Pew Internet & American Life Project released recently a new report on the future of the internet. Being US-centric, the report’s view of the future of the internet is also framed with an American bias. This does not take away from some of the prescient observations in the report on the evolution of technology.
Those who raised challenges believe that governments and corporations will not necessarily embrace policies that will allow the network to spread to under-served populations; that serious social inequalities will persist; and that “addiction” is an inappropriate notion to attach to people’s interest in virtual environments.
Given that many respondents argue that violence arising from conflicts over religion, economics, and politics, will be more prevalent, the future of the internet is in one way or another deeply entwined with violence and conflict. The report does not opine how such conflicts will be exacerbated, prevented, mitigated or transformed using the internet, which is my central field of interest.
While I hold that the growth of the internet in South Asia in particular will be fuelled by wireless internet access and mobile devices, the observations of a “flattened” world are extremely premature – there will always be, even in communities with access to the internet, socio-economic and political inequalities that may in fact be reflected in virtual, internet mediated interactions with other communities. The study of how the evolution of the internet can positively impact upon conflict resolution / transformation / management and strengthen peacebuilding is one that is growing more important with each passing year.