Global Internet Report : Digital Future A Fragile Mix Of Promise And Uncertainty

According to the Global Internet Report by the internet society, no one can predict the Internet’s future, but it is too important to ignore. The emergence of new devices and innovations have given us more ways to harness the power of connectivity wherever we go and have given us functionality we could never have imagined.  The Internet Society(ISOC), a global non-profit dedicated to ensuring the open development,evolution and use of the Internet,released a first-of-its-kind report yesterday aimed at exploring the future of the Internet. Entitled“Paths to ourDigital Future,”the 2017 Global Internet Report examines the Internet over the next five to seven years and identifies the factors that will shape its future. The report uncovers a mix of challenges and opportunities in safeguarding the Internet for the next generation and makes recommendations on the steps that can be taken today to realize the Internet’s promise for everyone,everywhere.

The 2017 Global Internet Report considers the many forces that are shaping the Internet today,from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cyber threats, Internet standards and the Internet ofThings(IoT),to the Internet economy and the rising role of government.It explores how these forces will impact key areas including digital divides,personal freedoms and rights, as well as media and society.Taken together,these forces will change the Internet in dramatic ways over the coming years.

Some of the key findings contained in the report include:

AI and IoT alter lives but could result in a“surveillance society”

Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things hold huge potential to simplify and enhance people’s lives- but only if ethical considerations steer technology development and guide its use.As AI and IoT enable the collection of massive amounts of personal information,there is a risk that without appropriate safeguards and user control,a “surveillance society”could emerge.

Increased security concerns could undermine personal freedoms and rights

Cyber security issues will pressure governments to take decisions that could erode the open and distributed global governance of the Internet.Measures that may be intended to secure cyberspace may undermine personal rights and freedoms.Without a change of course, online freedoms may be nearing a point of irreversible decline.

Optimism still reigns

Younger users and those in developing countries are particularly optimistic about the future of the Internet and the ability to use the technology to better their lives and create their futures.

The nature of the digital divide will change

As the Internet transforms every sector of the global economy, the digital divides of the future won’t just be about access to the Internet, but about the gap between the economic opportunities available to some and not to others.  The link between security and economic prosperity will grow,leading to the potential of a security divide that separates those individuals or countries who can protect their digital assets and those who cannot.

“Our extensive research clearly shows that just as when the Internet Society was founded 25 yearsago, people believe that the Internet’s core values still remain valid— that it must be global,open,secure, and used for the benefit of people everywhere in the world,”said Sally Wentworth,Vice President of Global Policy for the Internet Society.

Some are worried about the threat of new divides and how these will not only deepen existing gaps between countries, but also across society as a whole. In particular,the report explores the emergence of a new security and trust divide characterized by cyber threats that continue to multiply,and a growing rift between users who are security-aware and those who lack the skills, knowledge and resources to protect themselves online.

To download or browse the 2017 Global Internet Report online, please visit:  https://www.internetsociety.org/globalinternetreport/2017.

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