Internet pioneer Vint Cerf expressed his optimism for the Internet’s future at the official opening of the Internet Society’s new Geneva office. More than just optimism though, I was left with a feeling that he was perhaps issuing a subtle call to arms for the Internet pioneers of today.
In his statements and interviews at the event, Dr. Cerf mentioned the Interplanetary Network and the move to expand our address space (IPv6) as well as work being done to advance security and enrich our namespace; all examples of the continuing need for research and development on and of the Internet. In an interview with Swisster, when asked what he planned to talk about at Lift09 (going on now), Dr. Cerf replied that he would be focusing on “the Internet and problems that we still have to solve, in using it and expanding it.” He explained that there is plenty of room for research, innovation and experimentation; that while there is already a lot of things going on which will influence the evolution of the Internet, there are still lot’s of opportunities for research tasks to help steer us towards “better utility for all.”
Dr. Cerf also went beyond strictly “tech talk” to stress the importance of getting the policy right as the Internet expands. He explained that governance is key because technical measures cannot always stop the abuses of technology. Of course this being an ISOC event (and he being a co-founder), he reaffirmed that “The Internet Society‘s role as a policy commentator and influencer is central.” As a member of the Internet Society and the current Chair of the Colorado ISOC chapter I could not agree more. The Internet Society and it’s chapters around the world are doing great work in many areas and on many aspects of Internet policy development. From DNS and IDN to social networks and privacy, from trust and identity to accessibility and disabilities; ISOC is helping to inform and influence policymakers the world over. I would however like to also mention that individuals and organizations taking part in the policy discussions at the various Regional Internet Registries have a huge impact on the future of the Internet as well, especially in this crucial time of transition. I encourage you to join the conversation in your region of the world just as I encourage you to join your local ISOC chapter.
Another specific area which needs attention and that Dr. Cerf believes organizations such as the Internet Society should play a key role in, is expanding Internet penetration. In the interview with Swisster mentioned above, he comments that in 25 years of operation, the Internet has only reached a 20% penetration level globally. This calls for all of us to continue evangelizing the “utility and importance of the Internet” in order to get the remaining 5 billion or so people online.
It seems that no matter where your expertice and interests lie when it comes to the Internet, there is plenty of work still to be done. Whether you join a project already underway or create a new initiative, whether you attack the Internet’s remaining issues through technology, through policy or through evangelism, the real key is that you get involved because as (one of) the father(s) of the Internet himself said: “We’ve now had 35 years of Internet development. It’s been an exciting ride, but it’s not over yet.”