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Future of the Internet Initiative

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The World Economic Forum launched a multi-year Future of the Internet Initiative in an effort to help strengthen trust and expand concrete cooperation on internet-related challenges and opportunities.

The informal process of strategic dialogue and cooperation will seek to complement formal institutions and existing initiatives. It will do so by leveraging the Forum’s unique inter-ministerial and cross-industry communities, as well as its interdisciplinary intellectual networks and capacity to catalyse multistakeholder partnerships.

The purpose of the initiative is to help develop the internet as a core engine of human progress and safeguard its globally integrated, highly distributed and multistakeholder nature. It comes at a time when policy-makers – who are struggling to keep pace with many related policy and governance questions – and governments seek to address legitimate policy concerns related to the increasingly diverse array of services and other activities available on the web.

The initiative will initially focus on the following five broad areas, potentially exploring such questions as:

    Policy and societal challenges: How can international cooperation help ensure the essential globally interoperable nature of the internet at the same time that governments seek to address legitimate social, security and other concerns in line with national preferences and decision-making processes?
    Privacy: How can the promise of big data for many aspects of social and economic progress be realized while ensuring fundamental standards of personal privacy?
    Cybercrime: How can international cooperation among companies and law enforcement and national security authorities be improved in ways that strengthen the security of and public confidence in the internet?
    Access for all: With over half the global population not yet online, how can public-private efforts to expand internet access and content be accelerated in developing countries and marginalized communities?
    Impact on business models: How is the internet and digital technology likely to transform business models and alter the industrial landscape in the years to come? What new business, social and other policy challenges are these changes likely to create?

“The internet is a shared, global resource that for over 25 years has served as a key tool for social, political and economic development. It is vital that we safeguard this shared global resource by finding ways of debating and together addressing the challenges it faces,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.

“Striking the right balance on all these issues will require mutual understanding and trust among interested parties and stakeholders. We hope to help achieve this through additional direct dialogue, supported wherever possible by careful analysis, and invite our partners, members and constituents to engage actively in this process,” said Richard Samans, Managing Director and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum.

The future of the internet is one of 10 global challenges identified by the World Economic Forum for which accelerated progress is widely perceived to be contingent on new or expanded public-private cooperation.

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Electric Vehicle Revolution Will Slash Travel Costs in Cities

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Autonomous and shared mobility, digitalization and decentralization of energy systems require new approaches to electric mobility, according to the World Economic Forum’s report Electric Vehicles for Smarter Cities: The Future of Energy and Mobility.

The report, produced in collaboration with Bain & Company, examines the major trends affecting the transformation of energy and mobility systems, with a special focus on cities. In this context, it considers electrification, decentralization and digitalization of the energy system, along with the shift towards shared mobility and autonomous driving.

The report calls for the urgent integration of urban-energy-mobility patterns to accelerate the ability of cities to meet climate goals, support energy efficiency and foster innovation of services and infrastructure. Combined, these could dramatically increase productivity and generate economic growth, ultimately providing great benefits to citizens.

In the US alone, achieving the transformation will quadruple value for society by 2030, a gain that could be worth up to $635 billion. As the share of journeys made by electrified vehicles increases, the energy system will see:

  • A reduction in cost per mile of up to 40% as a result of increased use of electrified autonomous vehicles (AV)
  • Additional flexibility for energy system management as electrified non-AV and AV fleets of public, commercial and mobility-as-a-service vehicles connect to smarter charging and ancillary services
  • Lower carbon emissions driven by increased use of solar and wind energy to meet demand for the electricity required to power electric fleets

Cities leading the charge on electric vehicles

Berlin, Germany: The EUREF Campus business park hosts technology companies and research institutions, and offers charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) as well as inductive charging for fleet operation. Its microgrid uses artificial intelligence to optimize EV charging and send energy surplus back to the grid, based on dynamic pricing.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Montreal, Canada and Santiago, Chile: Have all prioritized the electrification of public transport through the public procurement of electric buses.

Dortmund, Germany: The city is developing non-financial incentives for last-mile delivery companies to electrify their fleets: EVs receive permission for extended access to the city centre.

Guangzhou, China: The city plans to speed up bus electrification and aims to reach 200,000 new units in 2018. China’s government has also announced it will develop national regulations for testing AV on public roads in cities across the country.

Hong Kong SAR: The local government encourages developers to scale-up the EV charging infrastructure. This includes solutions integrated with the smart payment system, Octopus, which is also used to access the public transport network.

Los Angeles, USA: The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) decided to switch 260 fleet vehicles to EVs. Charging infrastructure development is also under way and being integrated with decentralized solar power generation. By leasing rather than buying vehicles, the LAPD can invest in charging stations, including fast-charging stations in city centre car parks.

London, UK: The Transport for London office requires all new black cabs to be electric or emission-free, and diesel vehicles will not be permitted in London by 2032. A total of 80 charging points will be dedicated to black cabs, with plans to implement 150 by the end of 2018 and 300 by 2020.

Oslo, Norway: The city plans to have its fleet of 1,200 public vehicles using electricity by 2020, has introduced restrictions on cars entering the city centre and granted access to priority lanes for shared EVs only. A project in Vulkan on the city’s outskirts demonstrates a public-private cooperation model between the city, a utility company and a real-estate firm for smart charging stations.

Paris, France: The region of Ile-de-France and private partners developed Autolib, an electric car sharing service with 4,000 EVs and 1,100 charging stations with more than 6,200 charging points across the region, accessible to service users and other EV owners.

San Francisco, USA: The Department of Motor Vehicles provides licences to test driverless cars on public roads in the Silicon Valley as part of an experimental programme.

Recommendations for action
The report gathers and analyses practical examples and best practices, which can be tailored to local specificities. The principles – required for action by both public and private sectors – and their corresponding recommendations are described below.

Take a multistakeholder and market-specific approach: A comprehensive approach to electrification of transport will require engagement of stakeholders from different industries and sectors and may vary significantly across different markets based on the local energy mix or mobility patterns.

Prioritize high-use vehicles: The shift of the approach to transport electrification, through advancing and reforming regulation, should prioritize high-use vehicles, such as fleet and autonomous vehicles. The goal is to accelerate the electrification of miles to maximize the value creation.

Deploy critical charging infrastructure today while anticipating mobility transformation: In the context of mobility and energy systems transformation, planning charging infrastructures is critical to cope with the risk of stranded assets as well as ensure the sustainable implementation and use of the charging stations and hubs.

“The convergence of mobility and energy strategies can magnify the economic and social benefits of electric mobility in cities, and ensure increased sustainability, reliability and customer choice”, explains Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy and Basic Industries, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

“Autonomous vehicles and grid edge technologies are around the corner, and cities, in particular the smartest ones, will deploy them at rapid pace. The mobility and energy players should start building strategies and business models now to embrace these changes and leverage them for sustainable and profitable growth”, added Joseph Scalise, who leads the Americas Utilities and Alternative Energy Sector at Bain & Company.

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Leverage the Digital Future for Prosperous Communities

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Sharing the benefits of growth and embracing the digital economy were key themes for senior Asia-Pacific business leaders meeting in Auckland, New Zealand this week.

At its first of four meetings for 2018, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) welcomed the forecasts for strong regional growth, noting the IMF prediction that Asia-Pacific GDP would expand by 5.4% this year, far outstripping the rate of 2% in advanced economies.

“Growth is clearly an essential but not a sufficient condition for secure and prosperous communities,” said ABAC Chair for 2018, David Toua. “We need to look closely at our economies’ policies to ensure that people can actually take advantage of the opportunities that growth brings. Harnessing inclusive opportunities is a key mantra for this year,” added Mr Toua.

Mr Toua explained that a second big focus was the digital economy. “We have created a new working group to focus specifically on digital and innovation issues,” Mr Toua explained. “The digital economy is growing exponentially. We are seeing a surge of disruptive business models. Even in traditional sectors like agriculture and manufacturing, innovative technologies, digital services, fintech and e-commerce are now central.

“Importantly, the digital economy provides a springboard for small business, women and other disadvantaged groups to take part in trade and connect around the region.

“But we cannot realise the full potential of a ‘Digital Asia-Pacific’ without putting resources and energy into countering the digital divide that risks leaving the most vulnerable behind. In all economies, we also need to nurture a future-ready workforce. That means putting in place the right settings for digital infrastructure, skills and education, and region-wide digital business- friendly regulation,” said Mr Toua.

ABAC members had welcomed the recent conclusion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership by 11 APEC economies, Mr. Toua noted that “the agreement was seen as one of the key ‘pathways’ to an eventual integrated Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.”

Other priorities discussed included improving connectivity; structural reform especially in the services sector; reducing trade and investment barriers; facilitating creating opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises; strengthening financial systems, and grappling with issues around sustainable growth such as food and energy security. “Big strategic considerations we will look at include ‘smarter globalisation’ so that the benefits are more widely shared in terms of jobs and living standards, and our ‘Vision’ for the region in the coming decades,” said Toua.

“Our Auckland meeting was also the occasion for our annual Dialogue with APEC Senior Officials. We had extended discussions including on the APEC Post 2020 Vision which will help both sides to develop robust policy approaches on all our key issues for the period ahead,” concluded Chairman Toua.

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Open Internet and quality of information: key to preserve integrity of elections

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© UNESCO

On 8 February, UNESCO and the Global Initiative Network (link is external) (GNI) held a forum at UNESCO HQ in Paris to examine how Internet could support electoral integrity, as well as counter threats such as disinformation and internet shutdowns which reduced the trust and knowledge of voters.

The Colloquium “Improving the information ecosystem to protect the integrity of elections” brought together UNESCO Member States, UN Representatives, national electoral authorities and media organizations with board members of the GNI.

The GNI is a multi-stakeholder organization of information and communication technology companies, civil society organizations, academics, and socially responsible investors.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Getachew Engida, UNESCO Deputy Director spoke about preserving freedom of expression and the value of effective self-regulation in regard to problems on the Internet in times of elections.

Ms. Judith Lichtenberg, Executive Director of the GNI, underlined the need to forge a common approach to protect freedom of expression online especially during elections time when ICT innovations are being abused by malicious actors and internet services are restricted or even shut down.

Participants addressed issues concerning digital manipulation of election processes, including the impact of malware attacks. Furthermore, the Colloquium also sought to assist electoral assistance providers in contributing with ideas on how to improve their electoral programs and activities.

The potential sensitivities around interruptions of digital information during vote counting, and the difficulty of monitoring the “black box” of political advertising based on datamining and targeted profiling, were highlighted by Patrick Costello, Head of Division of  European External Action Service at the European Union.

Noting the varying degree of digitalization of electoral processes across countries, Simon Pierre Nanitelamio, Deputy Director of the UN’s Electoral Assistance Division, highlighted the role multi-stakeholder consultation to bridge the gaps between differently equipped countries.

In a context where economic growth depends increasingly on Internet access, as affirmed in the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, Constance Bommelaer, Senior Director of The Internet Society ISOC, pointed out that shutdowns can cause long-lasting and costly effects on societies and on user’s trust.

Large-scale internet shutdowns and the blocking and filtering of online content has been seen to be on the rise in the last five years, as noted in the latest edition of the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development

Internet providers’ difficult position to cope with internet shutdowns during elections was highlighted by Yves Nissim, Head of Transformation and Operation in Corporate Social Responsibility from Orange. Mr He commented that companies are frequently unable to avoid demands to interrupt services because of license agreements and risks to their employees’ safety, but they sought to be transparent about receiving such demands.

Fernando Garcia, Executive director of Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales a Mexican-based network that defends digital rights and Aiste Zilinskiene, Member of the Central Electoral Commission of Lithuania, drew upon citizen digital experiences to hold political actors accountable via elections. They also raised awareness about the threats to privacy posed by malware attacks surveilling journalists and human rights activists.

Nana Gyan-Apenteng, head of Ghana’s National Media Commission and chair of the African Communications Regulation Authorities network signaled the potential to apply electoral laws to media at the point where social media content emerged onto traditional media platforms.

The UNESCO-GNI Colloquium also featured together representatives from technology companies to discuss what can be done to enhance the quality of public information during such elections in order to counter misinformation.

Steve Crown, Microsoft’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, pointed out the moral challenges around setting national or regional regulations given the global nature of internet and the potential for legislation to be implemented as censorship.

Ludovic Peran, Policy and Government Affairs Manager of Google, shared the company’s initiatives to address fake news, such as the development of fact-checking tools, quality guidelines and the tracking of misleading sources. Meanwhile, Andy O’Connell, Public Policy Manager of Facebook stated that his company had pledged transparency in paid political advertising.

He also noted Facebook’s work to limit the economic incentives of “fake news”, and to remove accounts with false profiles.

The importance of strengthening media and information literacy as part of voter education, was raised by. Divina Frau-Meigs, UNESCO Chair Savoir Devenir, Nouvelle Sorbonne, Paris. She said there was a need to teach young people that casting a ballot was not the same as “liking” something on social media, and encouraged “digital citizenship” as a way to boost the integrity of elections.

UNESCO hopes to follow up through highlighting the incompatibility of Internet shut-downs with the free flow of information that is needed for elections.

The Organisation will also seek to work on methodologies that can benefit election stakeholders who monitor electoral communications, to provide a knowledge base for policy on regulation and self-regulation.

Further work will entail training journalists to be able to give deeper coverage of the role of social media in relation to polls, including ways to find and rebut disinformation online.

Another follow up is promoting the value to election integrity of programmes in media and information literacy.

The over-regulation of digital electoral communications that can disproportionately limit freedom of expression and privacy, is an area where UNESCO can play a monitoring role.

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