A few weeks ago, I was re-elected to the Internet Society’s Organization Member Advisory Council (OMAC) for another two years – and as Chairperson, alongside Melchior Aelmans and Helen Harris, I can provide “advice and recommendations” to the Internet Society President and Board of Trustees.
Before I touch on the aims of OMAC and the Internet Society for those who are not familiar with them, I would first like to share my logic for being a committed volunteer. The reason is simple: I have faith in the Internet.
I have faith in the Internet. A sentence that no longer rolls off the tongue in the same way as it was likely to do at the turn of the millennium. A sentence that can provoke discussions that revolve around radicalisation and responsibility, around truth and (freedom of) expression, which includes major world politics as well as climate change. Discussions that are important, that are also linked to the Internet and that we must have even when it hurts or, worse, when solutions seem scarce.
Many large and interrelated difficulties are linked to the Internet and yes, some of them would not exist if the Internet didn’t. The fact that I nevertheless have faith in the Internet and am committed to its further expansion is because we need the Internet to overcome the challenges we face. Efficient data centres can make an important contribution to greater sustainability. In this arid summer, which will be followed by others, I am also thinking very specifically about how the world’s 7.9 billion people will get fed. To get enough food from the field to the plate, we need connected and intelligent devices.
This brings me to the Internet Society and OMAC. About half of humanity still does not have access to the Internet. These people are on the wrong side of what is often called the “digital divide”. A huge chasm that completely cuts off one half of humanity from what the other half takes for granted: practically unlimited access to all of humanity’s knowledge and the possibility to exchange information with every other Internet participant in a direct and unfiltered manner.
Such a huge chasm!
Such a huge chasm, such inequality, such non-existent opportunities for so many people! For someone like me, who has been working for decades to create new, better, safer and more affordable connections between continents, metropolises and regions, this is on the one hand frustrating: why are these people still offline? On the other hand, I also see the opportunity: still so much that can be done, still so much to accomplish correctly from the word go!
The Internet Society is a bona fide and high-performance organisation that gets to the heart of the matter. Helping communities create and manage their own connections. Sharing data-driven stories about how the Internet is evolving and empowering people. Advancing access to the Internet via low-orbit satellites. Promoting technical knowledge and expertise in communities. Bringing Internet infrastructure to areas where it is badly needed. Take a look through the website and you will see that there are solutions to many of the challenges – and the right people to implement them successfully.
As I noted above, OMAC is an advisor for the Internet Society. As an Internet Exchange expert, I am happy to share my knowledge with my colleagues at the Internet Society. But that is only half of my commitment. The other half is to be inspired by their visions and enthusiasm and to carry this in turn into my network – and to therefore have a good answer ready when someone asks me whether I still have faith in the Internet.