Building Trust Growing the Internet

Reflections on Three Years on the ISOC Board of Trustees

Editor’s Note: At the Internet Society’s Annual General Meeting in June 2017, Gihan Dias will be leaving the Board.  Thank you Gihan for your service and contributions.

Although I have been a Trustee of the Internet Society for three years now, my relationship with ISOC goes back much further – to 1995 when I attended the ISOC networking workshop for developing countries, held in Prague, Czech Republic. It was a really fantastic experience. Not only did we learn how to build the Internet, but we also met many of the people who actually built it!

I then realised that many of these people are members of the Internet Society and that the society helps to keep the Internet going in many ways. Over the years, I continued to interact with ISOC, and its Sri Lanka chapter, which I led for over two years.

I also wanted to contribute to the society at a global level, and in 2014 was elected a trustee of the Society. I approached my first board meeting with some trepidation, since I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. However, I found that the trustees – while being an eclectic bunch – were both professional and dedicated. Together, we have been able to achieve much.

Our biggest achievement was to provide our members – through their local chapters – with more resources, more than tripling the funds for chapters, and making it easier for chapters to do both chapter administration as well as run events and projects. A major part of this was the setting up of the Chapters Advisory Council. We have also provided more services to our organisational members. 

However, challenges remain. I believe The Internet Society – ISOC – should be a household word and be the place individuals, organisations and governments turn to as the trusted resource concerning the Internet. We need not only to have Internet available to more people – in their own language and more effectively – but also have people be able to trust the Internet. 

While I think the Internet will continue to grow and become more and more ingrained in our daily lives, it does face several dangers. One is that may become a set of walled gardens; where people only access a limited set of services. This may be due to commercial or political reasons. Another is that it may be perceived as unsafe; where people fear for their financial and reputational safety. ISOC has a major role to play, both in guiding the Internet in a people-friendly path, as well as avoiding pitfalls. 

Although I’m now leaving the board, I’m not leaving the Society. I plan to continue to work with the Society for many years at national, regional and global levels.