In this article Katja Bego, Data Scientist in the Technology Futures and Explorations Team at Nesta, invites you to get involved in the Next Generation Internet initiative.
As we reflect on 30 years of the World Wide Web in 2019, we must also take the opportunity to think about what we want the future of the web, and the internet more broadly, to look like.
The internet has undoubtedly brought us a lot of good over the past decades, but it is also becoming increasingly clear that its astronomical impact has not always led to the betterment of society.
The concentration of power over the internet – from the infrastructure level, up to who owns the data and the impact of digital platforms on our societies – in the hands of just a small number of companies, means few truly benefit from the growing digital economy. With ownership so centralised, the rest of us have little to say about many of the developments driving the internet today, and possibly even less about what we want its future to look like.
With newly emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, set to have an enormous influence on not just the internet, but all aspects of our societies and economies, it is important that all of us have a voice in how they are created and also used.
But with big corporations vying for control, we are often left feeling powerless, with technological innovation happening mostly to us rather than for us. We find ourselves stuck between two dominant narratives: the increasingly monopolistic tech giants in the United States and a newly emerging Chinese model, characterised by large surveillance systems operated from Beijing.
But things don’t have to be this way. Between Silicon Valley’s corporate-led internet and the Chinese model, where the government is in charge, can we come up with a third narrative, where citizens and communities are in control and can determine their own future?
For this kind of citizen-led alternative to the current dominant models driving the internet to be effective, we need to think about what kind of technologies and solutions might be important in the future and try to steer their development in a more positive direction. The internet today looks completely different from the internet even ten years ago, when the smartphone had only just emerged on the scene. Now imagine what it might look like 30 years from now! The rules of the current internet may have largely been written, but the rules of the future internet haven’t yet.