Have you ever wondered what the future holds for the internet? Everything has evolved so rapidly, especially over the last decade or so. First we had the regular internet, and followed by that we had Web 2.0 which transformed the way we interact with the Internet.
In case you were wondering what might be coming next, the World Economic Forum’s Mark Spelman (2015) has analysed the situation. Spelman reports that the World Economic Forum has a “Future of the Internet Initiative” (FFI). What the internet is bringing us will be the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The last three revolutions were the evolution of steam power, mass production and the computer. The fourth is internet based and is predicted to create at least as much change as the last three.
Internet at the center of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the internet and connectivity in a central role. Connectivity is predicted to be likely to increase at an exponential rate as a result of mobile, cloud, and the sensors that will drive the Internet of Things. All of the connected devices globally will connect everything with everything, allowing opportunities to improve the way we do things. As Spelman points out:
“No institution, government, business or system is able to govern the internet alone. The aim of the Future of the Internet Initiative is to help shape the direction of the internet as a true and open platform and as a driver of economic development and social progress.”
This gigantic internet is called by some the Internet of Everything.
The Internet of tomorrow will certainly be in a constant invisible flow, penetrating everyday single aspect of our daily lives, even though we won’t even notice it. To be able to be connected to everything all the time, will become so common that we’ll complain at the smallest obstacle, just like we used to complain if there were electricity/water shortages.
The FII aims to look for sustainable answers to problems making sure that the internet is stable, secure and healthy in the longer term. The FII initiative is not so concerned with the technology behind the internet, but rather how it changes our lives.
This is because tremendous disruption could be brought about through innovative use of new technologies. It is expected that big data, specifically processing and analytics will drive the change. Personal connectivity is playing a significant role in this change. There are 5.2 billion mobile users across the world and these figures are increasing by almost 20% per year. This is creating tremendous data. Industrial data use is growing even faster, and will continue to do so as a result of the Internet of Things. While there are currently 4.9 billion devices connected to the internet, this has been predicted to Gartner to hit 25 billion by 2020.
Another important aspect of the future of the Internet is how our bodies can become part of the Internet. Our eyes, ears, arms will all be part of the network, due to wearable technologies. A clear sign of this is a recent Pew Research entitled: Digital Life in 2025. The report says that: “Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially tied to personal health.” The consequences of this could be beyond imagination. The following video explore how wearable technology is improving our communication and changing the way we interact.
The Internet and UN Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations has recognised the importance of the internet in helping to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. These goals aim to cut back on poverty, improve health and advance education, as well as better safeguard the environment.
One of the reasons that the internet is so helpful with this is because it helps to connect different impoverished areas around the world. One of the goals (9c) is specifically focused on increasing access to information and communication technology so that everyone has access to the internet worldwide. This will help to drive development of the internet further. There is also a need for quicker internet access. In some countries new models are being build that leverage private-public collaboration to increase connectivity for those that are not connected. There are four countries that are going to be included in a trial for this, namely, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.
Fragmentation internet issues are also likely to be dealt with and advanced. A number of examples of fragmentation (almost 30) have been identified. Some of these are related to infrastructure, others related to commercialisation, data localisation and corporate walled gardens. One of the factors that has emerged is a desire for sovereignty in some areas of the internet, and trying to balance this against a need for interoperability worldwide. This is needed so the internet is open.
Main important topics for FII in 2016
The main important topics for FII in 2016 are anticipated to be digital trade, safe harbour and cyber security. Digital trade is when commerce occurs via the internet. Safe Harbour has led to worries in various countries about cross border data flows with regard to commerce. There is also an increased need for organisations, both public and private, to better protect data. These are areas that need to be focused on and collaboration achieved so that the internet is kept safe and secure in the longer term.