Digital Agenda: Horizon 2020

Defining future internet research priorities for the EU Digital Agenda 2020 Framework Programme.

The Internet has become crucial to the development of our societies; not only as an enabling infrastructure, but even more so as a key change driver.

Two conclusions follow from this. First, the huge challenge we're facing to avoid ecological breakdown and effect a transition to a more sustainable society, requires an integral role for internet technologies to support that transition.

Second, since internet technologies both enable and drive change, a future-oriented research agenda for the Internet needs to be grounded in a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach that integrates the social and the technical.

That, in short, is what the international PARADISO conference was about on September 7-9 2011. Hosted by the European Commission in Brussels, the conference was dedicated to producing guidelines for European R&D funding in the 2014-2020 period, involving a budget of € 50 billion to € 80 billion, called Horizon 2020.

The PARADISO reference document summarizes a range of foresight studies and lists key recommendations for this research effort. It's part of the EU's Future Internet programme under the umbrella of the Digital Agenda 2020

The video above provides an impression of the conference. Below, you'll find summaries of the four conference sessions:

  1. Opening session
  2. Looking at the future of our societies
  3. Looking at the future of the internet
  4. Internet and societies: call to action

I'm highlighting the main interesting points but also provide links to all speech transcripts, slides and external sites that are relevant.

Opening session

The opening session consisted mostly of presentations by EU politicians. I'm not going to bore you with summaries of those. You can read the full transcripts in the conference proceedings. The opening speech by Neelie Smit-Kroes was certainly interesting.

Some quotes from this session:

Catherine Trautmann MEP:

"The Internet by itself is a grand societal challenge."

Anna-Maria Darmanin MEP:

"The new generation was never so well-prepared, never so disappointed"

Looking at the future of our societies

The second session was by far the most interesting, showcasing a range of foresight (futures) research studies.

Marc Luyckx Ghisi, (former member of the "Foresight Studies Unit" of European Commission's President):

"The deep motor of the change is that all citizen feel that if we continue with our actual economic logic, we are in danger of collective suicide."

He cited Drucker:

"That knowledge has become the resource, rather than a resource, is what makes our society « post-capitalist ». This fact changes – fundamentally – the structure of society. It creates new social and economic dynamic. It creates new politics."

Carlo Sessa (President of ISIS, Italy, coordinator of the PASHMINA project and member of the Global Europe 2030-2050 expert group), summarized the Pashmina Project. They've developed four scenarios against two axes: 1. Do it fast / Do it slow 2. Do it alone / Do it together

. Do it fast Do it slow
Do it alone Growth without limits Stagnation
Do it together Growth within limits New welfare

Cheryl Hicks (UNEP/Wuppertal Institute Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production, Project Director, SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 project) outlined the SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 project: Developing a Vision & Action Roadmap for Sustainable Lifestyles.

"No-one really knows what a sustainable lifestyle means."

She highlighted collaborative consumption and sustainability scoring of products.

Dirk Johann (Researcher, Austrian Institute of Technology, European Foresight Platform) introduced the European Foresight Platform and referenced Mapping Foresight, a meta-study indexing a large number of foresight studies performed across Europe.

Philippe Quéau (Representative of UNESCO to the Maghreb) criticized the policy preference for "ultrafast networks" as harking back to the outdated "super information highway" metaphor.

He distinguishes:

The "Digital paradigm"
instrumental, technological impact
The "Information paradigm"
environmental, wide societal impact
The "Knowledge paradigm"
mental, deep impact on civilization

and also a new convergence paradigm:

The "BANG paradigm"
Bits, Atoms, Neurons, Genes

Guo Liang (Deputy Director, Center for Social Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) shook the (European) audience by applying Metcalfe's law to China. Already Asia is the continent with most Internet users, double that of Europe. Chinese usage patterns are distinct from Western patterns: instant messaging instead of email, a predominance of micro-blogs, work/study focus in internet use. China is atypical: it's citizens feel that they can influence their government via the Internet. But also:

"1/3 of Internet users in China use the Internet only to play games. For them, it's nothing more than a game machine."

Looking at the future of the internet

The next presentations were technology-driven, which was a bit of a jar after the confronting societal futures presentations that went before - it's clear that a narrow tech-only focus won't solve our problems.

"One day we should get a presentation how the marvelous technology projects address the societal challenges" @HeikkiHuomo
Willem Jonker
(CEO of the EIT ICT Lab)
Luis Rodriguez-Rosello
(Head of the Future Networks Unit, European Commission's DG Infso)
Petra Turkama
(Director CKIR, Aalto University, Coordinator of the FIppp Concord project)

The Future Internet Public-Private Partnership is a huge academic/industrial consortium funded by the EU.

"I would have like P Turkama explain how the FIppp initiative can evolve towards a FIpppp one (adding people)... @_PARADISO

"A big-budget bureaucratic approach to innovation cannot simulate or stimulate enterpreneurial spirit" @GuidoStevens

Lynn St Amour (President & CEO, The Internet Society) shifted the focus to open standards and user centricity.

"Individuals have created almost all on the internet that we value today"

Ashok Jhunjhunwala (Professor, Head of department, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India) delivered a truly outstanding presentation: Future of the Internet: a view from the emerging world. This tied together all the themes we had seen: societal challenges, global power shift towards Asia, the crucial role of technology.

"THIS is IT... Asia centric internet is emerging... they see it as opportunity and ARE moving." @HeikkiHuomo

Internet and societies: call to action

Ruben Nelson, Executive Director, Foresight Canada

"There isn't a politician in the world that will speak honestly to our children about the future."

"As a society, many people have given up on becoming more deeply human"

"This guy does not talk about knowledge but extracts it to WISDOM" @HeikkiHuomo

Juan Carlos de Martin, Professor, Politecnico di Torino, Director of the NEXA Center for Internet and Society

Margot Dor, Head of strategic projects, ETSI

Ward Hanson, Policy Forum Director and Fellow, Stanford Institute for Policy Research Center

"E-commerce concentration is happening faster than preferential attachment models can explain."

Jim Williams, Director, International Networking, Indiana University, co-chair, GENI Operations

Roger Torrenti, CEO Sigma Orionis, PARADISO project coordinator

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