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ICT4Peace’s Daniel Stauffacher participated in a Symposium at Harvard University (6-8 December 2012) on “Internet-Driven Developments: Structural Changes and Tipping Points”, co-hosted by the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society in Berlin, the Centre for Internet and Society Bangalore, the Center for Technology & Society at the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, KEIO University SFC, the MIT Media Lab and its Center for Civic Media, the NEXA Center for Internet & Society.

The participants deliberations centred around the following two questions:

  • What are the structural shifts (as opposed to hype, fashion, or spikes), from a societal, economic, legal, and educational perspective, promoted by the Internet and related technological advancements?
  • What are the tipping points and other forces that have catalysed these structural changes— including the actions of individuals (such as users, citizens, policy makers, academics, and activists) and institutions (such as government, academia, business, and civil society/advocacy organizations)?

In addition to discussing these substantive topics, the meeting served as an opportunity to talk about the vision of a networked community of international Centres of Internet and Society (“Towards a Global Network of Internet & Society Centres”). Participants were invited to scope and identify mechanisms for collaboration, research, informal coordination, and development of collective capacity.

ICT4Peace proposed and chaired a session on the positive role of ICTs in crisis management and peace building, and the new challenges to a sustainable and resilient Internet posed by emerging cyber security issues. The underlying theme of the discussion was that an open, free and sustainable internet cannot be taken for granted, and that the new and positive role, that the internet and the web have been playing in recent years in developing and applying new tools to safe lives and protect human dignity might be put into question, if a resilient internet is not assured.  All stakeholders, and in particular academia need to identify and analyse these new challenges and threats more thoroughly and describe possible solutions at national and global levels. And it is here that the great value of the proposed new Network of Centres on Internet and Society becomes apparent, because regional and cultural specificities, approaches and methods must and can be brought to bear, when doing research and education in these complex and often sensitive fields.

After a introduction and description of the positive new opportunities that e.g. social media, crowd sourcing and crisis mapping can bring to better crisis management, peace building and humanitarian operations, ICT4Peace briefly mapped out the instruments, processes and actors in the on-going global cyber security discussions and negotiations. It was observed, that the solutions to some of these new challenges will be generated as much by states (e.g. developing norms of state behaviour and confidence building measures (CBM’s) as by non-state actors, by building for instance new cyber security standards with the help of the new intermediaries (e.g. ISPs), business companies and consumer organisations.

The representatives from Keio University Japan, Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, Rio de Janeiro, BCAC, Kenia, Faculty of Law at the Istanbul Bilgi University and ICT4Peace agreed to continue to collectively observe some of these new phenomena, with a special focus on national, regional and global, private and public governance frameworks for addressing some of these issues.

The Programme of the Symposium can be found here and the list of participants can be found here.