The creation and development of cyberspace has profoundly changed people’s thinking and behavioural habits. Current academic discussions on a range of issues such as web policy, web ethics, web culture and ideology have also become borderline academic topics.
Accurately grasping the connotation, characteristics and essence of cyberspace and scientifically defining its attributes in everyday life are the foundations and prerequisites for exploring this kind of problem. Otherwise, it will be difficult for us to understand and accurately grasp the origin and roots of these issues, which will influence the scientific nature of research.
For discussing the Internet-related issues, social science research mainly uses the “web society” and “cyberspace” as conceptual tools to impact on the topic.
With the fast development of web technology and people’s proactive participation in communication practices, cyberspace has been widely recognised and has affected people as a new form of environment. Nevertheless, there are still many differences in the understanding and definition of the cyberspace concept. Further work on theoretical identification is therefore needed. Many scholars have made a structural analysis of cyberspace and some consider it to be a three-tier structure, including:
A. the lowest physical layer, which forms the material basis of the web information system. The term cyberspace, for example, leads some people to think that information travels over the air: this is not the case at all! The Internet spreads via underground terrestrial and marine fibre-optic cables, and radio base stations are connected to this cable network. The antennas we see towering on the hills receive the signal from the network of underground cables and transform it into electromagnetic waves so that they can be transmitted and then picked up by our smartphones: in other words, the illusion that cyberspace is wireless in the air, while it is, in fact, ground-to-ground.
B. The intermediate grammar layer, i.e. the instructions, programs and protocols with which the machine interacts between the system designer and the machine user.
C. The highest semantic layer, which mainly refers to the information contained in the machine and to some services that are needed to make the system information work.
Other scholars classify it into five layers:
A. the “physical layer’ refers to the hardware devices that make up the computer.
B. The “protocol layer” emphasises that the different versions of communication protocols are, to a large extent, the source of power and authority in cyberspace and provide users with key identifying marks in cyberspace.
C. The “logic layer/code” is the software operated by the computer, which defines and limits the ways in which users can use the web.
D. The “content layer” mainly expresses the various objects and/or narratives created by the Internet users.
E. The “relations layer” emphasises the transmission of cyberspace, i.e. the social relationship between the users who make, exchange, disseminate and share web content embedded in objects and narratives.
As a result, scholars not only see the material and technical foundations that constitute cyberspace, but also reveal the human relation aspects contained in it, thus considering cyberspace as a kind of “virtual reality”. Some scholars have interpreted this “relational” aspect from a more specific viewpoint, and have considered cyberspace to be a stand-alone electronic field – separate from political professionals – a field containing many topics such as politics, economy, society, culture and religion.
Hence what is the essence of this “virtual reality”? Traditionally, with a view to meeting their basic survival needs, “real people” first engage in the production of material goods. In production activities, the division of labour, the practice of communication and the methods of production will inevitably arise, which – characterized by different behaviours – will give rise to different social forms.
It can be said that perceptual and concrete practical activities are the driving force behind the establishment of human social relations. In fact, the emergence of the Internet is exactly the product of human practical activities and an important result of the transformation of the objective world into human production practices. In other words, as a technical tool, the web represents advanced productivity and embodies the legacy of human knowledge, abilities and skills.
Based on the Internet technological platform, the social participation of “real people” enables the creation and development of cyberspace. The information flow is the basic form of existence in cyberspace. Information, as a symbol, brings the people’s actual social relations, which have consequential values and meaning.
Based on these attributes, cyberspace – as a product of human social practice activities – has further expanded and enriched the field and methods of human practice. It has changed people’s thinking and behavioural habits: new forms of real life.
In short, whether in terms of production, content or actual impact, cyberspace displays clear social characteristics and sociability is its fundamental attribute. It can be said that cyberspace is a new form of social space created with the development of web technology, and it is the further extension and expansion of social space in the context of information technology.
This process of extension and expansion produces and reproduces the social space itself, i.e. the space in which we actually live. For cyberspace, as in everyday life, people’s interaction and practice activities based on different interests and purposes – which cause the continuous differentiation of cyberspace – are marked by the generation of secondary spaces such as the Web, the forum, the post to be posted, and the circle of friends that begins to create widespread consensus.
On the other hand, once the secondary web space is generated, it will produce a certain value and meaning of aggregation (“pro”) or exclusion (“anti”), and will thus divide people into different web groups. Consequently, two relations are established between man and cyberspace: one is that people use the web as a means and instrument to be applied; the other is that the web constitutes the actual conditions of human existence: people “are” in the web, they exist only there, as the real is only necessary as a search for food and physical subsistence, and not even so much for sex.
In further analysis, man and cyberspace manifest themselves as a spatial relationship of symbiosis and coexistence. In this relationship, cyberspace has not only changed the way people receive, process, and send information (as in the past), but it has also changed the way information itself is generated, in a different and/or opposite way than before.
People have created and developed web technology through practice, but at the same time they have reshaped and improved themselves with web technology, as well as expanded the boundaries of life and achieved the spatialisation of life itself. It can be said that cyberspace is not only a space for the digital information flow, but also a space for social interaction, a new space in which the essential power of the human being can be shown in a new guise that is no longer casual or accidental, such as physiological birth.
People are used to summarising the basic features of cyberspace with words such as virtuality, anonymity (albeit illusory as noted in an article published a few weeks ago), freedom and openness, as well as trans-temporal and spatial features, and then making common sense of them. Usual and ordinary things, however, are more likely to be marked by omissions or illusions, not being able to grasp a fact or a truth in depth.
Cyberspace is often said to be “virtual reality”. When we call it virtual space, what does the word “virtual” mean? In a general sense, the word “virtual” has the following meanings: one refers to a kind of empty space, or something that does not exist in reality, while the other is to represent a potential possibility. For example, a piece of wood can become a table or a cupboard, and a stone has the possibility of being the statue of a leader or the sculpture of a lion. These can all be transformed into a certain reality by relying on intermediary human practical activities: the carpenter, the artist. “Virtual” can also be understood as a type of real existence, but this type of existence does not play a practical role, although it plays a certain role. The virtual nature of cyberspace can also be understood and defined from several angles. From a technical viewpoint, cyberspace is a spatial form based on digital and computer technology. It is not a world composed of atoms, but a virtual world composed of “bits” that simulate real things. From the identity viewpoint, the apparent anonymity (i.e. the illusion of it that the provider offers the user) brought about by virtuality deconstructs the subject’s professional role, social status, and even the gender of men and women, transforming X into what he/she would like to be, but is not.
As a result, “real people” become ghosts wandering in cyberspace. Past social interaction between people is turned into technical and symbolic interaction. When several computers are connected to form a huge network linking people through different interfaces, communication practices take place in which there is no longer any need for movement, travel, encounter. It is here that the virtual world takes shape.
The “virtual nature” of cyberspace does not certainly focus on the so-called emptiness=real existence, but its essence comes in the form of simulation and digitalisation. This virtualised way of constructing the world does not only contain the potential for the development of things, but also possesses the actual path of transformation from possibility to reality.
The US computer scientist, Nicholas Negroponte, pointed out: “If the words “virtual reality” are seen not as noun and adjective, but as “equal halves”, the logic of calling “virtual reality” a pleonasm is more palatable”. The implication is that virtual can also be understood as part of reality. Virtual things will be as real as reality, and even more real than reality. Because, as a form of technology, the “virtual” cannot only unfold around real problems, but also reveal the real parts of things and bring people a realistic experience, making it easier to achieve people’s expected goals.
In short, we cannot regard cyberspace as an “unrealistic space” because of its virtual nature. Cyberspace is not an abstract space that depends on the human imagination to perceive and grasp. Its spatial form is embodied in what is by no means a figment of imagination.
“Freedom” is the universal value concept of modern political civilisation and it is the fundamental human right, second only to the right to life. The creation and development of cyberspace has given this right a new expression, i.e. the Internet freedom. Some scholars have specifically structured the Internet freedom into (a) freedom of expression on the Internet; (b) freedom of access to the Internet and (c) freedom of communication on the Internet.
“Freedom of expression on the Internet” means that the so-called netizens can use the Internet to post and convey their thoughts, opinions and even personal feelings. They are not passive receivers of information, but proactive publishers and disseminators of this information.
“Freedom of access to the Internet” refers to the netizens’ rights to obtain and use the network infrastructure and to choose and obtain web information.
“Freedom of communication on the Internet” refers to the freedom of Internet users to use media.
In general terms, we can further understand and define web freedom by the following aspects. Cyberspace is an equal and open form of disseminating thought. Based on access conditions and technical thresholds for the release of basic information, everyone can participate freely, thus having the opportunity to freely release, access, choose and consume information online. At the same time, cyberspace overcomes – to some extent – the shortcomings of the information asymmetry of traditional media and breaks down the natural barriers of physical time and space.
Netizens can share information resources online and develop free exchanges and interactions. The virtual nature of cyberspace has actually hidden the different representations of identity, status, wealth, job, etc. in real social relations. Based on the fundamental characteristics of cyberspace, individualisation in it has been strengthened, thus generating a bottom-up inner power. With this kind of power, netizens generally have an autonomous experience of freedom. It can be said that for real people, the development of technology and the creation of the web space also have an important liberating significance from a psychic viewpoint.
Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web (WWW), wrote: “My ideal for the World Wide Web is that everything can potentially be connected. It is this ideal that gives us new freedom and enables us to develop faster than our own hierarchical classification system”. Nowadays, faced with the fast development of the Internet and the profound social changes it entails, some scholars have directly pointed out that the value and significance of the Internet lies in its internal values of civilisation. It is the spirit of the Internet that advocates and supports freedom, equality, openness, innovation and sharing. The freedom of the Internet, however, is not absolute. Cyberspace itself has not only the function of individual empowerment, but also the function of “control”, which is mainly achieved through the creation of technical barriers. These types of operations can effectively set the authority to post information, as well as netizens’ access authority, and can selectively display or mask relevant information, thus intentionally guiding or even controlling the public opinion trends on the web, ranging from the illusion of being free and independent to that of being controlled and hetero-directed.
This kind of operations, however, can also be used for special purposes, and the advantages gained by “hidden third parties” achieve a comprehensive monitoring of netizens and web information.
Quoting Michel Foucault, referring to Jeremy Bentham, cyberspace can become a “panoptic ring-shaped prison”, i.e. a “super panoramic prison” for the observer. Milton Mueller had to say: “Although the Internet has greatly expanded the scope and interaction between public and individual discourse, it has also fostered the development of technology and organisational means to monitor and control online discourse”.
In the governance process, with a view to effectively regulate netizens’ sloppy and superficial use of “freedom”, and overcome misguided trends of thought such as cyber violence and rumours, cybercrime, fake news, cyber anarchism, unbridled liberalism and nihilism, States and governments have also actively intervened, striving to base netizens’ thoughts and actions on legal regulations and moral constraints. Only in this way can the Internet freedom truly embody the subject’s consciousness and awareness, the value of rights and obligations, and netizens’ public spirit.
Therefore, we cannot only understand the web from the perspective of individual freedom. It also aims directly at the creation and maintenance of a holistic public order. In short, cyberspace is not a non-proprietary technology-centred “space” system, but a human-centred system with “unification of rights and obligations”. The Internet freedom is not abstract freedom, nor freedom of individualism, but includes the protection of other people’s rights and the overall construction of public order. Therefore, the Internet freedom is ultimately a kind of “limited freedom” and the freedom to break this limit will turn into a destructive and consequently illegal force.
As mentioned above, cyberspace is essentially a social space. The production of cyberspace is fundamentally the production of human social relations, and this production process is completed through interactions between people. The characteristics of virtuality, anonymity and intertemporal nature inherent in cyberspace provide new spatial conditions for human interaction, which is prominently manifested in the “non-centrality” or “decentralisation” characteristics of the web interaction.
Manuel Castells pointed out: “The net has not a centre; it only contains nodes. Each node has a different relevance to the net”. Hence we ask ourselves: what kind of person crosses the “node”? What is the relevance of the mode of communication? First of all, the web communication is made in the electronic square and the whole process is completed in the links of production, exchange, consumption and processing of web information. It can be noted that web interactions are based on the Internet technical platform, using symbols such as texts, videos, voice and even emoticons, in various online communities, forums and other secondary spaces.
It is a typical technicality of activity. The virtual nature and anonymity of cyberspace, as well as the interaction between people, break down the restrictions of face-to-face communication and make them obsolete. The presence of the mind and the absence of the body become the technical behaviour of interaction.
Web interaction has also become a new form of spiritual communication for “real people”. Value and meaning are constantly being created in the process. Secondly, this production of value and meaning is more procedural, i.e. the production of value and meaning is created in the process of interaction between the subjects of the communication. It is no longer prefixed, given, instilled by a third party, but consciously forms the power and influence of the discourse in the interaction, thus constructing different worlds and modes of meaning.
Taking some question-and-answer web platforms as an example, netizens can edit together, share knowledge and experiences through the aforementioned interactive mode, with a simple registration. Between question and answer, netizens establish a social relationship by adding followers (actual followers), sending private messages and posting comments. In question-and-answer style interaction, these professional and rational answers can acquire the power of discourse more and faster, and are universally recognised by netizens.
In this world and in this way, on the Internet, the social network of the others, of the unknown selves, is constantly being constructed, and this is where the value and meaning of the new social relationship arise. Finally, the ‘non-centrality’ of web interaction does not mean ‘non-subjectivity’: the web subjects are always the main vectors of communication activities, and they are fully reciprocal.
Communication activities will establish new relations and will form a new social structure, but at the same time they will take place within the social relations and structures established with non-visible knowledge.
In real society, people’s communication activities are inevitably influenced by the subject’s pre-existing identity, manifested in specific social roles: status, wealth, physical beauty and other pre-existing elements even to their contrary – which makes interaction appear “not so natural”, but influenced precisely by wealth, position, and physical appearance factors.
Conversely, web interaction has largely changed the hierarchy of power and formal degrees of value in real society. When everyone becomes the centre, people enter the web space and enjoy the same opportunities and rights for communication. The structure of democracy is thus formed, which is not based on visible values in the known exterior (society), but on invisible values in the unknown interior (the web).
Obviously this kind of reciprocity is also discussed in a general sense, and it is not absolute either. For instance, some Internet influencers and opinion leaders publicly disclose their identities. The reason why they have a strong ability to “acquire unknown fans” does not exclude the aggregation of their social status (the aforementioned status, physical appearance and other pre-existing factors), so as to use it in real society. In other words, the known figure exploits the cyberspace to impose himself/herself within society; in other words, the shepherd leads nameless sheep where he/she wishes. There is therefore a certain degree of unequal power structure in cyberspace.
The activity of the cyberspace figure known from the outside, as he/she is present and active in real society, is represented by various information, involving all aspects of production and people’s lives, such as education, medical care, insurance, real estate, advertising, legal services, etc. The data flow is ultimately the information flow. The information flow in cyberspace, with its wide source, high speed, large capacity, rich content and form, completely surpasses the traditional information flow. As a result, the well-known figure who uses the net does so to overtake real opponents in his or her respective field, while the followers think he or she is a disembodied guru or anything else.
Through “nodes”, netizens can spread and receive information without being limited by time and space. On the one hand, the virtualised and anonymous characteristics of cyberspace deconstruct or weaken the subject’s fixed identity, which in cyberspace is strongly contextualized, thus showing ambiguity in the practice of fluid communication, as the nature of cyberspace has changed the traditional meaning of space-time coordinates.
The Internet physical equipment is the “new field” of the subject’s activities, but the meaning of the subject’s geographical “position” disappears, and the IP address determines his/her existence. Mobile identity can enable web subjects to become “ubiquitous” and to exist and be mobile across different web interfaces.
The fluidity of cyberspace reflects the following aspects: firstly, the dynamic nature of cyberspace. The characteristic definition of “flow” has the dual meaning of time and space. Due to the flattening and levelling of cyberspace, this type of flow is not a change in the position of individuals in the social class in a sociological sense, but is a flow without hierarchical meaning. Due to the borderless and trans-temporal nature of cyberspace, this type of flow has no physical boundaries in the topological sense, but takes on the undefined meaning of “place”.
Secondly, it reflects the interaction between web entities in the process of web information flow. Human needs are the source of information production, and the web information flow has become the bearer of value and meaning from the very beginning. It is also in the flow and collision of information that new values and meanings are created, thus showing the complex social relations between people. Therefore, in a fundamental sense, the information flow is a social movement related to the generation of meanings and signifiers. In Italy we had a great example, which later ended up in the disappointment of the vast majority of voters, to the benefit of a few who knew how to study (sometimes fraudulently) the bureaucratic apparatus.
Thirdly, it reflects the dynamic development of the social structure based on technological progress, which fundamentally reflects the procedural nature of the practice of “real people”. Castells pointed out: ‘Space is not a reflection of society, but an expression of society. In other words, space is not a copy of society: space is society”. This emphasises that the generation of cyberspace is fundamental to its self-generation.
On the one hand, the fluidity of cyberspace has become an endogenous force for the differentiation and integration of cyberspace itself and its dynamics influence and change the structure of value and meaning in cyberspace. On the other hand, through online and offline interactions, it ultimately transforms – through concrete actions – real society itself that, in turn, promotes changes in the overall social structure. Hence, as a “quality of flow”, cyberspace is basically embodied as a process of social practice.
The creation and development of cyberspace is the result of the continuous differentiation and integration of social space in its own changes. Hence, is cyberspace a so-called “public domain”? According to our understanding, we can see the basic elements that constitute the public domain: firstly, individuals with a rational and critical spirit; secondly, independent media and thirdly, public opinion forming a rational consensus.
As to cyberspace, the public is active: when faced with general events, the public does not stand on the sidelines, but actively participates in the discussion of important issues to safeguard public interests and control power. This kind of fair and dialogic communication and interaction not only reflects the independent thinking, judgment, choice and even critical capacity of netizens as rational subjects, but also reflects their good moral and legal literacy, thus playing a key role in maintaining public order.
In the media sense, the basic characteristics of cyberspace make it relatively independent. There are no hierarchical and strict public power organisations, institutions or systems in cyberspace: it is open to everybody and people communicate and interact in a relatively free environment. The development of web technology – at least the one presented as such – also provides sufficient guarantee for this equality, freedom and independence.
When people online express opinions on various events, a large number of opinions and discussions are quickly gathered in the online public opinion with the help of the relevant platform. Through massive pressure, related issues are resolved in a fair or at least not covert way, and promote the reform and improvement of the relevant systems, and of the rules, too, where necessary.
It can be said that the critical and controlling functions of people online through public opinion have become a positive and constructive force. From this viewpoint, cyberspace has actually fulfilled its function of public domain. But can we infer from this that cyberspace is really in the public domain?
As the main entity of the web, not all netizens can be called “public” in a rational spirit. On the contrary, with the exception of the netizens who are addicted to online consumption and entertainment all day long, some netizens arbitrarily vent their emotions by attacking and verbally abusing their opponents. Aggressive cybernetic pursuits, rampant defamations that ignore facts, and unprincipled cyber parodies make them outright saboteurs.
Public spirit and rationality are completely unfamiliar terms to such netizens. There are unidentified cyber forces that become the packagers and manipulators of information for further aims. Fake information with extremely unreliable sources and content, cybercrimes that trample on the bottom line of laws and morality, etc.
They have also turned cyberspace into a foggy environment. Hence, based on its complexity and in view of creating good web “ecology”, countries around the world are strengthening the management and control of cyberspace, thus achieving the penetration of public power into it. Therefore, we see that cyberspace is not completely independent in a theoretical sense.
In short, in the process of information flow and collision, there is the creation of value and meaning, but also its destruction. Web communication and interaction do not always contribute to resolving incidents of any kind, but in many cases simply act as a destabilising force. Indeed, we cannot simply decide that cyberspace is a “public” or a “quasi-public sphere”.
When discussing the spatial attribution of cyberspace, the yes/no-1/0 method of judging is the result of mechanistic understanding and application of commonly accepted public domain theories. It is very easy to hide the complexity of the structure and the inherent contradictions of cyberspace, and this prevents us from accurately understanding and judging the essential characteristics and functions of cyberspace – and by essential I mean and refer to utility as a shared value, and not to the individuals’ personal benefits.
In my opinion, the greatest significance of the public domain for cyberspace is that it must exist functionally. Cyberspace cannot simply be judged at the aforementioned 1/0 digital level, but can actually perform service operations for everyone. When attempting to orient and guide web subjects from “individualised” to “public” netizens, they can express not only their own needs for interest under the form of help with knowledge and exchange of purely personal experiences, etc., but also uphold the spirit of public rationality by actively paying attention to public events, supervising public power, and safeguarding everybody’s interests.
As a result, it is hoped that cyberspace will rise to the status of a “rational information agent”, and hence a proactive constructive force. When cyberspace plays the role and function of the public domain, it can effectively communicate the relationship between the private sphere and the power sphere, between the online and the offline space, and effectively rebuild the relationship between government, society and citizens, thus contributing to the adjustment and optimisation of the general order of social space.
Conversely, as far as the ownership of cyberspace is concerned, we cannot simply identify cyberspace as ‘being’ or ‘not being’ in the public domain, but we must seek to orient its role in the public interest. In a fundamental sense, cyberspace is a social space, a new ‘environmental’ form that extends and differs from the social space of everyday life with the development of the Internet technology.
Nevertheless, based on the technical dimension, cyberspace as a “virtual reality” is different from the social environment in a general sense, displaying its own characteristics and operating rules that all too often defy moral, civil and criminal behaviours.
Internet: A luxury or necessity
The internet is the world’s largest computer network, linking millions of computers. It has become an integral part of our daily lives. The effective use of the internet makes our lives easier, faster, and simpler. It is critical to understand that the Internet is a global network of physical cabling, which can include copper telephone wires, television cables, and fiber optic cables. Even wireless connections, such as Wi-Fi and 3G/4G, rely on physical cords to connect to the Internet. The internet provides us with facts and data, as well as information and knowledge, to aid in our personal, social, and economic development. All of this is possible by connecting a computer to the Internet, generally known as going online. When someone says a computer is online, it simply means it is linked to the Internet. The internet can be used for a variety of purposes; however, how we utilize the internet in our daily lives is determined by our particular needs and goals. It’s no secret that the internet is becoming an increasingly important part of our daily lives.
The Internet not only became one of the most widely utilized commodities, but it also improved dramatically, becoming the most marketable entity since then. We used to live without the internet, just as we used to live without electricity but in the contemporary it is unimaginable. A huge number of researches have been done on the importance of internet, it’s role in our lives but my research is specifically focused on how has the pandemic highlighted that the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s world.
Theoretically, the purpose of this study is to determine the following research objectives:
- To assess the importance of Internet
- To analyse that the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s world
How has the pandemic highlighted that the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity?
The literature is based on detailed analysis of internet and the use of internet in our lives. The importance of internet has been discussed in various research papers. Based on available literature, it is critical to expand knowledge in this area. As a result, this study is proposed to be a comprehensive study based on detailed analysis of how the internet is not a luxury anymore and how it has become a necessity, as the pandemic has proved.
To achieve this research’s major objectives, I have used an interpretive approach that focused on the importance of internet in our lives that has been highlighted during the pandemic and has changed the perception of humans about the access to the internet. The research is deductive in nature as it examines the data which is qualitative and narrative in nature and it is obtained from the credible secondary sources consisted of official documents, academic studies, articles and reports.
There are some things in life that we perceive to be a necessary part of our daily lives. However, a few years ago, the same things were either non-existent or viewed as luxury rather than a necessity – the internet being one of them. Internet access is a basic requirement of modern life for me and most individuals I know. When the internet first arrived in Pakistan in the 1990s, it was not only pricey, but many people predicted that it would not remain long owing to its complexities. Fortunately, they were all incorrect. The Internet not only became one of the most widely utilized commodities, but it also improved dramatically, becoming the most marketable entity since then. We used to live without the internet, just as we used to live without electricity or indoor plumbing back in the days, but life with each of these things is so much better than life without them that we all agree that everyone should have them. But from 2000’s the internet has become critical for day-to-day tasks. It is the only way we can communicate with and care for close friends and family living far away, most of the institutions have started providing services online, For example, if we want to take admission in a university, we will have to fill an online application form, but it is only possible if we have internet access. So now, we have compelling reasons to recognize a right to Internet access. If there was any doubt about how important internet access is, the current coronavirus outbreak might has eliminated it.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, much of the world went online, hastening a decades-long digital change. Children with at-home Internet access began attending class remotely; many employees began working from home. Universities also moved teaching and tutoring online, which has produced issues for students who do not have or do not have enough Internet connectivity. During the pandemic, most people could only work if they can do so online. Those who do not have access to the Internet are unable to apply for jobs that need them to work online. Working and learning from home, have all been made possible by the internet. Seeing friends and going to the doctor without exposing yourself or others became possible during the lockdown because of the access to the internet. The world recognized that the unavailability of internet is a dilemma for people and states.
Furthermore, practicing political rights like as free speech and free assembly are only feasible virtually under quarantine. Access to politically relevant information, such as scientific research and other information that helps citizens to form their own opinions about how the government is handling the pandemic, is also important. These examples demonstrate that the Internet provides critical infrastructure for many essential activities in the current pandemic. In such a context, a lack of effective internet access jeopardizes individual liberties and is thus particularly a serious social concern. Our dependence on internet during the coronavirus crisis has reshaped how we will act once the pandemic has passed. The real lesson is that we have made the internet an essential element of our personal and professional life. This isn’t about to change. The pandemic has introduced a new narrative or worldview in which we rely on the internet to bring economic and social activities to us rather than us going to them.
So access to Internet is not only one of the most visible, but also one of the most shocking inequities shown by COVID-19.This might surprise you but even in developed countries, internet availability is frequently less than you might expect. Take, for example, the United States. More than 6% of the population (21 million people) do not have access to the Internet. In Australia, this figure is 13%. Even in the richest countries, the internet cannot keep everyone connected. In addition, 3.7 billion individuals do not have access to the internet. The vast majority live in underdeveloped countries. More than one billion children worldwide are currently barred from attending school due to quarantine procedures. Even though teachers hold daily online lessons, many of these children are unable to participate due to the unavailability of Internet.
When we say internet access is a necessity not a luxury, this narrative is also supported by the increase in number of internet users over time. Since 2005 to 2019 there has been a sharp increase in the penetration of internet.
According to Statista’s report, the statistics of internet penetration globally are as follows:
Number of internet users worldwide from 2005 to 2019 (fig 1)
There were 4.66 billion active internet users globally in January 2021, accounting for 59.5 percent of the global population. 92.6 percent (4.32 billion) of this total accessed the internet. A world without the internet is now unthinkable. Now the internet, which connects billions of people globally, is a key pillar of the modern world.
The focus on the pandemic should not cause us to lose sight of how important the Internet has become during normal days as well. Online access has become part of the routine to the majority of us. Every day, we utilize the Internet for a variety of purposes, both significant and insignificant. Most of us couldn’t fathom working or communicating with loved ones without it. This is not the case for a large percentage of people. A reclaimable right to basic internet access would significantly improve their lives. Along with the daily use, Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated unequivocally that the Internet is no longer a luxury, a convenient addition to those who can afford it. Internet access, on the other hand, has become a basic requirement. All we need to do is shift our perception of internet access from a luxury to a necessity.
Recommendations and Conclusion
To sum up everything that has been discussed so far it is past time for us to acknowledge the fundamental relevance of internet access. It is the right time to value internet access in the same way that we value electricity, drinking water, and paved roads. Each is necessary for a healthy and prosperous society, which is why we spend so much money to make these requirements available across the country. To be sure, the problem of providing and regulating inexpensive internet access for everyone is complex and costly, but it is not impossible. Governments should work on making the availability and affordability of internet a possibility for the people- because there is no denying to this; that in the contemporary world the access to internet has become a necessity.
First Quantum Computing Guidelines Launched as Investment Booms
National governments have invested over $25 billion into quantum computing research and over $1 billion in venture capital deals have closed in the past year – more than the past three years combined. Quantum computing promises to disrupt the future of business, science, government, and society itself, but an equitable framework is crucial to address future risks.
A new Insight Report released today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 provides a roadmap for these emerging opportunities across public and private sectors. The principles have been co-designed by a global multistakeholder community composed of quantum experts, emerging technology ethics and law experts, decision makers and policy makers, social scientists and academics.
“The critical opportunity at the dawn of this historic transformation is to address ethical, societal and legal concerns well before commercialization,” said Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum. “This report represents an early intervention and the beginning of a multi-disciplinary, global conversation that will guide the development of quantum computing to the benefit of all society.”
“Quantum computing holds the potential to help solve some of society’s greatest challenges, and IBM has been at the forefront of bringing quantum hardware and software to communities of discovery worldwide,” said Dr. Heike Riel, IBM Fellow, Head of Science and Technology and Lead, Quantum, IBM Research Europe. “This report is a key step in initiating the discussion around how quantum computing should be shaped and governed, for the benefit of all.”
Professor Bronwyn Fox, Chief Scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s science national agency said, “the Principles reflect conversations CSIRO’s scientists have had with partners from around the world who share an ambition for a responsible quantum future. Embedding responsible innovation in quantum computing is key to its successful deployment and uptake for generations to come. CSIRO is committed to ensuring these Principles are used to support a strong quantum industry in Australia and generate significant social and public good.”
In adapting to the coming hybrid model of classical, multi-cloud, and soon quantum computing, the Forum’s framework establishes best-practice principles and core values. These guidelines set the foundation and give rise to a new information-processing paradigm while ensuring stakeholder equity, risk mitigation, and consumer benefit.
The governance principles are grouped into nine themes and underpinned by a set of seven core values. Themes and respective goals defining the principles:
1. Transformative capabilities: Harness the transformative capabilities of this technology and the applications for the good of humanity while managing the risks appropriately.
2. Access to hardware infrastructure: Ensure wide access to quantum computing hardware.
3. Open innovation: Encourage collaboration and a precompetitive environment, enabling faster development of the technology and the realization of its applications.
4. Creating awareness: Ensure the general population and quantum computing stakeholders are aware, engaged and sufficiently informed to enable ongoing responsible dialogue and communication; stakeholders with oversight and authority should be able to make informed decisions about quantum computing in their respective domains.
5. Workforce development and capability-building: Build and sustain a quantum-ready workforce.
6. Cybersecurity: Ensure the transition to a quantum-secure digital world.
7. Privacy: Mitigate potential data-privacy violations through theft and processing by quantum computers.
8. Standardization: Promote standards and road-mapping mechanisms to accelerate the development of the technology.
9. Sustainability: Develop a sustainable future with and for quantum computing technology
Quantum computing core values that hold across the themes and principles:
Common good: The transformative capabilities of quantum computing and its applications are harnessed to ensure they will be used to benefit humanity.
Accountability: Use of quantum computing in any context has mechanisms in place to ensure human accountability, both in its design and in its uses and outcomes. All stakeholders in the quantum computing community are responsible for ensuring that the intentional misuse of quantum computing for harmful purposes is not accepted or inadvertently positively sanctioned.
Inclusiveness: In the development of quantum computing, insofar as possible, a broad and truly diverse range of stakeholder perspectives are engaged in meaningful dialogue to avoid narrow definitions of what may be considered a harmful or beneficial use of the technology.
Equitability: Quantum computing developers and users ensure that the technology is equitable by design, and that quantum computing-based technologies are fairly and evenly distributed insofar as possible. Particular consideration is given to any specific needs of vulnerable populations to ensure equitability.
Non-maleficence: All stakeholders use quantum computing in a safe, ethical and responsible manner. Furthermore, all stakeholders ensure quantum computing does not put humans at risk of harm, either in the intended or unintended outcomes of its use, and that it is not used for nefarious purposes.
Accessibility: Quantum computing technology and knowledge are actively made widely accessible. This includes the development, deployment and use of the technology. The aim is to cultivate a general ability among the population, societal actors, corporations and governments to understand the main principles of quantum computing, the ways in which it differs from classical computing and the potential it brings.
Transparency: Users, developers and regulators are transparent about their purpose and intentions with regard to quantum computing.
“Governments and industries are accelerating their investments in quantum computing research and development worldwide,” said Derek O’Halloran, Head of Digital Economy, World Economic Forum. “This report starts the conversation that will help us understand the opportunities, set the premise for ethical guidelines, and pre-empt socioeconomic, political and legal risks well ahead of global deployment.”
The Quantum Computing Governance Principles is an initiative of the World Economic Forum’s Quantum Computing Network, a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on accelerating responsible quantum computing.
Next steps for the Quantum Computing Governance Initiative will be to work with wider stakeholder groups to adopt these principles as part of broader governance frameworks and policy approaches. With this framework, business and investment communities along with policy makers and academia will be better equipped to adopt to the coming paradigm shift. Ultimately, everyone will be better prepared to harness the transformative capabilities of quantum sciences – perhaps the most exciting emergent technologies of the 21st Century.
Closing the Cyber Gap: Business and Security Leaders at Crossroads as Cybercrime Spikes
The global digital economy has surged off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, but so has cybercrime – ransomware attacks rose 151% in 2021. There were on average 270 cyberattacks per organization during 2021, a 31% increase on 2020, with each successful cyber breach costing a company $3.6m. After a breach becomes public, the average share price of the hacked company underperforms the NASDAQ by -3% even six months after the event.
According to the World Economic Forum’s new annual report, The Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022, 80% of cyber leaders now consider ransomware a “danger” and “threat” to public safety and there is a large perception gap between business executives who think their companies are secure and security leaders who disagree.
Some 92% of business executives surveyed agree that cyber resilience is integrated into enterprise risk-management strategies, only 55% of cyber leaders surveyed agree. This gap between leaders can leave firms vulnerable to attacks as a direct result of incongruous security priorities and policies.
Even after a threat is detected, our survey, written in collaboration with Accenture, found nearly two-thirds would find it challenging to respond to a cybersecurity incident due to the shortage of skills within their team. Perhaps even more troubling is the growing trend that companies need 280 days on average to identify and respond to a cyberattack. To put this into perspective, an incident which occurs on 1 January may not be fully contained until 8 October.
“Companies must now embrace cyber resilience – not only defending against cyberattacks but also preparing for swift and timely incident response and recovery when an attack does occur,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.
“Organizations need to work more closely with ecosystem partners and other third parties to make cybersecurity part of an organization’s ecosystem DNA, so they can be resilient and promote customer trust,” said Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture. “This report underscores key challenges leaders face – collaborating with ecosystem partners and retaining and recruiting talent. We are proud to work with the World Economic Forum on this important topic because cybersecurity impacts every organization at all levels.”
Chief Cybersecurity Officers kept up at night by three things
Less than one-fifth of cyber leaders feel confident their organizations are cyber resilient. Three major concerns keep them awake at night:
– They don’t feel consulted on business decisions, and they struggle to gain the support of decision-makers in prioritizing cyber risks – 7 in 10 see cyber resilience featuring prominently in corporate risk management
– Recruiting and retaining the right talent is their greatest concern – 6 in 10 think it would be challenging to respond to a cybersecurity incident because they lack the skills within their team
– Nearly 9 in 10 see SMEs as the weakest link in the supply chain – 40% of respondents have been negatively affected by a supply chain cybersecurity incident
Training and closing the cyber gap are key solutions
Solutions include employee cyber training, offline backups, cyber insurance and platform-based cybersecurity solutions that stop known ransomware threats across all attack vectors.
Above all, there is an urgent need to close the gap of understanding between business and security leaders. It is impossible to attain complete cybersecurity, so the key objective must be to reinforce cyber resilience.
Including cyber leaders into the corporate governance process will help close this gap.
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