The Web Summit Awakening

 20151104_155706 20151104_230845_LLS_resizedHaving taken the weekend to recuperate from the Web Summit and of course the Night Summit fervor I’m finally documenting my reflections on the amazing Web Summit held last week that I finally got the chance to check out as a volunteer. This provided the perfect opportunity to meet new people and innovators through that experience but also hear from amazing leaders in the tech space. And wow inspired I was!

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As someone doing a PhD in Web Science and currently figuring out how to combine economic geography with business innovation in an interdisciplinary way to understand business models on the web this was like being a chocolate lover at the Willy Wonka, chocolate factory! It brought to life so much of what I have been researching yet emphasised just how much research is still needed. I am currently focusing on ‘sharing economy’ or ‘on-demand’ models online, but there are so many different terms and  interpretations of what that is. They can be peer to peer (P2P), business to business (B2B) or even consumer to business (C2B) nowadays and they are continually emerging to solve every-day nagging human and business problems.20151104_230836_LLS_resized

At the Web Summit I got a chance to speak to so many of them and learn even more not only on my subject but on topics as diverse as the Internet of Things, Gaming, Music and Entertainment, Marketing, Machines, Coding, Fintech and much much more. You can have a look at the schedule on the Web Summit website and the video of talks from center stage are available on the Web Summit YouTube Channel. There were also TV stars (Davos Seaworth from the Game of Thrones), sport stars, and  well known authors like Dan Brown wandering around and voicing their views on tech. The Nasdaq Closing Bell even rang at the Careers Summit. There was also the welcome announcement that the Web Summit would be giving away 10,000 tickets to women entrepreneurs to attend their events. This is a brilliant step in helping to address gender diversity in tech which will benefit women and by default wider society as well.

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No matter how advanced communication technology gets, the magic of face to face interaction really cannot be replaced. The buzz at the Web Summit was overwhelming and electrifying. The social and networking element seemed to be as important as the tech that brought everyone together with many opportunities available for socialising, most notably the Night Summit. This provided for the unpredictability of serendipity for those truly in search of it. I hope I get the chance to attend yet again in Lisbon next year or one of their events in America, Hong Kong or India!

Have ‘Transparency Digital Literacy Skills’ Become Necessary Assets?

Source: Opensource.com

‘Digital Literacy’ is generally considered essential for making best use of the web. Simply having a smartphone and internet connectivity doesn’t suffice. Organisational ‘wakes’ declare, instead of mourn privacy’s death. Yet both young and old in the web’s public still stress its importance even when they act in ways that go against this. This ‘privacy paradox’ has become necessary to use web services for whom currency is personal data. This problematises the extent to which Internet users actually have a choice especially for universally popular services.

In my recent Web Science research on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) use of the web to build intangible resources, one of which was reputation I found via case study that transparency was also an essential digital literacy skill. What I have hence coined ‘Transparency Digital Literacy’, is the ability to use technology, (in this case the web) to be authentically transparent about activities and relationships in a way that brings personal or organisational gain instead of loss. This builds on existing research in the area. This is important for individuals but also entrepreneurs as the personal and private sphere keep colliding yet intertwining in the virtual and physical public sphere, in ways that consequently necessitate disclosure.  With more information available online, the public seeks out and expects to find more information about those with whom they interact. This includes information not just about organisations but also about the individuals behind them.

There has also been a move towards more open government and open data, terms which should always be distinguished from each other even though both can potentially increase transparency. However, the public still needs to be able to access and understand the data in a way that relates to their needs and within context for it to truly be effective. It follows that organisations and individuals, even those with the very best intentions need not only digital transparency skills but also to be cognisant  of how to respond to real-time immediate undesirable effects. This may occur because such online literacy is still contextual, nascent and evolving.

Businesses have been historically reluctant to share information about their operations, in their quest to maintain competitive advantage. Governments also tend to be closeted despite the existence of democratic process. However, with the dramatic rise in information and data at our disposal more information is being accessed about those businesses and governments we want to learn about. This information also comes from unassociated individuals and organisations. Information and data are therefore shared not only by us but by others unknown to us. This provokes much need for thought, around the issue of ‘digital transparency literacy’. It begs answers to the question: How does an individual or organisation best respond in a digital transparency literate way to this new online environment defined by rapid, mobile, information communication?

Organisations can also manipulate data under transparency’s guise, yet as the possibility for information leakage increases with the web even in the face of terrible, untenable penalty, the ability to understand how to be authentically transparent online can be increasingly studied. It takes years to build a reputation and in today’s hyper-connected world just a second to ruin it. This consideration alone provides sufficient incentive to call for better understanding of how digital transparency literacy skills can be better developed to support both the private and the public good. That is… unless you attempt to opt out of the web for good. This however is becoming increasingly difficult to do. At best doing so may leave you unaccounted for in data-based decision making which affect you and at worst you may very well need transparency digital literacy skills to adjust your public online personal social score in the not too distant future.

(Source: Image 1 – Open Source.com)

First #MozFest but hope its not my last! – New Ideas, Tools, Services, Projects & Collaboration

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I sauntered down to the Mozilla Festival, which was being held near to the O2 in London last weekend not really knowing what to expect. I can report it was well worth the saunter! An atmosphere of openness, participation and a culture of inclusiveness, teaching and helping others and seems have grown over the years and was very encouraging. Many new web tools, ideas, projects and services were explained, some I knew a bit about, others I had never heard of before and some of them were pretty exciting. The festival was organised around the themes outlined below.

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  • Teach the Web. New approaches for teaching digital skills, coding and webmaking.
  • Connect Your City. Building local digital learning networks around the world.
  • Skills and Badges. New ways to recognise skills and learning that happen anywhere.
  • Look Who’s Watching. Privacy, surveillance and tracking. How do we protect transparency and user sovereignty online?
  • Open Games. The web as an open gaming console for the world. Play and create next-generation web-based games.
  • Source Code for Journalism. Creating the tools news organisations needs to thrive on the open web.
  • Science and the Web. Redefining how we experiment, analyse and share scientific knowledge.
  • Open Data for the Open Web. Uncovering and building with data from the web and everyday world.
  • Making the Web Physical. Hacking on physical devices and gizmos connected to the web in exciting new ways.
  • Webmaking for Mobile. Making apps and tinkering with your own phone. The web as platform.
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BRCK

I did not just sit and listen but I learnt how to do things and left with tools and offers for future help if I got stuck and even possibilities for collaboration on projects. For example I knew about GitHub but now I know more about how I can use it for my research.  There are also a myriad of new initiatives using crowdsourcing to solve problems that are not usually referenced, which I learned in an Upscience workshop as I got stuck into doing some of the crowdsourced work for environmental projects myself. Other workshops focused on teaching digital skills, coding and webmaking. I also got an update on how BRCK is 250491-3e3d37ed0e30f58b5880d2a2e6e4b70b-medium_jpgbeing used in developing countries where access is limited, It was designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya and has been adapted to address electricity and internet connectivity problems in Africa. Interestingly it is also being used extensively in the USA now too, where similar problems are also faced. One of the coolest projects I came across was SNAPP, which is enabling small businesses around the world to develop apps for their work without any coding skills from their smartphone.  It is based in Chile and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops. The closing keynote from Beeban Kidron on young people and the web, its future and how the web may influence what it means to be human was also on point. There were way too many workshops for me to review and you can find them all here.

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Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

However, the conference ended for me on a great note with a group of avid sci fi readers who discussed the Web of Things from the perspective of science fiction literature. I left with a load of suggestions of books to read and films/series to watch, the first of which will be Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. From our discussions it seemed like a lot of what we predict and we imagine comes to pass! The elevator chatter, corridor discussions and very boisterous karaoke, also helped to make it a fun event, one which I hope to attend again and I am especially looking forward to getting a chance to test out the Firefox OS smartphone which is being described as an OS or a computer rather than as a phone. Makes sense to me, I have been saying that for years!

A New Magna Carta… An Online Bill of Rights #WebWeWantFest

SB_FEstivalHaving lived and worked in London, my favourite large city for 8 years I consider myself a Londoner. It is one of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the world. The Web We Want Festival kicked off last weekend at the Royal Festival Hall by the SouthBank in London to not only celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the World Wide Web but to also explore threats. For many reasons the location was apt.  Sir Tim Berners Lee is from the UK and grew up in London. Strolling through London or by the Southbank river, which connects to the sea that has brought us together for years, you hear many languages, see many ethnicities and age groups and taste many flavours. Such diversity also reflects the web we want. However, London is also one of the most surveilled countries in the world and this issue was also discussed at the Festival.  One point that was made I thought relevant especially for those that say “I have nothing to hide”.  Mass surveillance is justified because security is very much not taken for granted. On the other hand, this has meant that our freedom is instead being taken for granted and as a result the right to be free can change at any time making our hard fought freedom a thing of the past.20140927_154820

20140927_165852That is one reason why I was hoping that more would attend this Festival. I hoped there would be more Londoners, visitors from other UK cities, more students, more public servants, and maybe even some tourists. It was an opportunity to pop in and learn from leading experts, even if only for an hour on issues as varied as why addressing ongoing surveillance is important, how virtual reality is part of the future of gaming and how to leave a digital legacy to your children. The buzz however was to be found just outside at the ‘Real Food Market‘, which I popped into more than once to grab a bite to eat. Maybe bringing the festival to the food would have increased participation. Many nationalities were represented at the market, from Caribbean to Korean.  The word ‘festival’ does conjure up thoughts of food, which is something none of us can do without, but also one thing that unites us. We need something akin to a rumbling stomach to bring us together to address the issues that arise with the growth of the web. The idea for a Magna Carta for the Web, an online bill of rights is an excellent one. The Magna Carta drafted in 1215 can be found at the British Library located in this very London.  In 1215 it was not given much significance or fanfare till the years that followed. Attending the Web We Want Fest I reflected on the way this Magna Carta for the web was being developed. I thought about how many in not just London but in the majority of this world where billions of us of live are unaware or just don’t participate, even though the future of its development is of tremendous importance like the original Magna Carta was back then. Luckily, there are those that understand its importance and push ahead to secure the wellbeing, the safety, the rights and equality of not just the few but also the very many like the drafters of the first Magna Carta sought to do. I left my suggestions on the wall.

There are 63 clauses in the first Magna Carta but only 3 are still valid as many are no longer relevant. We have the opportunity to create a Magna Carta for the Web, an online bill of rights, which is not just for London, but for the world, one that is valid, omnipresent and importantly one we can contribute to. If in London pop by the next Web We Want Festival in Southbank on 28 – 30 November. If you are not in London watch online, start a project of interest to you, contribute to the Magna Carta via social media and read more about the online issues that affect you and do what you can to help address them.

The Real World Web OR The Internet of Things?

Wilgengebroed on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Wilgengebroed on Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Real World Web Or the Internet of Things – which term do you prefer? A report by PSFK Labs and Intel released this year refers to the Internet of Things as the Real World Web and for good reason. If you have never heard of the Internet of Things this report is a great introduction. The web we created has a symbiotic relationship with the real world and it is important to acknowledge the interconnectedness of what we do and how we impact each other when we use it. The word ‘Things’ in the “Internet of Things” suggests a generic randomness without a perception of how it relates to what we want and need. The term ‘Internet’ conjures up thoughts of going online and mouthing technical details without really understanding how we and our socio-economic systems impact the technology and viceversa.

Many use the terms Internet and Web interchangeably because they don’t understand the difference. The report says “We are living inside the internet of things”. If we are all living inside of it we need to understand it.

The report categorises the Real World Web into three distinct areas and gives some compelling and thought provoking examples to illustrate how each is developing.

Source: PSFK - REAL WORLD WEB Living Within The Internet of Things

Source: PSFK – REAL WORLD WEB
Living Within The Internet of Things

COMMUNITY NET

“The development of a new set of software platforms and tools is building a growing network of individuals, sensors and wearable devices around the open exchange of real-time information streams”. Think of intuitive programming and sharing of data for the collective good.

Examples?

EMPATHY TECH

“A new breed of social and attentive machines are being meaningfully integrated into daily life. These devices and systems are capable of understanding a wider range of human needs and behaviors to provide relevant assistance and support at key moments, which opens the possibility of more intimate relationships with the objects in our lives”

Examples?

CONSCIOUS PLANET

“A new breed of social and attentive machines are being meaningfully integrated into daily life. These devices and systems are capable of understanding a wider range of human needs and behaviors to provide relevant assistance and support at key moments, which opens the possibility of more intimate relationships with the objects in our lives.

Examples?

You can read the report to find out more.

The spotlight has been increasingly focused on the ethical implications of the technology that we use post Snowden and this is timely. Ignoring the delicate balance of privacy versus access comes at huge cost and so finding ways to move forward ethically is of paramount importance. The personalisation of services and the protection of the personal are both important.

Many of these products and services are developed and brought to market by corporations and research institutes that are concentrated in rich parts of the world. Imagine the type of innovation that could occur if more users in different countries not only had access (See Why ‘Access’ Will Define the Internet of Things) but could create, with an understanding of what was possible and with the tools necessary to act upon those ideas both in their local communities and globally. They could innovate not just offline but online. However, overcoming the problems that arise with heavy handed government surveillance, which will inevitably increase as more of these services are made available the world over is not easy.

The business model premised on data grabbing needs parameters. Should we allow this sticky, tangled web, that we are weaving to trap us, or will we ensure that we design one that does not. We must learn lessons from the web as it evolves to make sure it doesn’t. Talking about the Real World Web is indeed a positive step in helping to explain the reality of the Internet of Things we live in, yet we need to do much more.

CONNECT – Internet Governance Forum 2014 Kicks Off in Istanbul #IGF2014

20140902_145420NetMundial progress, the IANA transition of ICANN, surveillance, cybercrime, infrastructure, interoperability, accessibility, net neutrality, inclusion and more are all under discussion at this year’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) “Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multistakeholder Internet Governance”. This year it is being held in the very fitting cross-cultural city of Istanbul and on the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. However, what does Internet Governance actually mean decades since discussions were first held on a “Galactic Network” concept and 9 years since the first annual IGF was launched? Billions of connections later, in the trillion dollar internet economy, the social, economic and political stakes are high and I don’t mean this only in a Transcendence way. I happened to watch that movie on my flight to Istanbul, which was timely. This was quick on the heels of finishing up the BBC series The Honourable Woman If you watched either of them you will know what I mean…

There is no better way to demonstrate the benefits of ICT than by example and so this year I was really pleased that no paper agendas were made available for the first time since there was an online schedule.  Participants were encouraged to provide their information online and let others know which workshops they were going to attend via social media. The use of ICT in this way should not only be developed but promoted amongst not just digital natives but digital immigrants too… to those fortunate enough to be present but also to those that are remote, whose views are just as important.

As the IGF gets going and attempts to refine what it becomes, I hope that technology, the internet, the web and its policies will not just be seen as far away, in some isolated world by those that look on with intention or inertia. For we should see these tools through everyday, ordinary eyes for them to help us better understand ourselves and our world. Only by doing so will they support sustainable development, new business models and new politics, which benefit not just one society, business and community but also all of us in our connected world and our global ecosystem. As Deirdre Williams the civil society representative for the IGF opening ceremony said when she quoted the poet John Dunn “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.”