The future of copyright, new business models and the public interest

This session examined the growing importance of copyright issues within the public consciousness over the last decade and the rising inclination of young people to fight for their right to access, share and download online content. It was noted that there is a growing consensus around approaches to copyright enforcement – although technical measures to enforce copyright are unlikely to be fully effective without significant curbs on innovation and online freedom. Discussion also suggested the development of new revenue generating business models will be the swiftest route towards providing attractive legal alternatives to copyright piracy. The copyright landscape is also likely to become more complex as the boundary between the consumers and producers of online content and services becomes progressively blurred – and further challenges emerge in relation to applying copyright to content dynamically created by machines. The future creative incentives for content producers and the implications of advertising/commercially driven content creation models were also explored – alongside the role of trust networks in supporting collaborative online creation and consumption. Finally, it was considered whether access to the Internet should be defined as a human right or public good, or whether the best approach would be to leverage and enforce existing human rights within an online context.

The disruptive democratisation of education

This session examined the decentralised capacity of the Internet to nurture and disseminate innovation and ideas that promote an open and participatory online culture which is increasingly incompatible with authoritarian principles. Further discussion identified the essential importance of lifelong learning and iterative/on-going education strategies to maintain and update skills in an ever evolving digital market place – as well as the progressive erosion of academic credentials in favour of professional achievement and verifiable current skills. Over the next 5 years online education and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will cause serious disruption to the incumbent players in the higher education market – but with an expanded role for value added intermediary services, guidance and support which are complementary to these new digital learning pathways. Online education will open up new learning opportunities in the developing world, although shortfalls in literacy skills and disability barriers will need to be addressed. Finally, it was suggested that professionalised information management skills can help democratise and rationalise access to online education resources – particularly through the effective tagging and referencing of content to support the retrieval of discrete course/subject components.

Online activism, governance, privacy and security

This session examined the capacity of hyper-connected digital technologies to enhance government surveillance and control, alongside the potential impact of these technologies on democratic an authoritarian regimes. Discussion referenced the importance of legally prohibiting governments from demanding other organisations release personal data without due process. The role of online activism in transforming the future landscape of political activity and participation, as well as the impact of open government and transparency initiatives were explored. Consideration was also given to the challenges of multi-jurisdictional Internet regulation and the future role of online privacy and anonymity tools in an environment where sophisticated tracking and data correlation techniques can be used to de-anonymize personal data (and potentially engage in price discrimination). Open government data and services will require more robust and professionalised information management skills – and should be demand-driven as opposed to just supply-driven. Finally, online engagement with the public poses challenges in terms of accurately identifying eligible electors, but also offers benefits through the political empowerment of diaspora communities, support for evidence-based policy making and a mechanism for disseminating authoritative information on climate change, health, welfare and education.

Economic and demographic trends

This session examined how the developing world will begin to exploit the demographic advantage associated with young and growing populations while the developed world continues to struggle with the economic challenges of an ageing population and workforce. The narrowing of the income gap between developed and developing countries will cause significant disruption, and potentially result in protectionist responses from the developed world nations (such as artificially complex standards and compliance requirements for developed world products and services). Discussion referenced the opportunity for increasing numbers of small and medium sized businesses in the developing world to dis-intermediate developed world firms who have until now occupied the higher margin areas of the commercial value chain. Rising levels of urbanisation (70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030) will yield cost saving opportunities for governments administering services to concentrated populations, as well as higher demand for services and infrastructure. In the long-term, an increasingly hyper-connected world will enable individuals to participate in the global economy from any location which will potentially reanimate communities as drivers of entrepreneurship and innovation. Finally, the iterative process of technology adoption confers a competitive advantage on the younger generation’s capacity to rapidly assimilate new concepts and working methods – although newer touch screen devices and dynamic interfaces are also more accessible and intuitive to older users and the disabled than any previous generation of information technology.

Technological trends

This session examined the role of automated translation technologies combining statistical and artificial intelligence approaches in servicing the future needs of a multilingual internet. Discussion also referenced the increased incidence of commercial filtering, personalisation and behavioural targeting to individually tailor services and content options for Internet users. Consideration was given to the role of the Internet in eroding the costs of accessing diverse sources of information, alongside concern that excessive reliance on filtered and personalised services/content can undermine creativity, spontaneity and choice. Future education models will need to focus more on how to authenticate and exploit online information rather than traditional approaches of learning though memorisation. The low cost production and rapid prototyping opportunities offered by 3D printing technologies will revolutionise and disrupt the global manufacturing industry, although many of these innovative uses are likely run into conflict with existing copyright and IPR regulations. Attempts by governments to apply national laws to the Internet in relation to inflammatory or defamatory material will potentially pave the way for further regulation of other aspects of online activity which runs the risk of creating an increasingly balkanised Internet. Alongside the need for digital preservation strategies to address the long term sustainability of physical and online information, a key challenge for internet governance will be to strike a balance between vertical information management structures and effectively harnessing the unprecedented potential of the Internet for horizontal communication and engagement.