Constance Bommelaer de Leusse

Author Archives: Constance Bommelaer de Leusse

Don’t Institutionalize the Internet

This opinion piece was originally published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

As the United Nations turned 75, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the General Assembly by calling for a New Global Deal to ensure that political and economic systems deliver on critical global public goods. “Today, that is simply not happening,” he said. “We have huge gaps in governance structures and ethical frameworks. To close these gaps, we need to ensure that power, wealth and opportunities are broadly and fairly shared.” 

At the Internet Society, we couldn’t agree more. But just what will this ‘New Global Deal’ and its governance structures look like with regards to digital cooperation? Let’s make sure that traditional, top-down governance of the Internet is not the answer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored just how much we depend on the Internet and its distributed governance model. Because the Internet is a network of networks, its resilience is largely due to the planning, swift action, and cooperation of its interconnected participants.

And we are just at the beginning of the journey, with only 51% of the world’s population currently able to access the Internet. To get the remaining, unconnected half online, we need collaborative bottom-up Continue reading

There’s a Techlash. The G20 Should Listen.

The Internet is at risk. Once thought of as the global equalizer, opening doors for communication, work opportunities, commerce and more – the Internet is now increasingly viewed with skepticism and wariness. We are witnessing a trend where people fare feeling let down by the technology they use. Fueled by unease and uncertainty about the growing scope of threats to security and privacy that come with an always-on, tech-driven world, people are now looking for ways to disconnect and are placing greater emphasis on values and human interaction.

The way we live our lives is now inextricably linked to the Internet – which is estimated to contribute US$6.6 trillion a year, or 7.1 percent of total GDP in the G20 countries by 2020. In developing nations, that digital economy is growing steadily by 15 to 25 percent a year. Yet the Internet essentially is under attack. Large scale data breaches, uncertainties about how our data is being used and monetized, cybercrime, surveillance and other online threats are impacting Internet users’ trust. We are at an important crossroads for the Internet and its healthy development is at stake.

It is our collective duty to find a response to the Continue reading

2018 Global Internet Report – Take our survey on the Future of the Internet

Last year, the Internet Society published a comprehensive study to better understand the forces of change that will shape the Internet over the next five to seven years: The 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital FutureBy focusing attention on the significant potential of the Internet for innovation and sustainable development, but without denying or shirking the challenges it also introduces, the 2017 report has become a powerful tool in the global awareness and advocacy work of the Internet Society and its chapters.

We now want to work with you as our most important stakeholders on a new report that takes a closer look at one of those forces and how it may impact the future, namely Consolidation in the Internet Economy. Understood as growing forces of concentration, vertical and horizontal integration, and fewer opportunities for market entry and competition, this topic includes the impact of consolidating forces on all stakeholders as well as on the Internet’s underlying and evolving technology.

We have selected this theme because findings from last year’s report, and developments since its release, indicated increasing concerns about a growing concentration of power in the Internet Economy. They point to market and technical forces that may be Continue reading

Encryption Is Key to Safety of Journalists

At a time when we notice increasing and alarming threats to media freedom around the world, World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) is more pertinent today than ever before. We therefore can’t afford to celebrate this important day without both considering the damage done to the free press over the past year and intensifying our efforts to protect journalists and the future of journalism around the world.

To ensure that we can continue to celebrate the media’s vital role in democracies in the future, we must tackle the increasing number of Internet shutdowns around the world and find better ways to secure the safety of journalists.

Let’s start with the latter. The surveillance of journalists, in particular, has profound implications for democratic institutions, including freedom of the press. It threatens journalists’ ability to confidently and confidentially work with sources and to unlock information about controversial issues. It therefore hinders their ability to play their roles as watchdogs in democratic or undemocratic, developed or developing societies alike. But reports indicate that more and more journalists are at risk of facing state or societal surveillance.

Encryption offers a vital and relatively simple defense for such intrusions. Building on last year’s Continue reading

Future Thinking: Wired Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson on the Role of Media

In 2017, the Internet Society unveiled the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future. The interactive report identifies the drivers affecting tomorrow’s Internet and their impact on Media & Society, Digital Divides, and Personal Rights & Freedoms. Last month we interviewed Nicholas Thompson, Editor in Chief of Wired, to hear his perspective on the forces shaping the Internet’s future.

Prior to joining Wired, Thompson was a journalist at The New Yorker, where he was also the editor of Thompson has written about politics and technology for numerous publications, and  has spent time reporting from West Africa on the role technology plays there. He is also the author of The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War.

The Internet Society: You recently published (and co-wrote) a long feature on Facebook’s difficulties over the past two years, focusing to a large extent on its role in distributing news and misinformation (or fake news) alike. As policy leaders shape future norms in this field, do you think platforms face stricter regulatory measures? How? 

Nicholas ThompsonPlatforms need to do better. They need to play a better role in Continue reading

The Future of Journalism in the Internet age: Watchdogs or Lapdogs?

Media watchdogs, increasingly criticized, threatened and attacked by corporate interests and global governments, are also among the prominent victims of falling public trust in the wake of the proliferation of so-called ‘fake’ news.

Despite some self-inflicted problems, such as those highlighted by the Leveson inquiry in the United Kingdom five years ago, news media and responsible journalism remain of critical importance to democracy.

The Internet Society’s 2017 Global Internet Report reveals how media is intricately entwined with society and it will become more so as more people and services go online. The Internet has grown from 400 million users in 2000 to 3.5 billion users today and as access expands further the media have countless new opportunities to increase their reach and better inform their audiences.

But “going online” also introduces unique challenges for the media. In the next five to seven years, the Internet will continue to fundamentally impact society and the media. According to Reporters without Borders, media freedom violations – impacting particularly anonymity, privacy and free expression – have increased by 14 percent in the past five years, for example.

As the Internet and news media become more converged, it is relatively easy to identify Continue reading

The Internet Society and NetBlocks Team up to Keep it on!

By Constance Bommelaer de Leusse and Alp Toker

How much do government shutdowns cost? How do they impact growth and prosperity?

In 2016 Internet shutdowns cost globally about $2.4 billion USD, and across 10 African countries they led to loss of $237 million USD over 236 days.

If we don’t act now, shutdowns and restrictions of access will continue to rise and the economic cost will increase over the next few years. At a time where developing countries can benefit the most from Internet access for economic growth, education and health, we cannot let this situation become the new normal.

The economic rationale of keeping it on

The impact of shutdowns on freedom of expression and human rights is already well understood. Unfortunately, this has little effect in reversing the trend. This is why we need the ear of economic and trade Ministers, investors, development banks, and others who can ensure the Internet isn’t shut down. Because they care about the growth and prosperity the Internet can bring.

Today we are excited to announce that the Internet Society and NetBlocks are teaming up to develop a tool to better measure the cost of shutdowns, and convince governments to keep the Continue reading

Unlocking the Internet for Education: Policymakers Hold the Key

Education is the basis for individual empowerment, employability, and gender equity. Unfortunately, it is not available to everyone.

In 2015, the international community agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which commits countries to addressing these challenges. Such commitments require innovative approaches that go beyond simply building more educational institutions. At the Internet Society we believe the Internet is a key piece of that puzzle, which is why we are pleased to release a new paper, “Internet Access and education: Key considerations for policy makers”, to help navigate some of the opportunities and challenges.

The Internet has great potential to not only expand access to, but also improve the quality of education. It opens doorways to a wealth of information, knowledge, and educational resources to students and teachers. It also promotes opportunities for learning beyond the classroom – a critical feature to promote the lifelong learning that the future demands. A skilled workforce that utilizes ICTs effectively is a key factor in the global digital economy and for harnessing its natural resources for sustainable growth. Education is where it starts.

This Internet Society briefing describes ways in which policymakers can unlock that potential through an enabling framework Continue reading

How Governments Can Be Smart about Artificial Intelligence

The French MP and Fields medal award winner, Cédric Villani, officially auditioned Constance Bommelaer de Leusse, the Internet Society’s Senior Director, Global Internet Policy, last Monday on national strategies for the future of artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, the Internet Society was asked to send written comments, which are reprinted here.

Practical AI successes, computational programs that actually achieved intelligent behavior, were soon assimilated into whatever application domain they were found to be useful […] Once in use, successful AI systems were simply considered valuable automatic helpers.”

Pamela McCorduck, Machines Who Think: A Personal Inquiry into the History and Prospects of Artificial Intelligence

AI is not new, nor is it magic. It’s about algorithms.

“Intelligent” technology is already everywhere – such as spam filters or systems used by banks to monitor unusual activity and detect fraud – and it has been for some time. What is new and creating a lot of interest from governments stems from recent successes in a subfield of AI known as “machine learning,” which has spurred the rapid deployment of AI into new fields and applications. It is the result of a potent mix of data availability, increased computer power and algorithmic innovation that, if Continue reading

“Keep those eyebrows up!” – Cybersecurity at the Global Women’s Forum

News of cyberattacks is slowly becoming a new normal. We are still at a stage where high-profile cases, like the recent attack against the American credit reporting company Equifax, in which 145.5 million users had their personal information compromised, raise eyebrows. But we need those eyebrows to stay up because we should never accept cyber threats as the new normal.

This week in Paris, hundreds of leaders met at the Women’s Forum to discuss some of the key issues that will shape the future of a world in transition, including cybersecurity. But this topic is not just a concern for the experts – it’s a concern to all men and women leading any business today.

New risks on the horizon

A recent report by the Internet Society, “Paths to Our Digital Future”, points out that now is a big moment for the Internet. The revolution we already see could accelerate in the coming years, not only due to the increasing digitalization of services and businesses, but also through the expansion of objects being connected to the Internet – the Internet of Things (IoT). By 2020 more than 20 billion “things” could be connected.

Suddenly it’s not only Continue reading