What future for the internet?

13 Nov 2018 12:15h - 13:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]


The future Internet will have to address the present-day issues such as privacy concerns, technology monopolies, lack of interoperability, and access among others. The Next Generation Internet (NGI) as a pioneering experiment connects individuals, start-ups, organisations and any entities working on the projects aimed at securing the unified, decentralised, open and secure Internet as we move forward.

The session explored the European Commission’s NGI that aims to re-imagine and re-engineer the Internet as an interoperable, human-centred ecosystem. Ms Monique Calisti, Martel Innovate, session moderator, underlined that it rests on co-operation between many stakeholders, policymakers and researchers from different fields. She noted that the NGI is a pioneering experiment where the ‘ambition is huge’ to change the current state of affairs in Internet governance. She invited all the interested to visit their website where anyone can get information on how to provide input for the initiative on the NGI consultation platform, find the involved organisations from across Europe and learn about the ways to get involved.

Mr Olivier Bringer, Head of the NGI Unit, European Commission, presented the key aspects of the NGI. It is imagined as human-centred because while the Internet usage is increasing globally so are the negative challenges around its use. Bringer explained that the Internet is not neutral, it is indispensable, and needs to be robust and decentralised. The problems around privacy issues, monopolies of technology companies and the push for emerging technologies call for a re-imagination of our global, unified Internet. The NGI is supposed to make sure our values are incorporated in the Internet with the values of openness, inclusivity, transparency, privacy, cooperation, and protection of data. The Initiative uses the special type of instrument, called Horizon 2020, which finances individual small grant projects of researchers, innovators, startups, as well as social innovators with the purpose of developing technology building blocks.

Mr Michiel Leenaars, Director of Strategy, NLnet Foundation, spoke about the Initiative from the perspective of the EU partner.  Leenaars stressed that anyone who has an idea that can ‘help fix the Internet’ should apply for the funds given by the NGI to implement that idea. According to him, fragmentation of the Internet is a negative development and the NGI is a third way in ensuring a better future for the Internet. The starting points of the NGI are open source software, academic cooperation, reusability of results, and facilitation of pioneering projects so that accessibility stays a core feature of the third millennium Internet.

Ms Maryant Fernandez Perez, European Digital Rights (EDRi), emphasised the value of the NGI for putting people at the centre of the EU Commission’s work. Trustworthiness and credibility should be the key to imagining the future Internet. ‘We should first address the technology giants and tackle the root of many problems – the online business manipulation model’, Fernandez Perez said. Increasingly, users have privacy concerns. It is important that the NGI is not only trying to find alternatives to technologies but it also facilitates the switch to more secure, sustainable platforms that promote interoperability and inclusion. Perez emphasised the need to build coherence across initiatives and policy streams with cross-cutting values.

Mr Pearse O’Donohue, Director for Future Networks, European Commission,  thanked the participants for their engagement because ‘nobody would be able to change the Internet on their own’. The focus should be on the values, which the European Union and many other institutions, organisations and individuals share that can actually have a greater place in the shaping of technology and above all, in the implementation of technology as we go on in the future.

Questions were raised on the nature and branding of the NGI model. Bringer noted that the main notion remains to be the Internet of humans. The model is aimed not only at regulation, as this is the primary task of the EU Commission, but also on building the privacy-enhancing technologies after selecting the topics proposed by the community. It was agreed that the momentum to re-imagine the future Internet is right now.


By Jana Mišić