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

Living Within The Internet of Things


“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.



“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”



“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.


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.”