Internet Society Tackles Big Questions in Forward-Thinking Report

From cybersecurity to governance, the Internet Society's new report on the global network's future takes a deep dive into some big issues that promise to get even bigger in the years to come. The 2017 Internet Society Global Internet Report comes as the group celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

The internet is more essential to the way we live than ever before—a driver of culture, business, and, technological progress. How do we keep it strong?

That’s a question that the Internet Society is designed to ponder and hopefully answer. The group, founded in 1992 by early online figures Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf, hopes to keep the medium as vital as it’s been over the past quarter century, even as its purpose evolves.

In its new 2017 Internet Society Global Internet Report, subtitled “Paths to Our Digital Future,” the group lays out a vision for the role that the network will take over the next 25 years.

The group, as part of its report, pondered questions about government censorship, digital divides, security issues, trust, and the way that the digital world could affect the real one.

Of the issues discussed, the society says cybersecurity might be the biggest challenge faced, due to the dynamic changes new technologies could introduce.

“As new technologies such as AI and IoT increase our dependence on the network, the severity of security challenges and vulnerabilities grows in parallel,” the report’s executive summary states. “At the same time, the continued success of the internet as a driver for economic and social innovation is tied to how we respond to these threats. Insufficient attention to security will undermine trust in the internet. Indeed, human safety is at stake.”

Additionally, the report highlights the way that the internet will converge with the physical world, leading to more data-driven societies—which could be beneficial to the world as a whole, but also endanger privacy.

The society also spends time in the report discussing the importance of strong collaboration, both in maintaining and ensuring digital standards and operability online and in the ways that governance will define the future shape of the internet.

“New technologies and game-changing business models will force governments to work differently—today’s structures and policies will be quickly outdated,” the report adds. “Internationally, cybersecurity issues will drive global governance discussions for the foreseeable future, with governments pressured to make decisions that could undermine the open and distributed global governance of the internet.”

On top of the in-depth 120-page report, which can be found here [PDF], the Internet Society included a significant amount of digital components, including videos (such as the clip featuring Cerf, above), interactive graphics, articles, and a bulleted list of recommendations for the internet going forward.

The group doesn’t admit to having all the answers, but the report represents thought leadership for a long journey, one where the questions may turn out to be even more complex than the ones raised here.

“No one knows exactly how the internet will evolve, but we do know it will require new thinking, new approaches, and new tools for this rapidly changing world around us,” Internet Society President and CEO Kathy Brown wrote.

(3alexd/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!