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The session started with the moderator Mr Justin Caso from the IEEE introducing the workshop. He stated that the session would try to envision how the world will look in 2030 and how to make the future beneficial for all.
Mr Meher Bnouni, Secretary General of the IEEE Tunisia chapter, talked briefly about the local context of Tunisia. He described a country which has no natural resources and focuses on two pillars: education and health. In addition to this, the digital divide and a lack of Internet access are major issues in the country. In tackling this problem, he has started an initiative that seeks to increase Internet connectivity and access to the Internet. The primary focus of the initiative is rural communities and school learning through ICTs. He wants to revolutionalise the education system in Tunisia which will be backboned by the Internet and ICTs. The Internet and ICTs can bring opportunities for the youth and economic growth. In developing this future, he alluded to the role of innovation hubs and digital education for the youth. Caso asked about the gender dynamics of Bnouni’s future hopes for Tunisia, whether gender inequality in accessing ICTs and the Internet is an issue in the country and what are the plans to curb gender inequality. Bnouni responded by saying that while gender inequality in Tunisia is not rife, more focus on young girls is needed. Caso acknowledged Bnouni’s country presentation on Tunisia as an initiative that is working towards achieving the SDGs.
Following Bnouni’s presentation on a digital revolution, the discussion moved to the issue of trust on the Internet and how to ensure that the future of the Internet and ICTs is secure and can be trusted. Dr Gregory Shannon from Carnegie Mellon University approached this issue by stating that the issue of trust and building trust online is nuanced. He stated four components that are crucial in building trust online and through ICTs: accountability, security, resilience, and privacy. He stated that all four components are interconnected and interrelated and necessary to foster trust online. The issue of accountability was further questioned, especially regarding who should be held accountable. Shannon responded by saying that the issue of who should be held accountable for a secure and open Internet and ethical ICTs depends on the given society.
Following this, Ms Louise Marie Hurel from the Center for Technology and Society began her presentation by highlighting the complexity of the session topic. She proposed that the topic be approached from three different perspectives:
- Temporal: How are technologies built nowadays? Are they durable – the contest between economics and privacy.
- Spatial: The growth of the Internet and ICTs is going beyond shrinking space and time, with the advent of the IoT, technology is taking over our lives.
- Governance: There is a need for continued dialogue between all the different stakeholders.
In closing, Hurel emphasised the importance of users trying to make sense of the increasingly digitised world. She stressed that ICTs are political, and issues like surveillance, privacy, and security should be unpacked.
Mr John Havens, speaking in a personal capacity, was confronted by the question of what needs to be done to ensure 2030 will be beneficial for all. Havens responded by saying value is an important aspect to consider for the future. Designing value systems and technologies will be beneficial in preparing and ensuring that future generations benefit from the growth and integration of the Internet and ICTs. Value, as he describes it, is technologies and products that go through ethical tests and product designs which are transparent and accountable. He mentioned the bias of algorithms and how it is important that designers of present and future products should be aware and cognisant of ethical and value implications. He closed by saying ethics is the new green and engineers and the Internet should be part of the movement.
by Yolanda Mlonzi, Internet Society Gauteng