An Internet of the People, by the People, for the People’ – a UK perspective

A coterie of industry brand managers seeking new tools met at DigitasLBi in late September in London.

The day was hosted by UK CEO Michael Islip, and the assembled experience and intellect of the presenters and delegates debated the challenges and forecasts for the future of the Internet, with Jamie Bartlett talking about the terrifying dark-web how this was being expanded by criminals and terrorists, and the shift in society akin to the eighteenth and nineteenth century industrial revolution. Daniel Franklin, The Economist, gave his 2018 forecast, including 5G mobile Internet, everything AI and commercial drones. There were also insightful sessions concerning how business may understand people’s choices and emotions with Sameer Modha and Spotify’s Maureen Trainor. There were also entertaining and thought-provoking sessions on a common Internet brand, a Social-Impact Dragons-Den, and an interview with Grace Dent on how the Internet had offered her many life opportunities.

The goal was to consider how to “Make the Internet Great Again”. A BIG remit.

Particularly when the World Wide Web, is so clearly not delivering a level of greatness in accordance with its high expectations. With that in mind, DigitasLBi brought together an eclectic group of disrupters: journalists, futurists, technologists, economists and branding guru’s to weigh in on this burgeoning debate.

All the original hopes of expanding the transfer of information, globally, are in the process of being achieved but the hyped-up promise of democratizing access, for everyone, has failed. The dark web and the proliferation of fake news to name but two, has put the dream into serious reconsideration.

And what does this mean for the traditional powers of branding when power is concentrated in the big 5 – Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft? Particularly when FaceBook and Google concede that checking content is very difficult? And with these two global powerhouses controlling a combined 85% of digital media spend, coupled with the access to and analysis of billions of people’s online data, effectively a global duopoly, there is a great deal to do in order to create positive inclusion.

What of the crazy speculation that AI will eventually shape the economy as it tends towards monopoly? Or is that not so crazy? How can humans drive our emotional and social strengths to improve lives, which computers will never do?

Mei Lin Fung, co-founder of the People Centred Internet qualified the failure with her assertion back in the 2003 that “Al Queda had been the most effective user of the web”. 25 years hence, we still have our work cut out for us.

The UN forecasts that by 2022 there will be 8B people, 7B will be online and connected by devices. By 2050, the earth’s population will increase to 9.7B by 2100 to 11.2B, with Africa making up 50% of that number at 5.6B people. Indeed nine countries, out of 193 across the world, will make up half of the global population.

How may we ensure that the Internet is inclusive and embracing of such a growing population, with such huge regional and cultural changes? The Internet, and all of us involved in shaping its future, must revisit the past, and collectively construct a much better future. Barak Obama, in an interview with Wired talked about his interest in the positive futuristic vision of Start Trek. “It wasn’t about the technology…….it was about a common humanity and our confidence to solve problems.”

Mei Lin likened the explosion in information transfer today as being the size of a beach ball that is growing to be as big as the sun. The only way to forge a positive solution for managing this complex information ecosystem is by creating high functioning, empathetic networked communities. Places where people understand that the Internet is of, for and by the people. That can happen when consistently excellent user and customer experiences are seen as fundamental to the task. That goes for every product, service and environment that people touch every single day of their lives.

In order to make the Internet great again, we need to drive social awareness by linking people in their communities with others. That means telling their stories, sharing real stories and weaving “a meteoric shower of facts” and get better at sharing our lessons on the human condition. To weave the fabric of humanity, the loom is all of us, together. We can connect to thrive.

How may London and the UK play a strong role in this endeavour? Firstly through strong Government and ensuring that macro and micro economic and legislative policy comprehends and supports access and competition across the Internet. This will include collaboration with the EU, the US, the UN, Commonwealth to strengthen international access and balance. Secondly, that the UK continues to grow as an innovator of technology and understanding its impact on domestic and international populations. Cambridge, Oxford and many other UK Universities are at the forefront of such research and study, which needs to be incubated and unleashed as additional foils for digital thought and deed. Thirdly, that UK technology businesses in London and other towns and cities, have access to increasing levels of talent and finance, which may stimulate heightened global Internet innovation vis-à-vis Silicon Valley in the US, and alongside other growing digital cities and regions around the world. And last, but not least, UK residents, which are a diverse melting-pot of cultures and talent, should be demanding of the localised and relevant experiences available to them from brands that provide digital content and services, so that it meets local needs for a positive life.

Interview with Mei Lin Fung, Co-Founder of the People-Centered Internet

Video link of ‘Make the internet great again’ event summary.

Contributed by:

Mei-Lin Fung, Co-founder of People Centered Internet,

Andrew Ford, Chief Customer Officer CustomerGig

Deborah Gale, Intergen Design Leader at The Age of No Retirement.

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