[AfrICANN-discuss] News from Davos:Digital Convergence Continues

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Tue Feb 3 02:31:41 SAST 2009

*Update 2009: Digital Convergence Continues*


*• Esko Tapani Aho • R. Marcelo Claure • Alexander V. Izosimov • Rafael
Ramirez • Paul Twomey*
Moderated by *• Elizabeth Daley
*Thursday 29 January

Internet use has exploded globally – more than 300% since 2000 – and mobile
telephony has captured just over half of the world's population. There are
1.4 million Internet users and 3.6 billion people use mobile telephony. The
two trends are the drivers of digital conversion, which is having profound
effects on business models and transforming social networks and consumer
patterns globally. This intersection – where users access the Internet from
their mobile phones – maps a revolutionary digital paradigm shift proffering
a multitude of opportunities. However, it also has a dark side with
potential for unintended consequences. Panellists cautioned against
"sleepwalking" into this new era, but remained upbeat about the potential
for digital convergence to change people's lives in both the developed and
the developing world.

The bright side

• Mobile phones are coming down in price. At the same time, netbooks –
light-weight, economical energy-efficient laptops designed for wireless
communication and Internet access – are becoming affordable at US$ 300.
Soon, users will be given free netbooks and the world will change forever.
Some panellists and participants called for free Internet access worldwide.
With more than 70% of the planet covered for mobile telephony and ubiquitous
coverage on the horizon, the world will be changed forever. In this context,
digital convergence brings universal access and democracy of information.

• These new technological tools provide opportunities to improve
productivity in developing and developed countries in both the private and
public sector. Mobile technologies have been the most important tool to
promote growth in developing countries. Mobile Internet will be the next

• Times of crisis present opportunities for innovation. As the global
economy is being reformed, a window is being opened to use these new
technological tools to expand knowledge creation capacity and to make huge
leaps in the areas of science and health. For the private and public sector,
such tools can help create future growth by driving down costs through
increased efficiency.

The challenges

• Digital convergence ushers in opportunities for increased transparency and
participation in government decision-making. However, in a networked world,
it is important to view technologies as quickly changing social actors.
Governments should run experiments to learn more about the industry. For
example, how does this technology change a society where people are still
productive well into their 80s and 90s?

• Governance and data protection are key issues. Today, there is seamless
data transmission between industries and users. Because this underlying
common technology holds potential for good, but also for danger, what role
for governments? Some panellists called for zero intervention, while others
advocated a light regulatory framework or architecture that at once protects
citizens and encourages R&D, but does not throw up obstacles to a very
dynamic and entrepreneurial sector.

The dark side

• In the hugely popular "The Dark Knight" movie, Batman converts every
mobile phone in the area to capture the villain. Is this too much power for
one man? This scenario is perfectly plausible today as cooperating sensory
networks can provide instantaneous feedback to users. In the movie, it was
technology for good, but what about its potential for terrorism?
• The offline world is characterized by natural limitations to scale, for
example to money launderers. Such boundaries are erased in a networked
world, which could provide opportunities for those who operate in the
shadowy netherworld of cybercrime.
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