Ireland, India and Australia available.)

Diogo Vasconcelos from Cisco came up with the following insight, "People like politics, with politicians it depends", he also raised the issue of sustainability. Some of his visions had a real 'Minority Report' touch. A question was raised suggesting that, sometimes selling you stuff you thought you didn't want is good. But how much more than Amazon recommendations do we need? This did remind me of the minority report scene where the shop recognises Anderton (Tom Cruise) via an eyeball scan. Diaogo repeated the idea that the EU is the most connected place in the world? I wonder if its true. I find connecting in the States when traveling easier, the network and wi-fi seems much more pervasive, although I often have to pay. You can see elsewhere in this blog for my views on Italy and Brussels. My recent travels have confused me and I can't make up my mind whether to buy a wi-fi or 3G connected hand held appliance. I hope that I will be allowed to trial a new vodafone commercial solution, or maybe I'll check out BT Fon, which reminds me, I really need to sort my household content subscriptions. It just never stops.

The morning was finished up with a presentation on internet governance, and the need to address bureaucratic degeneracy and market failure. See also http://www.intgovforum.org/, which is a United Nations body.

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Can you believe it?

Dr Will Dutton of the University of Oxford Internet Institute addressed the conference. On his blog, he argues that there is an overwhelming concern around privacy and trust, which was confirmed by contributions later in the day. A high point for me in his presentation is the extent to which people trust the accuracy of internet content, which is not very much. He stated that people are using the internet, but trust it as much as they do the TV & papers. The good news is that people are begining to trust each other and their networks though, and are learning to apply personal bullshit filters.

Another piece of trivia is that the EU is the largest internet user base in the world, whatever that means. But, there is a natural centripetal force in that there are so many different languages. (Mind you it should be noted that the US, China and India are all also multi-lingual nations).

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