The future of the Internet and peacebuilding


Talk of the Nation from NPR recently hosted wonderful discussion on the future of the internet and an issue that’s extremely topical today – net neutrality. The programme also covers issues of grassroots empowerment using the internet, the changing nature of media ownership, the design of the internet and some other interesting issues.

The programme can be listened to from here.

Forecasting the Future of the Internet

Talk of the Nation, May 26, 2006 · What’s the future of the Internet, and who will control that future? Are the days of “anything goes” on the Internet numbered? Ira Flatow leads a discussion on networks, laws and how people live and work online.


Tim Wu, co-author of Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World; law professor, Columbia University.

John Horrigan, associate director for research, Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Larry Peterson, professor and chairman, Department of Computer Science and director, PlanetLab Consortium; Princeton University.

There a nascent discussion of Net Neutrality on Lirneasia.

Two more interesting visions on the future of the internet:

Pew: The Future of the Internet
Red Herring: The Future of the Internet

What does this all mean for peacebuilding?

With new ways to access, create and distribute content, with the drive towards the localisation, with former producers becoming co-commentators in a iterative dynamic that has former consumers of media creating their own, with a web made accessible through our mobile devices, peacebuilders would be foolhardy to not think of ways beyond websites and online discussion boards to help facilitate conflict transformation. The range of devices and technologies on offer are already mind-boggling – from the humble SMS to complex mesh networks.

Importantly, the idea of adapting ICT for peacebuilding must, at all times, concentrate on preserving and enhancing the value what is the most important computational device of all time and one most prone to violence, both physical and psychological.

The human mind.

It is in the mind that peace is made or broken. Ways to communicate with each other, ways to understand other cultures, explore meanings, explore options, get guidance of courageous decisions that need to be made for conflict transformation are all areas where technology can augment the inherent human mind’s potential for peace.

If the future of the internet in the next decade dwarfs development of the web in the previous decade, we must, as peacebuilders of tomorrow, be able to piggyback on ICT developments that can help bring diverse (and oftentimes antagonistic) minds together to vision a future sans violence.

Technology can help. It is up to us to imagine the ways through which it does.

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