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Internet Society Global Internet Report

The Global Internet Report 2017: Paths to Our Digital Future, is the fourth annual report produced by the Internet Society and explores how the internet ecosystem could evolve in the future. Bringing together insights from across a diverse global community, this report tries to inspire all who engage with the internet to think differently and to prepare for the opportunities and challenges on the horizon. Shortly, this report serves to remind us that humans are and should be at the very heart of the Internet and suggests that we need to begin to think differently to acclimatise to the changes we are seeing.

Executive summary

The Internet has profoundly shaped our world and has changed our lives in both big and small ways. The technology change around us has happened both quickly and imperceptibly. The very first connections between computers nearly fifty years ago have been transformed into a wave of connectivity that covers the planet. New devices and innovations have given us more ways to harness the power of connectivity wherever we go and have given us functionality we could never have imagined.

We shouldn’ t underestimate the fundamental changes that faster, more affordable access to the Internet has already brought and will continue to bring to humanity. The question is whether we are ready for what’ s coming next.

Now is a big moment for the Internet. As we engaged with our community in the development of this report, it became clear that people are anxious about the future of the Internet. Some see a frightening future that awaits us in a technology-driven world. There are conflicting views around whether the Internet is a positive or a negative influence and while it becomes more and more central to our modern lives, we find that some are beginning to reject the globalised world view that it has fostered. On the other hand, communities just coming online see the Internet as “life’ ‘” as their connection to opportunity and freedom ‘”and they want a chance to influence its future.

This report serves to remind us that humans are at the very heart of the Internet. It reminds us that every one of us has a stake. Recognising this responsibility, the report suggests that we need to begin to think differently to acclimatise to the changes we are seeing. Just as the Internet is a mirror to society, we must better understand that it will reflect both the good and the bad that exists in the world. Most importantly though, this report reasserts our belief that the Internet belongs to everyone and that, as its custodians today, we all have a duty to shape its future. Οur hope is that the insights and recommendations put forward in this report will play a role in helping us all to set the Internet on the path that best serves the needs of an evolving society in the years to come.

Report background

In 2016, the Internet Society launched a project to better understand the forces of change that will shape the Internet over the next five to seven years. Through a series of surveys and interviews, the community identified six key forces, or ‘Drivers of Change’ that will have a profound impact on the future of the Internet in the years to come. These drivers are seen through the lens of three areas of impact, which are consistent with the Internet Society’s mission to put the user at the center of the future Internet (see figure below).
Drivers of Change and Areas of Impact. Source: Current Report.

Recommendations for the future of the Internet

The report concludes providing some recommendations that suggest possible ways forward so that we realize the Internet’s promise for all citizens of the globe. More specifically, these recommendations are organized in the following broad categories:

  • Human values must drive technical development and use
  • Apply human rights online as well as offline
  • Put users’ interests first with respect to their own data
  • Act now to close digital divides
  • Make the Internet economy work for everyone
  • Take a collaborative approach to security
  • Increase accountability for data handlers
  • Build strong, secure, resilient networks
  • Address the need for online social norms
  • Empower people to shape their own future

For more details regarding these recommendations, you can visit Internet Society’s webpage here.