It’s almost a year now since I started writing “Inside the Information Society” as a weekly blog published on APC’s home page. Thirty-six posts to date, each of around a thousand words. This seems like a good time to take stock, think about the coming year, and ask what issues matter most to readers.
What’s written about ICTs?
A lot is written about the Information Society these days. Five years ago, my daily newspaper might have carried one or two stories or features that were relevant each day. Now – and, yes, I do still read two daily newspapers – there’ll probably at least five or six, sometimes ten. And that’s before I start to read reports and commentaries, news features and academic articles that are sent to me or that I find online.
The tone of some of those new stories, too, has changed. There’s more skepticism about the Information Society than there was five years ago; more uncertainty; more anxiety. People are as concerned now about what might go wrong (in their eyes) as they’re excited by what might go right (ditto).
The aims of ‘Inside the Information Society’?
‘Inside the Information Society’ tries to put some order to this chaos, ask what’s really happening and, most important, question the assumptions that we make that underpin our thinking. The aim is always to encourage discussion and debate. It makes suggestions, but it doesn’t preach (to the converted or the unconverted). We hope it stimulates.
It focuses on issues at the interface between changing technology and public policy. On the ways in which ICTs, the Internet and new types of media and communications affect our economies, societies and cultures. On issues of development and the environment, of governance and rights, of economic growth and social welfare. On how ICTs and the Internet are changing the ways in which people behave, the ways organisations work, the ways governments and businesses do what they do.
It’s interested in the past, present and the future of the Information Society – and in particular in how (or whether) we can shape that future. That includes international frameworks for Internet governance, sustainable development and human rights, but it also includes how society is changing and how it will respond to innovations such as the Internet of Things, big data and the emergence of artificial intelligence.
These are issues that matter to APC, its members and supporters – but they’re issues that matter (or should matter) to everyone (every stakeholder) in the Information Society. The blog’s intended to be relevant to all.
What it’s covered…
Thirty-six posts may seem a lot, but the list of potential subjects here sometimes seems inexhaustible.
You can find an archive of past posts online. They’ve dealt with aspects of all the issues mentioned earlier. They’ve included brief histories (and projections) of the Internet and the role of ICTs in development (ICT4D). Explored aspects of ICTs and human rights, their impact on climate change and jobs, the changing nature of the digital divide, our relationship with mobile phones, and the differing views of cyber-optimists and cyber-pessimists about the future (proposing cyber-realism instead). Most recently, a series of posts has explored what multistakeholder participation means, and how it fits with multilateralism.
Some posts have reported on major publications like the World Development Report on Digital Dividends, the global E-Government Survey or the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society report. Some have focused on international conferences like the IGF and its retreat, the ITU’s capacity-building symposium and the Global Internet and Jurisdiction Conference.
… and what it should cover in the future
We’re intending to continue with that mix of posts during the coming year, but with some variations.
There will be posts that look at big issues of the moment, raising aspects that aren’t necessarily at the centre of debate but maybe should be. They’ll look at different aspects of development such as health, conflict and trade; at aspects of Internet governance including the growing risks of cyber-(in)security; the changing nature of the media and of expression (‘echo chambers’, ‘fake news’ and the like); the potential and the risks of big data and social media analytics; and the implications for life, work and culture of innovations such as driverless cars, robotics and AI.
There will be posts that review new reports and new evidence, and posts that review important meetings like the WSIS Forum and the IGF. An occasional series will look back at key moments in the development of the Information Society, reflecting on how things have changed since the events concerned took place or the reports concerned were written.
One innovation will be interviews with people that have particular experience or insights into how the Information Society is changing. I expect the first of these around the end of April. And we’ll look at publishing a collection of blog posts in more permanent form sometime during the year.
Responding to readers
The aim of ‘Inside the Information Society’ has been consistent from the outset – to explore issues, raise questions, challenge assumptions, encourage discussion and debate, make suggestions where that seems the thing to do. It’s tried, in doing so, to range widely over different aspects of the Information Society.
It’s important that a blog like this should respond to issues that matter to its readers – those that matter now, and those that are going to matter in the future. We’re keen – both APC and I – to tackle subjects that you, its readers, would like us to include. So please let us know what kinds of themes you’d most like us to explore, consider, write about in coming months.
You can write with your suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or APC’s Leila Nachawati at email@example.com. It won’t be possible to cover everything, but we’ll continue trying to capture new ideas and question old assumptions where there’s most discussion and most interest. In the meantime, we thank you for your interest and hope that you’ll continue reading!
Next week: should we be worrying about monopolies?