Annual report on studying the societal aspects of Future Internet technologies

posted 12 Oct 2011, 15:37 by Michael Boniface   [ updated 12 Oct 2011, 15:38 ]
The annual report on studying the societal aspects of Future Internet technologies has been published. This report (officially titled “First Report on Societal Future Internet Coordination Activities”) describes coordination activities by the SESERV project related to society and the Future Internet.

The report discusses societal issues which affect the development and success of FI technologies based on the collective thoughts and opinions of social scientists and technologists working on FI research. The report assesses societal concerns within the FI ecosystem along with its relationship to the European Digital Agenda and those building technology to address it.

Six concerns are discussed in detail considering technical innovation, barriers to adoption and future strategies. Topics include Risk Management - Security of Communications, Privacy, Online Identity, Internet of Things, Online Communities and Cloud Computing. Based on the discussion eight cross-cutting societal priorities for the FI R&D are presented including Call for increased transparency (data use and systems), Call for more user-centricity and control, Continuing need for further multi-disciplinary and cross-sectorial bridging,  Striking balances between outer-poles in debates and design, Facilitating further digital literacy development, Addressing lack of common vocabularies and definitions, Need for clarifying digital rights (including digital choice), and Inviting global regulatory frameworks.

The Digital Agenda is summarized and how the FI and societal priorities can address obstacles of societal relevance. One key result of engaging with the FI community is identifying that the Digital Agenda is not deeply understood by technologists. There is agap between a set of high level policies and incentives that are particularly focused on infrastructure and complex regulatory processes. It seems that these regulations ignore some of the citizenship concerns and there is a clear disconnection in this instrument. From discussions with Challenge 1 projects it appears that not even the ‘stakeholders’ of the Future Internet are fully aware or even interested in the Digital Agenda. The EU Commission needs to find the way to design and update a Digital Agenda that answers to the necessities of a broad spectrum of people and communities (not only the big organizations, companies or government). For instance, the rural and remote regions, then on-organized communities and even SMEs seem to be underrepresented in this 2020 policy action.

Since SESERV was conceptualised significant societal, economic and environmental events continue to pose huge challenges. Economic progress is not delivering an increased quality of life and new value structures that consider qualitative measures maybe needed to provide incentives for societal behaviour change. Such visions are attractive but there appears to be no credible and desirable vision for a sustainable future. With the tension between the common good and private interest (as embodied by the net neutrality debate) routes to sustainable socio-economic structures that offer trust and opportunity for all are not clear.

Plenty of opportunity for further debate next year. If you are interested please contact SESERV to get involved in one of five focus groups being established to explore future strategies.