Inside the digital society

David Souter writes a weekly column for APC, looking at different aspects of the information society, development and rights. David’s pieces take a fresh look at many of the issues that concern APC and its members, with the aim of provoking discussion and debate. Issues covered include internet governance and sustainable development, human rights and the environment, policy, practice and the use of ICTs by individuals and communities.

Inside the Information Society: Innovation and development
Inside the Information Society: Innovation and development 28 May 2018 David Souter

Inside the Information Society returns after a break.  This week’s post (based on a speech written for a recent conference) looks at the relationship between innovation and development. Complexity lies at the heart of the challenges that face those of us who are concerned with innovation and development.  We need to pay more attention to that complexity rather than embedding it with false assumptions. Challenging the Whig interpretation of technology The relationship between innov...

Inside the Information Society: The impact of the internet on democratic politics
Inside the Information Society: The impact of the internet on democratic politics 23 April 2018 David Souter

One of the biggest news stories about the Internet in Britain and America right now concerns Facebook, a company called Cambridge Analytica, and the impact that they might have had on democratic decisions. Two decisions in particular: the narrow vote in Britain to leave the European Union, and the election of Donald Trump. This story’s about many things: the power that data gives to data companies like Facebook; the potential that it gives those companies and others to influence opinion (no...

Inside the Information Society: Whatever happened to competition online?
Inside the Information Society: Whatever happened to competition online? 15 April 2018 David Souter

The Internet, it used to be said, would let a thousand flowers bloom. The low cost of market entry would enable thousands of application and content developers to reach out to users. There’d be more diversity, more choice, more freedom for users to exercise that choice. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Sure, it’s easier for individuals and small companies to bring something ...

Inside the Information Society: Competition – what happened to telecommunications?
Inside the Information Society: Competition – what happened to telecommunications? 09 April 2018 David Souter

Last week I wrote about the relationship between innovation and regulation in communications. I identified six areas of that relationship which I said I’d write about over the next few months (along with other issues). First up, this week and next, is competition. This week some history and ‘points of principle’; next week, some implications for today/tomorrow. (The history, of course, mu...

Inside the Information Society: Permissionless innovation and the precautionary principle
Inside the Information Society: Permissionless innovation and the precautionary principle 02 April 2018 David Souter

Facebook’s leading the news again, at least in Europe and America. Its current ‘crisis’ – if that’s what it is – has focused attention on the desirability or otherwise of regulation: of itself, its peers, the Internet in general. Can online businesses be trusted to do what’s right (with data or in other ways), or should they be regulated like other economic sectors? This week: a f...

Inside the Information Society: The road to artificial intelligence
Inside the Information Society: The road to artificial intelligence 26 March 2018 David Souter

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of this year’s hottest topics. Governments and businesses are investing big-time (China’s said by some to be best placed). Wide-eyed consultancies spell out the wonders they foresee ahead (with predictions of big dollars). Androids and robots stalk the silver screen.  I’ve been listening lately to AI experts talking of AI, and most of them rather w...

Inside the Information Society: Exploring Africa’s research priorities
Inside the Information Society: Exploring Africa’s research priorities 12 March 2018 David Souter

Last week I participated in / facilitated a workshop on Africa’s research priorities for the Information Society. What follows are some thoughts arising. The workshop was organised by Research ICT Africa, which has published some of the most interesting and in-depth analyses of Africa’s communications sector in the last decade. The findings from one strand of its work, its latest ...

Inside the Information Society: The Internet – but whose jurisdiction?
Inside the Information Society: The Internet – but whose jurisdiction? 05 March 2018 David Souter

I’ve been attending the second Internet and Jurisdiction Conference in Ottawa. This post is not a comment on the conference but on the context for resolving issues that it raises. What’s the question? The underlying question’s the relationship between national law and the international nature of the Internet. There’s an issue of philosophy in this, but also one of practice. So...

Inside the Information Society: W[h]ither Facebook?
Inside the Information Society: W[h]ither Facebook? 26 February 2018 David Souter

I don’t have a Facebook profile.  People ask me why I don’t?  After all, it seems, this puts me in the minority among users of the Internet worldwide.  Answering this question’s made me consider my relationship with social media, and social media’s relationship with our society.   A more personal post than most, therefore, this week, leading to some general observati...

Inside the Information Society: It was twenty years ago today
Inside the Information Society: It was twenty years ago today 19 February 2018 David Souter

Twenty years ago, in 1998, the UK Department for International Development asked me to help it ‘determine the value of involvement in information and communication technology in support of its objective of eliminating poverty in poorer countries.’ I’ve just re-read the paper and the presentation that I gave in response to that invitation. They’re a telling reminder of what’s changed a...

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