Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Technology

Connecting “Los Nevados” on the Roof of the Andes

Beyond the Net Journal: Venezuela Chapter

Have you ever been to Los Nevados?

Reaching this tiny village, located in the Sierra Nevada National Park at 2,711 m. above sea level, can be a real adrenaline adventure. The scary and dangerous cliff road leading to the town is one of the world’s most spectacular and dangerous. The rough terrain can get very muddy and slippery after rain, making it challenging to get through.

As you can guess, not less challenging was bringing Internet access to 2,000 inhabitants living in this remote area.

The idea to develop a wireless architecture to provide Los Nevados with Internet services and reduce their isolation came to Paola Perez, a computer systems engineer and Internet Society member. At that time she was based in Merida, the capital city, 69 km away.

Paola remembers: “Initially my dream was to bring connectivity to the Canaima National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage site, but I changed my mind when I recalled my friend Yeiny, who lives in Los Nevados. She attended university in Merida, but she couldn’t return to her village on weekends because she had no Internet connection to download the contents of the exams.”

Gabriela Muñoz (left), Paola Pérez (right)

Empowering “Los Nevados” through ICTs usage for social benefit” was funded in 2016 by the Internet Society in collaboration with the Venezuela Chapter. Although it seemed impossible to overcome the technical difficulties, the project team never lost sight of their dream to connect that remote place to the rest of the world. At the end, the talented and devoted team succeeded and also won the Chapterthon – a marathon open to all LAC Chapters to achieve a common goal for the development of their region.

The fruits of persistence are now providing endless benefits to Los Nevados, who are overcoming their physical and cultural isolation.

New educational opportunities are offered to the local students through access to relevant content and remote learning. Parents with children studying away at university are now using live chat and email services to get in touch.

Farmers, who represents the majority of the population, are exchanging seeds and marketing their products. Artisans are promoting their crafts online.

Not only los Nevaderos are now enjoying the Internet connection with unlimited services but also the visitors.” Paola explains: “It’s hard to imagine because it’s a place so difficult to reach, but about 500 people per month are visiting the village. Hikers use it as a base for climbing Pico Bolivar, the highest mountain in Venezuela (4,978 m). When there was no Internet connection all payments were only in cash, and people were not aware of it until they arrived at the site. Now tourists are able to book accommodations and make online payments.”

The Civil Registry of the village can finally provide inhabitants with any digital document downloadable from public websites. It is also possible to keep records of births and deaths in digital format, sharing the data with institutions. The “Village Radio Station” is using streaming technology to share in real time the news from the world. Los Nevados also take pride of publishing stories and photos about the community to preserve their traditions. The Internet has become an essential tool for information and citizen participation.

These are only few examples of how this project is empowering the life of Los Nevados and helping to achieve SDG goals 3,4,8,9.

Do you feel like renting a burro for three hours trek to Los Nevados, getting lost in the magnificent tropical zone of the Andes? Now you can book online.

Do you have a great idea?

Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Internet of Things (IoT)

A drone project to change humanitarian disaster response in Philippines.

Philippines is the 4th most disaster-prone country in the world. When a natural disasters hits we are completely wiped out. In remote and rural parts of the Philippines, telecommunications networks can be spotty most of the times. This scenario is willing to change thanks to the Internet Society’s Philippines Chapter new project supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme.

The aim of the project is to send UAVs — or what most of us call drones — in disaster zones to act as wireless relays and data aggregators. The drones would set up a local MESH network to help people to get in touch with the loved ones. It would also help emergency workers to work safely and talk to one another. The project will also make possible that the drones will be able to work with Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) to find information about the situation on the ground.

In the recent years, interest in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has been evidenced by innovations in this emerging field. Hobbyists and scientists alike have leveled up the use of UAVs in many ways such as forestry surveys, remote sensing and disaster management. While much of the focus of drones to date has been on military applications and as toys, the future of drones as humanitarian tools is getting more promising by the day. Commercial industries view drones as the new logistics support mechanism for parcel delivery, they are also used by environmental bureaus for tracking river flow changes.

In a country prone to disasters like the Philippines, researchers saw the opportunity to implement drones in the field of disaster management. Over the years, the Ateneo de Manila University Innovation Center has been developing use cases for drone technology, mostly for mission-critical scenarios as decision-support platform. Dr. Nathaniel Joseph Libatique, a professor at Manila University said: “We can all do optimization on battery life, rotor design, and frame aerodynamics, but at the core of engineering for humanity is the UAV’s payload – this niche is a breeding space for innovation. Say for example, we can do a fly-by and detect victims in a collapsed building, or do cooperative flights with ground teams – we can cover the breadth of a situation while scaling up value-added systems such as location detection, risk profiling, and even internet connectivity!”

Using hybrid communications technologies and devices – Push-To-Talk (PTT) Radio, Android-based protocols, Raspberry Pi hubs, 915 MHz and 760 MHz transceivers and delay tolerant communications standards (RFC 5050) – the project team continues to demonstrate how critical information such as victim or survivor identities and needs can be robustly transmitted to command and control using bump communications, aggregation and store and forward techniques. Information analysis such as facial recognition and pre-stored information of survivor social networks, especially for the elderly and PWDs, enable an efficient and targeted response.

Flying over the municipality of San Juan, Batangas, a province 140 kilometers south of Metro Manila, the team did a series of experiments that demonstrated the role of UAVs integrating connectivity, highlighting cooperation and underscoring collaboration. In a disaster situation, responders use various radio communication media and this presents an opportunity to interface drones with these devices. Systems incorporating ground vehicles and UAVs provide the breadth and scale necessary to respond to disasters and undertake victim rescue apart from purely imagery missions. In this series of tests, the team did propagation measurements between “victims” and drones functioning as rescuer/alert vehicle. The UAV was flown above the antenna setup subject to the applicable civil aviation rules, utilizing the frequency (760 MHz) as approved for experimental use by the telecommunications regulator. Initial results reveal the potential of UAVs to complement ground teams in the performance of victim rescue support.

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter

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If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

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Beyond the Net Community Projects Growing the Internet Human Rights

Internet@MySchool – a pilot project connecting Yemeni schools in Sanaa and Aden

As a country, Yemen is among the least with Internet connectivity in the Middle East. This is particularly troubling given the rise of Internet access across the globe. Furthermore, the youth in Yemen constitute the majority of the population yet are being left behind because of the lack of Internet access in schools due to poor economic conditions coupled with other priorities that supersede Internet access.

And due to the continuation of conflicts, the educational process in Yemen facing many challenges: shortages in the financial resources, the rehabilitation of partially damaged schools, and the printing of school textbooks. Currently, there are about 2 million school-age children are out of school and more than 1,600 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage, hosting of IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.

While schools in Yemen facing these challenges, that does not mean that Internet access should not be a high priority. On the contrary, we believe that the Internet could be a strong incentive and means of support to help students acquire knowledge and be motivated to study online and compensate for the lack of books and other study material.

Students need the Internet because it is the most effective way to share ideas and experiences and complement regular traditional education. Similarly, teachers need to be informed of the new pedagogic methods and teaching material that allows them to enhance their teaching methods and improve their curricula. Teachers can also use the Internet to exchange views with each other and formulate common ideas to present to the government. This is why Yemen Chapter strongly believe in connecting schools to the internet will have a long-term positive impact.

Thanks to Beyond the Net Funding Programme support we are implementing Internet@MySchool, a project which aims to connect to the Internet four secondary school’s senior classrooms in two cities (Sanaa, and Aden) and provide training and booklets to ensure that the Internet services the project provides are used effectively by students and teachers in those schools.

The project will select one boys school and one girls school in both cities. Those schools are going to be a pilot project, which we hope will be replicated across the country and the region.

The project team, in the last five months, has worked hard to identify the selected schools to implements the project through a selection and evaluation criteria. The team has completed the following activities:

  • Installed the Internet and network infrastructure in four schools in Sana’a and Aden.
  • Produced and printed 3000 copy of a booklet in Arabic language with illustrations will be used in the training sessions for students on the basics of internet and how to use internet as a tool for education. The booklet will be distributed to students and staff in the selected schools and could be reprinted and used in many different settings and contexts if resources are available.
  • Created a website for the project with login authorization to each of the schools to allow students and staff posting  their own experiences, photos, questions, and other contributions and for the project to promote its work. Additionally, students can communicate with their teachers and colleagues to discuss and share educational resources or materials.
  • Created Social media accounts such as facebook page for disseminating project activities among public audience.
  • Video showing some activities of the project
  • Video promoting the website of the project 
  • Preparing for the training sessions in the next few weeks.
Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Find out more about the programme 
Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter 

Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights IETF Internet Governance Open Internet Standards Technology

How the IETF community is shaping technology to build a better society

The continued advancement in technological landscape enabling more people having Internet access in the global arena has meant that IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) remains at the forefront of integrating technology with humanity. In fact, IETF has made significant use of social dimension to articulate its area of work and research. It is beautifully reflected in section 4.1 of the RFC 3935 wherein it states that “We want the Internet to be useful for communities that share our commitment to openness and fairness.  We embrace technical concepts such as decentralized control, edge-user empowerment and sharing of resources, because those concepts resonate with the core values of the IETF community”. This focus of inclusion remains at forefront of integration of IETF with human dimension of technology. The standards created in IETF are testimony to technical developments and enables innovation by providing a platform for the innovation and interoperability.

Indian IETF Capacity Building (IICB) Program Phase II has received Beyond the Net Support from Internet Society and focuses on creating technical capacity development for increased participation and contribution of technical standards on Internet from India. The program aligns itself with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals such of economic growth, employment and decent work for all.

The IICB program was conceived as a traditional program which is hierarchical in nature, meaning it has fixed KPIs rolling up-to objectives and further upward roll up to mission and vision. However, in reality, the program has taken a shift and has focused on creating communities as well which decides their own course of action. This was a marked shift as it required adjustments in the delivery of the program and larger emphasis on adoption. As individuals are important in IETF process, it asked from the program implementers to develop a greater understanding of the role of individual who is going to contribute in the IETF process, the collective beliefs one possesses, the world views on standards and standardization, the priorities of making a contribution as well as loyalties as time has to be taken out from different parts of day, personal and professional space for inching into this community.

Hence, the awareness sessions being carried out in the program focused on human concerns in the technical standard development process in IETF like. The workshops focused on societal benefits of collaborative work happening in IETF and remote participation was not hearing the speakers over Internet, but was a presence across the seas and directly learning from the activities therein.

A significant milestone for IICB program was in late 2016 when a community of technical researchers and academicians based out of 150 KMs from main city of Kolkata, at a place called Mallabhum wherein we had done our awareness sessions and workshops, proposed us their own plans of execution and the task at hand was now just to enable them. Since then they are moving out to do IETF awareness sessions, remotely logging on to IETF sessions, have created smaller sub groups to focus on specific areas of technology and following the debate in IETF mailing lists. Emboldened, one of the key movers is working to get his visa for his first physical participation in IETF in Chicago.

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Applications are open until 23th March
Find out more about the programme 

Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

Barev dzez! You are listening to Radio MENQ. The voice of the visually impaired of Armenia.

Beyond the Net Journal: Armenia Chapter #3 Episode

When Armenia declared independence in 1991, the Internet access finally became available, allowing people to be part of the world again. The creation of an Internet Availability Center in 2012 (funded by Internet Society’s grant) at the Culture House for the Blind in Yerevan, triggered creative ideas among active members of the center.

They came to conclusion that an Internet radio station would be the greatest opportunity for helping the blind and visually impaired. The project started in January 2016 supported by the Internet Society’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme”. Today, it is a dream come true.

Radio MENQ (“We” in Armenian language) has become a platform empowering people with disabilities. The programming covers practical and psychological matters. Many artists and scientists with disabilities have been invited as guests to share their lived experiences. This radio station is opening up new horizons for the visually impaired and their families.

The project team is comprised of people with disabilities of various specialties. All of them are proficient in their areas and highly motivated in bringing change to people’s lives. Radio MENQ is contributing to the cultural and spiritual development of its audience through psychological advice, reading of prose and fairy tales for children, gaming competitions, and hours of music.

Just taking a look at some of the programs currently on air illustrates the important role this station plays:

  • “You can” – 13 episodes about people who are blind, from ancient to modern times, who demonstrated notable achievements, like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli, Diana Gurtskaya, Louis Braille
  • “Internet and the blind” – Opportunities and how to use them
  • “Psychology in life” – How to use internal resources to achieve goals
  • “Toward Independence” – Ways to improve self-dependence
  • “Problem and solution” – What role can visually-impaired people play in the society. The role of family and education in the process of socialization. How to overcome psychological barriers when searching for a job.
  • “Rights and privileges” – About legislative solutions for blind people
  •  “Loving a person” – How to destroy barriers in relationships
  •  “My Universities” – How to get a higher education and find a job
  • “Sports and We” –  Brilliant victories in Paralympics sports
  • “Learn to play Chess” – Lessons from the blind master Yura Awetisyan

Radio MENQ has been promoted through mass media, social networks and public events with the involvement of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia Republic. We are proud to say that the blog is getting up to 2,800 visits monthly, and a mobile application to reach a wider audience is in the pipeline.

In Armenia, the estimated number of blind and visually impaired people is 25,000 and in Diaspora 50,000. While the team was discussing ways to expand the project to Diaspora communities, they received this message from United States: “Barev dzez! My name is Laurel and I am a blind student studying at the University of Oklahoma. My instructor is Armenian, and I got inspired to learn Armenian as well. I found your radio station online. I love listening to your programs, and I use it to help teach myself Armenian. When I discovered how hard it was to read with a screen reader in Armenian, I thought why not do something. I am actually working on creating a project that could help blind people in Armenia, Georgia and Russia through technology and educational opportunities. I would really like to connect with the blind community in Armenia, and I plan to visit Yerevan in September.”

The famous blind pianist Levon Karapetyan, who used to move around with helpers, is another inspiring story. While he was in France for a study period he listened to Radio MENQ’s “Toward Independence” and he got very interested in self-development tools mentioned in the program. When he came back to Armenia he visited the station and asked the team to teach him how to use the white cane and other tips to move independently. The mobility training changed his life for the better. A special episode devoted to his experience will be broadcast in the future.

In addition to being a public health concern, blindness also has a great impact on the social and economic wellbeing of an individual. First efforts to educate the blind were attempted at the beginning of the 19th century thanks to the Louis Braille system. Until that time, blind people were considered mostly uneducable and untrainable. One of the worst stereotypes about blindness is the belief of that it limits to the kind of jobs you can do. Blind children acquire this sad way of thinking from society.

The radio station aims to raise awareness about how an appropriate environment can increase the ability of a person with disabilities to work independently and add value to society. After Radio MENQ went on air, many young people have started to learning how to be program presenters and sound technicians. The Armenian blind community is starting to break the stereotypes and prove they are able to work on equal footing.

This project is illustrating the power of the Internet in creating innovation and local solutions with global impact. Radio MENQ is becoming a reference for visually impaired people, also facilitating the collaboration and partnerships needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch the video and see the amazing job they are doing

Listen to Radio MENQ

This project is relevant to achieving the following SDGs goals:

More projects for the visually impaired:

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Applications are open until 23th March
Find out more about the programme 

Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

e-Daara de Thieyetou – Internet au cœur du village

Beyond the Net Journal: Sénégal Chapter #1 Episode

Thieyetou est un village du nord-ouest du Sénégal situé à 27km de la ville la plus proche et difficilement accessible. Sa population rencontre également des difficultés d’accès à l’information et à l’éducation. De même, sa distance de la ville rend l’entretien du matériel informatique presque impossible, les techniciens doivent venir de la ville.

Actuellement, plus de deux cents trente élèves fréquentent l’école primaire qui accueille aussi les étudiants d’autres localités autour (Garame, Ndari, Koure, Ndialigue), la plupart n’ayant jamais accédé à Internet.

Le chapitre du Sénégal (, avec le soutien du club informatique de l’Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique de Dakar (, souhaite déployer dans l’école primaire de Thieyetou une connexion internet sécurisée, partagée par Wifi de même qu’un logiciel de gestion scolaire en ligne. Ce dernier permettra aux professeurs de pouvoir suivre la progression de leurs élèves.  De plus, l’accès à l’internet sera possible à toute la population du village.

Un défi supplémentaire a été mis en lumière par ce projet.  En effet, le village connaît des problèmes d’approvisionnement en électricité, ce qui apporte de grande contrainte au déploiement du réseau.  Cependant, les membres ont su y pallier via l’installation d’un kit solaire autonome.

Pour terminer, il est important de mentionner que le rôle du chapitre ne c’est pas arrêté à ces considérations techniques. Constatant que l’école manquait de matériel scolaire essentiel pour le déroulement des cours, le Chapitre a lancé un appel à contribution à tous ses membres.

Reproductibilité du projet

Un accord entre le Ministère de l’Education du Sénégal et le principal fournisseur d’accès Internet du pays assure un accès Internet gratuit à 1Mb, l’hébergement web et les adresses de courrier électronique dans n’importe quelle école publique du pays.   Ce qui rend ce projet réalisable dans toute école primaire ou secondaire au Sénégal.

La documentation (manuels d’installation et d’utilisation) et les expériences partagées de ce projet seront entièrement disponibles et maintenues en ligne par les membres du chapitre. Cela aidera à diffuser les informations sur ce projet et à faciliter sa réplication.

Découvrez le projet avec les mots de Monsieur Ahmath Bamba Mbacke, chef de projet et Monsieur Alex Corenthin, President du Chapitre du Sénégal.

Partager cet article

Si vous aimez cette histoire, partagez-la avec vos amis. Cela aiderait énormément à diffuser l’info et à accroître la visibilité de ce projet, en aidant plus de gens à comprendre comment Internet peut changer des vies.

Avez-vous une idée de projet ? Nous sommes intéressés par votre projet.

Nous recherchons de nouvelles idées, provenant de partout dans le monde, sur la façon de rendre votre communauté plus efficace en utilisant Internet. « Beyond the Net » finance des projets jusqu’à concurrence de 30 000 $ US.

Vous voulez créer votre propre projet ? Participez à une des prochaines sessions d’information les 7 et 23 février 2017.
Open Internet Standards

E-Entrepreneurship on the Open Internet

Today the World Economic Forum published their Global Information Technology Report 2015. This year’s theme is “ICT for Inclusive Growth,” examining how developing and emerging economies are exploiting the potential of ICTs to drive economic transformation. We are proud to have contributed a chapter entitled ‘E-Entrepreneurship on the Open Internet’, in which we highlight the opportunities for innovation that are created by the Internet.  

The theme of our own first annual Global Internet Report was “Open and Sustainable Access for All” and one of the case studies was the example of an engineer in Togo who set out to build a cheap 3D printer. He was able to:

  • Download open source plans created on a collaborative platform;
  • Raise over 4000 Euros from complete strangers using a crowdfunding website; and
  • Use the abundant electronic waste being shipped to Africa from Europe and beyond.

The result was a 3D printer that could be built for 100 dollars, which he submitted to a NASA competition for a future Mars mission. It is impossible to imagine any part of this taking place without access to the open Internet, and such stories are taking place all over the world.

These stories epitomize the theme of inclusive growth, by democratizing entrepreneurship. Formerly, innovation largely took place in clusters, where the ingredients such as education, venture capital, skilled employees, and mentors, are all physically located in the same area. Silicon Valley is a prime example. While many countries and regions have tried to duplicate the success of Silicon Valley, none have emerged even to be commonly recognized as second largest. Further, even when successful, clusters exclude based on physical proximity, as well as gender, income, and education, to varying degrees, even for those in the cluster.

Our article points out that most, if not all, of the ingredients needed by entrepreneurs can now be found online. This includes tangible inputs like venture capital and computing capacity, along with less tangible ones, such as mentorship and collaboration. As a result, the possibilities for entrepreneurship are expanding beyond the traditional boundaries of high-tech clusters to include anyone with access to the open Internet.  Furthermore, this online innovation can enable entrepreneurs to surmount barriers not only of physical location, but also barriers of education, gender, and physical disability. 

As the Internet grows and encompasses an increasing number of people, innovation becomes more inclusive because more of us will be able to create new enterprises. At the same time, the results of innovation become more inclusive, because many entrepreneurs focus their efforts on filling market gaps close to home. This helps to create more locally relevant content, making the Internet more interesting for people in those countries, creating new users and a sustainable cycle of inclusive growth and innovation based on access to the open Internet.

If you’re interested in reading the entire Global Information Technology Report 2015 you can find it on the World Economic Forum’s website.

Photo: "Home Office - My Desk - Old 2005" © 2005 Photographer CC BY-NC 2.0
Internet Governance

WSIS+10: Building a shared vision for the next decade

UNESCO, CONNECTing the Dots, 3-4 March 2015 

Over the past decade the focus has been on the Internet technology’s development; I believe the next decade will be about policy and governance.” This concluding statement from Bill Dutton (Professor at the Michigan State University) at the UNESCO Connecting the Dots Conference that ended last Wednesday sets the stage of the year-long discussion ahead of us, leading to the WSIS 10-year Review.

Three hundred participants gathered this week in Paris to discuss how the Internet affects access to information and knowledge, freedom of expression, and also how our personal information is collected and processed. Leading UN agency in the field of Ethics and the Internet, UNESCO presented on Tuesday a report articulated around the concept of “Internet Universality”, i.e. the Internet should be Rights-based, Open, Accessible to all and nurtured by Multistakeholder participation (ROAM).

This vision was extensively discussed, sometimes roughly debated. Indeed, each of these principles can have different meanings for different people and communities. A few practical questions came into the discussion: If human rights are universal by nature, how to ensure that privacy frameworks are effectively interoperable between regions and countries? Beyond the development of Internet infrastructures, what kind of training do people need to be empowered by the technology? How do we organize meaningful and accountable multistakeholder participation mechanisms?

Asserting principles, grounded in profound human aspirations, is an essential stage for a group of individuals that want to shape a common society. As the digital revolution gradually impacts all spheres of our public and private lives, it is time for users, business actors and governments to assert their beliefs, and take action to shape the future of the Internet. It is time to come together as an Internet society.

In the current Internet ecosystem, all stakeholders can contribute to shaping the Internet. The openness and transparency of Internet policy and technical development processes have been intrinsic to the success of the Internet itself, which relies on a global and interoperable system. What is becoming obvious today is that the impact ofthese principles goes way beyond the field of technology.

The principles of openness and transparency have been a catalyst in allowing the Internet to evolve constantly. They have contributed not only to unleash innovation and creativity but, equally significantly, they have allowed the Internet to manifest its full potential in terms of social empowerment, political expression and economic development.  Additionally, they have produced a fertile ground for the organic growth of a set of abilities that have further enriched our societies: the ability to connect, to innovate and to communicate, but also to choose and to share. 

The final outcome document of the UNESCO conference was developed as a shared vision affirming faith in an open governance model, such as the IGF, but also that human rights must be protected online as they are offline, and that they are enablers of the post-2015 Development Agenda. This is a strong vision that people felt they could assemble around and an important milestone in the path leading to the 10-year Review of the WSIS, end of December. 

Internet Governance

What Do You Mean When You Say 'Open Internet'?

By Lyman Chapin, Interisle Consulting Group Founder and Principal, and Sally Wentworth, Internet Society Vice President, Global Policy Development

This week at the IGF, many discussions will focus on how to develop Internet public policies in a wide range of areas in support of an “open Internet.” Janis Karklins, chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) for the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), answers his own question about why so many people are coming to Istanbul: “The answer is clear,” he states, “all of these stakeholders care about maintaining a free, open, interoperable, stable, secure and trustworthy Internet.”  

As a general statement, this is undoubtedly true; but what has made the IGF particularly important over its lifespan is the observation that “all of these stakeholders” do not necessarily agree on what all of those adjectives mean. And, this should not be viewed as a weakness of the IGF; on the contrary, this degree of diversity of opinions is encouraged and is seen as its core strength.

In particular, the terms “open Internet” and “openness” have been used so often that everyone thinks they know what they mean, and assumes that everyone else means the same thing when they use them. Because openness is the key enabling principle of the Internet as a system that includes users, applications, and infrastructure, understanding what it means—and what it does not mean—is an essential prerequisite for the discussion of critical technical, economic, social, and political issues at the IGF.

The idea that the Internet is an “open” limitless system is not new, and certainly did not arrive with the current debate about the organization, processes and forums of Internet governance. James Mwangi, in the Foreword to the March 2014 Dalberg Global Development Advisors report “Open for Business? The Economic Impact of Internet Openness,” has this to say about the history and importance of openness:

“We take the capabilities of today’s Internet for granted, as though it was inevitable it would evolve in this way. But in the early days of the Internet, few people knew how profoundly this technology could transform our lives. We’ve witnessed growth that would have been impossible to predict, growth that can only be understood in the context of one essential attribute of the system: the openness of the network. Since its emergence, the Internet has remained an open platform, allowing any of us to innovate, create new services and tools, share freely and widely, and access all of the products and services that others have made available…Without openness, many of the services and tools we rely on in our daily lives would not be possible.”

Advocates of an open Internet are sometimes miscast as proponents of an “anything goes” anarchical approach that would sweep aside the rule of law and other norms of human behavior in favor of “permissionless innovation.” But in the Internet, openness is about opportunity, not ideology: it is about the opportunity for students, entrepreneurs, creators, and inventors to explore, try and test new ideas and new business models without asking permission from any established gatekeeper. Openness is not about promoting the social or political values of one group over others. It is freedom, not disorder. The open Internet enables an environment of social and economic growth and empowerment not because its supporters relentlessly assert “openness is good,” but because openness confers extraordinary tangible benefits that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain:

  • As a tangible network infrastructure composed of hosts, routers, service providers, protocols, and many other technical components, the Internet is optimized for interoperability—peer components interact with each other without extensive prior configuration because information is shared openly, and every developer and operator has open access to the externally visible behavior of each element of the Internet system.
  • As an operational infrastructure that relies on the voluntary participation of many different parties to manage its independent parts, the Internet is an open society of individuals and organizations that fulfill their separate local missions by collaborating to make the global Internet work.
  • As an innovation engine that supports the development of new technical standards and policy initiatives, the Internet succeeds because openness, in terms of transparency, access, and participation, brings the best ideas to the table, distributes them widely, and engages everyone in the process of turning them into new services and applications that enhance the quality of life in all corners of the world.

Openness and multistakeholder participation have consistently walked hand-in-hand and they should continue to do so. Openness can ensure that values like transparency, access and participation – all unique characteristics of a multistakeholder environment – are met and sustained; at the same time, multistakeholder participation strengthens the idea of openness by encouraging a diversity of competing ideas and opinions. At the IGF, there is not a specific topic on openness. But, the entire set of discussions, addressing issues, which range from local content to privacy, network neutrality or new technologies are all essential about openness. This is why we all need to start deliberating on and trying to understand better the value, role and contribution openness has to the Internet and its governance structures. 

To read more about Openness, the Internet Society published a white paper, “The Open Internet: What it is, and how to avoid mistaking it for something else.”

Development Internet Governance

From Inspiration to Innovation on the Open Internet

Recently a young engineer in Togo, Kodjo Afate Gnikou, had an inspiration.  Surveying the electronic waste being deposited across West Africa, he designed and built a 3D printer using discarded parts from computers and scanners, which costs $100 and is named the W.Afate, combining the name of the incubator where he works, WoeLab, and his own name.  

In many ways this is a typical story of turning inspiration into innovation, an inventor seeing opportunity where others see challenges.  However, what is remarkable is how this was made possible by the open Internet, in ways not possible even ten years ago.  

For instance, Mr. Gnikou was able to leverage the following benefits from Internet access: 

  • online collaboration between enthusiasts on projects such as 3D printers, whose plans were freely available for the W.Afate printer
  • sharing of resources, enabling Mr. Gnikou to raise EUR 4,313 from 112 supporters around the world on the crowdfunding site Ulule
  • global markets for the results of innovation; for instance, the W.Afate printer was submitted to the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, for consideration for a future mission to Mars.

The original high-tech startups largely produced physical things – computers, chips, peripherals, and software to control those things – and their founders in turn benefitted from physical presence.  A good university education, direct access to computers for training and development, and availability of venture capital to fund their companies.  These factors quickly coalesced around Silicon Valley, nurturing startups and housing many of the successful results. 

It is no surprise that the first large Internet startups of the 1990s – Netscape, eBay, Yahoo!, Amazon, and Google – all started in the USA, many also in Silicon Valley.  These companies all benefited from the same conditions that promoted earlier tech startups, and came about at a time when the US had an early, historical, lead in Internet access and usage.

However, the Internet changes the prospects for startups considerably, and favorably for those outside the USA. Physical presence is not needed for access to the ingredients, and the outputs can be sold online.  Not surprisingly, as the Internet spread quickly spread from the USA through the developed world, the 2000s saw new innovative startups emerging outside the USA, notably in Europe, including Skype (Estonia) and Spotify (Sweden).  

More recently, the center of Internet gravity has shifted towards developing countries, with a number of developments.  

  • According to the ITU, the number of Internet users in the developing world passed those of the developed world in early 2008
  • The iPhone was launched in 2007, and by late 2011 more than 50% of users around the world had a mobile broadband connection
  • Combining the first two trends, by late 2012 more than 50% of the world’s mobile broadband subscribers are in developing countries

As a result, why should the next big innovation not come from an emerging market?

Already M-Pesa, arguably the most successful mobile payment systems in the world, began in Kenya.   This is no surprise, as mobile payment fills a critical gap in much of the developing world – lack of access to banking services. Another successful Kenyan application, Ushahidi, also developed to meet a local challenge – in this case to track violence that followed an election in 2007, and subsequently has been adopted around the world, for instance to track earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and Japan, and even to track the progress of snowplows in Washington DC.

However, while the Internet is a fully interoperable network of networks, not all networks are created alike, and not all countries are likely to foster innovation equally.  Innovators and potential customers alike must have access to high quality and affordable broadband Internet access; the network itself must be resilient to promote investments; there should be as few restrictions as possible on access to content and applications; and a government policy to maintain an open Internet.

Kenya has very favorable conditions for startups – good mobile access, resilient international connections, two efficient Internet Exchange Points, and a government the both promotes, and leverages, the open Internet.  Other countries sharing favorable conditions include Jordan, Indonesia, and Argentina, and demonstrate how success can help to breed success.  In Argentina, MercadoLibre, the largest ecommerce provider in Latin America, has been hosting developer conferences; a number of incubators including ideosource have emerged in Indonesia, and the 2009 sale of Jordanian startup Maktoob to Yahoo for USD 175 million has spurred the startup scene there.

Given the interconnection of the Internet, creating a global market for innovation, it is important that the open Internet be promoted and preserved internationally, through vibrant multistakeholder participation in standard setting and Internet governance.  This will enable anyone to turn inspiration into innovation and innovation into income in order succeed in the new Internet-enabled global marketplace.

Human Rights Internet Governance

Protect the Open Internet, Protect Your Freedom

Although the Internet’s original architects likely did not intentionally conceive the Internet as a tool to advance human rights, the principles they built into its design support basic participatory ideals.
In many ways, the Internet has proven to be a powerful tool for promoting the potential of a more open and inclusive society. In some parts of the world, the Internet has encouraged lively participatory social development, promoted access to and sharing of information and knowledge, fostered online cultural diversity and enabled a vast array of new services based on the Internet, including e-learning, e-health, and e-government.
When the Internet is unrestricted and widely available, it enables users to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers, in ways that were not possible before. The network has shown its potential to become a key enabler for realizing the ideal of freedom of expression and information, set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) more than 60 years ago.
From the beginning, the Internet’s creators understood that – in the absence of open, global and interoperable standards – we would likely have a set of fragmented and incompatible networks, isolated and unable to communicate among each other. The Internet’s global nature is sustained by what we call Open Standards: communication protocols, data exchange formats and interface that allow different computers and networks to exchange information. They are the language of the Internet, empowering users to communicate with one another through the network. Like other languages, Internet standards should not be owned, but be freely used by anybody; anyone should be able to contribute to their evolution (read about why The Internet Didn’t Happen by Accident).

All of these manifestations of “openness” have to be considered as interdependent andmutually reinforcing in a virtuous circle. Technical, economic, societal and politicaldimensions of the Internet are closely intertwined and interrelated.

In line with this ideal, the Mission Statement of the Internet Engineering Task Force – the community which is the home of this technical development – highlights the fundamental value of an open model by stating: “We embrace technical concepts such as decentralized control, edge-user empowerment and sharing of resources, because those concepts resonate with the core values of the IETF community. These concepts have little to do with the technology that’s possible, and much to do with the technology that we choose to create.”

Although these words were written to describe the technical context, today they accurately reflect the aspirations of many Internet users for the societal communities that they choose to create.
Of course, while these features without any doubt have a positive impact, there are also downsides to Internet openness; the same technology that is used to foster free expression can also be used to repress it when it is considered inconvenient or dangerous to the status quo. As we witnessed with recent surveillance events, it can also be used in ways that undermine users’ privacy expectations.
It is therefore our responsibility to protect our Internet and to protect our freedoms by making sure the Internet remains open and fosters vibrant and inclusive societies.
The Internet Society is currently engaging on this issue and others in cooperation with other stakeholders at the Internet Governance Forum 2013.

Read more:

The Value of Openness for a Sustainable Internet by InternetSociety

Building Trust Growing the Internet Human Rights Identity Internet Governance Privacy

Provoking National Boundaries on the Internet? A chilling thought…

The impact of the recently revealed US government data collection practices may go well beyond the privacy ramifications outlined in our statement: expect a chilling effect on global, resilient network architecture. As governments of other countries realize how much of their citizens’ traffic flows through the US, whether or not it is destined for any user or service there, expect to see moves to curtail connections to and through the US.

Let’s consider how it happens. The reality is that it may be cheaper, easier, and faster to send a packet from Vancouver (Canada) to Toronto (Canada) via Seattle (United States) than any all-Canadian route — but that makes the traffic subject to US inspection.

Or, many international connections out of Latin America terminate in Miami, because that provides the most direct link to all other continents. But, that means traffic from Santiago (Chile) to London (UK) may well pass through the US and be subjected to US government inspection/collection.

The first situation can be addressed by building more Internet exchange points (IXPs) to make it economically viable to keep Canadian Internet traffic in Canada. The second is a little harder to address without moving continents closer together, although it is reasonable to expect that some other, non-US location will emerge as a preferred nexus for Latin American inter-continental traffic.

But, before we conclude this is just a messy and expensive question of network operators changing their connections, it’s important to take a step back and think about what this means for a resilient, robust Internet.

The Internet was not designed to recognize national boundaries. It’s not being rude — it just wasn’t relevant. Resiliency[1] [2] is achieved through diversity of infrastructure. Having multiple connections and different routes between key points ensures that traffic can “route around” network problems — nodes that are off the air because of technical, physical, or political interference, for example. We’ve seen instances where countries are impacted by disaster but at least some of that country’s websites remain accessible: if the ccTLD has a mirror outside the impacted network, and if the websites are hosted/mirrored elsewhere, they’re still accessible. This can be incredibly important when a natural disaster occurs and there is a need to be able to get to local resources.

The more there is a push to retrofit the Internet to align with national borders for the sake of maintaining apparent control over all the resources (as opposed to considered network architectural reasons), the more we run the risk of undermining the diversity that gives the Internet the resiliency it has today. The Internet works through collaboration; making decisions on the assumption of territorial boundaries weakens it at every step.

For certain, there are legitimate concerns that policymakers have about security of their networks and privacy of their citizens. In developing policies to address these concerns, it’s important that policymakers bear in mind that resiliency is a key component of security, trust and interoperability. As one of those considerations, the impact on network resiliency should be properly weighed as a negative side effect when proposing the kind of broad scale tracking that the the US is apparently doing.

On the Internet, no nation is an island.