Global Challenge 6

Global Challenge 6: How can global information & communications technologies along with machine intelligence, big data, and cloud computing work for everyone?

Brief Overview

Some 51% of the world—over 3.8 billion people—are now connected to the Internet. About two-thirds of the people in the world have a mobile phone; over half have smart phones. The continued development and proliferation of smart phone apps are putting state-of-the-art AI systems in the palm of many hands around the world. The race is on to complete the global nervous system of civilization and make supercomputing power and artificial intelligence available to everyone. The human brain projects of U.S., EU, China, and other countries, plus corporate AI research, should lead to augmented individual human and collective intelligence. Some $15 billion was invested in 2,250 AI business deals between 2012 and 2016, while robotics got $3 billion invested in 488 deals.China has declared its goal of being the world’s AI leader by 2030. President Putin of Russia said who ever leads in AI rules the world.

How well governments develop and coordinate Internet security technology and regulations may determine the future quality of cyberspace. Malware attacks are increasing. As of 2017, more advertising money is spent on Internet than on television, and half of all Internet traffic is via mobile phones. Rapidly increasing video, AR/VR, and IoT use raises concerns about anticipating and meeting future bandwidth demands for an Internet infrastructure not designed for these applications but whose reliability has become strategically vital for much of civilization. Over a billion hours are viewed each day on YouTube. With the evolution of the Internet of Things, wearable computers, autonomous vehicles, and brain-computer interfaces, cyber security will become increasingly important. Data need to be encrypted at all levels. Low-cost computers are replacing high-cost weapons as an instrument of power in asymmetrical cyber and information warfare. Information security has to address a wide and diverse range of “enemies”—from the “geek in the back room” to criminal organizations and governments.

Blockchain is being explored as a new approach to IoT security, as is quantum entanglement. Quantum cryptography is an emerging security technology in which two parties can generate shared, secret cryptographic material between ground stations or between Earth and satellite (as demonstrated in June 2017 by China). All this is leading one day to a global-scale quantum Internet.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution evolves, all elements of a business will become connected with artificial intelligence; companies will increasingly become collective intelligence systems. Financial services and other kinds of businesses could just become software. The three kinds of artificial intelligence are artificial narrow, single-purpose intelligence (what we have today); artificial general intelligence, adaptable to multiple purposes re-writing its own code (which might not be possible, but some expect it by 2030); and artificial super intelligence, general intelligence that sets its own goals independent of humans (what science fiction warns about). Some unemployment impacts of narrow AI are being seen today, but if artificial general intelligence can be created, then the big impacts on unemployment, economics, and culture will much greater. Facebook closed down AI bots that created their own language that humans could not understand, and Google’s AutoML can create new AI better and faster than humans, using layers of neural networks.

Who owns the intellectual property of AI produced by AI with participation of many inputs from humans and sensors around the world? How can standards, certification, and testing keep up with AI when humans will no longer know completely how it works? Meanwhile, tele-everything continues to grow. Over 700 universities offered 6,850 tele-education MOOCs to 58 million students during 2016. Global telemedicine was valued at approximately $18.20 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately $38 billion by 2022.

Actions to Address Global Challenge 6:
  • Make Internet access a right of citizenship, as Finland did in 2010.
  • Support Google’s and Facebook’s efforts to give universal Internet access to the world, regardless of location.
  • Establish international agreements on IoT security standards and patchability.
  • Explore elements for a global agreement on use and future development of machine learning and use of artificial intelligence.
  • Create public global collective intelligence systems for water, energy, food, S&T, etc. and connect them in a global system ( is an early example).
  • Create low-cost hand-held computers with direct satellite access for low-income regions to access educational software and telephony, with elementary literacy as a first priority.
  • Train everyone in their roles in cyber security and stewardship.
  • Invent synergies between government cyber security personnel and independent hackers for a safer Internet.
  • Promote tele-nations and tele-citizens: people from poorer nations who live and work in richer nations who help develop their original countries via volunteer telecommuting.
Figure 1.6 Internet users (per 100 people)
Source: World Bank indicators and Internetworldstats, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast in 2017 State of the Future Index.

Short Overview and Regional Considerations

The race is on to complete the global nervous system of civilization and make supercomputing power and artificial intelligence (AI) available to everyone. Humanity, the built environment, and ubiquitous computing are becoming a continuum of consciousness and technology reflecting the full range of human behavior, from individual philanthropy to organized crime.

Advances in IBM’s Watson and TrueNorth, Google’s personal AI, Microsoft’s cloud computing, Big Data analytics offered by many, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will make the world much smarter than today. Making sure everyone gets access to the Internet are powers such as Google with its Loon project (high altitude communications balloons), a team at led by Facebook, and Elon Musk with Starlink. Projects to understand the human brain that are underway in the EU, US, and China are expected to improve human and machine intelligence. Google and Wikipedia are already making the phrase “I don’t know” obsolete.

As the cost of computers and smart phones continues to fall, and capacity and ease of use increases, even remote and less developed areas are beginning to participate in this emerging globalization. Collaborative systems, social networks, and collective intelligences are self-organizing into new forms of transnational democracies that address issues and opportunities. New forms of civilization are beginning to emerge from this worldwide convergence of minds, information, and technology. This is giving birth to unprecedented international conscience and action, augmenting conventional techniques for global improvement. New systems are being invented to address increasing complexity that has grown beyond hierarchical management. Open source software, open content, and the Internet’s non-ownership model (no one owns the Internet) may become a significant element in the next economic system.Versions of Windows 10 are intended to connect IoT from HoloLens augmented-reality goggles to imbedded systems in cars and conference walls. Urban life is being transformed by augmented reality – information about your surroundings communicated via your smart phone and eyeglasses.

It is reasonable to assume that the majority of the world will experience ubiquitous computing and eventually spend much of its time in some form of technologically augmented reality. Mobile phones have already become personal electronic companions, combining computer, GPS, telephone, camera, projector, alarm clock, research assistant, music player, flashlight, newspaper, translator, and TV. There are millions of smart phone applications listed in on-line stores

Web 2.0 is evolving from the present user-generated and participatory system into Web 3.0 a more intelligent partner that starts to mimic “understanding of” and the “ability to reason over” its data and beyond. Imagine how combinations of statistical analysis, semantic technology, IBM’s Watson, and Apple’s Siri personal assistant will augment our intelligence in the not too distant future. Now imagine a bit further into the future with more advanced AI how we might become augmented genius. In the meantime, massive knowledge repositories are being build such as Google’s Knowledge Graph with 18 billion pieces of information on the “meaning” of more than 570 million entities (in its initial 1% of its plan), and its Knowledge Vault, with 1.6 billion facts. Applications are being developed that negotiate with the user in conversational natural language on how to solve a problem. The human-machine interface continues to improve with voice and gesture interfaces and computer-mediated elementary brain to brain communications have been demonstrated. Even fibers are merging with conductive electronics to make clothing a computer interface, and radar is connecting hand motions to computer responses blurring the distinctions between 3D reality and augmented reality.

E-government systems existing to some degree for the majority of the world allow citizens to receive government information, provide feedback, and carry out needed transactions without time-consuming and possibly corrupt human intermediaries. Sensors and mesh networks are making cities smarter, able to diagnose and fix problems. On-line training, supported by Web access and virtual reality environments, is being used intensively in all fields of endeavor. Telemedicine capabilities are uniting doctors and patients across continents. The ability to use massive data sets and advanced simulations is changing the nature of scientific research and dramatically speeding the discovery of new knowledge. Computational biology, computational chemistry, and computational physics are accelerating scientific discoveries and sharing of knowledge worldwide.

Over 42% of humanity were using the Internet (over 3.1 billion users) at the beginning of 2015; there were 7.1 billion mobile subscriptions (of which 2.7 billion were smartphone subscriptions); and uncountable billions of hardware devices were intercommunicating in the IoT, a vast real-time multinetwork, supporting every facet of human activity, from controlling one’s home heating via mobile phones to managing drip irrigation and robotic factories and driverless cars. The IoT is expected to connect 75-80 billion items to the Internet by 2020. Currently IoT is for sensing and control, but next will be for new insights and anticipation.

Microsoftexpects 4.7 Billion Internet users by 2025, of which 3 billion will have broad band connections. Ericsson estimates that by 2020, 90% of the world’s population (over the age of 6) will have a mobile phone, and smartphone subscriptions will reach 6.1 billion. More mobile-broadband subscriptions exist in the developing world than the developed world. The mobile phone is transforming village life throughout the developing world.
Over 2.4 million children and teachers have OLPC (One Laptop Per Child); Kindle e-book readers are bringing global libraries to schools in Africa; the Inter-American Development Bank found that children in Peru in 2012 using the OLPC gained about five months of cognitive development over a 15-month period compared with those who did not use it. Internet bases with wireless connections are being constructed in remote villages; cell phones with Internet access are being designed for educational and business access by the lowest-income groups; and innovative programs are being created to connect the poorest 2 billion people to the evolving global nervous system of civilization.

One of the next “big things” could be the emergence of collective intelligences for issues, businesses, and countries, forming new kinds of organizations able to address problems and opportunities outside the bounds of conventional management. Collective intelligence can be thought of as a continually emerging capability that we create by building synergies among people, software (including sophisticated analysis tools), and information (including massive “big data” banks) and that continually learns from feedback to produce just-in-time knowledge for better decisions than any one of these elements acting alone. Billions of people with smart phones, big data access and analytics, ontological engineering, working across platforms, languages, and cultural frameworks create a unique global capacity. This capacity may be augmented by personal assistant artificial brains that know “everything” about you.

Some problems to address

This explosive growth of Internet traffic, mainly from video streaming, has created a stress on the Net’s capacities, requiring new approaches to keep up with bandwidth demand, while the ubiquity of the Internet in society makes its reliability critically vital. It is a strategic long-range issue whether bandwidth capacity growth will keep pace with demand to the future. It is hard to imagine how the world can work for all without reliable tele-education, tele-medicine, and tele-everything. People and businesses are trusting their data and software to “cloud computing” on distant Net-connected servers rather than their own computers, raising privacy and reliability questions. The Amazon cloud data center’s outage and millions of online credit card users have had their data compromised. Even though Wikipedia has become the world’s encyclopedia (4.4 million articles, 287 languages), it still has to manually counter disinformation campaigns occasionally fought through its pages. Security and privacy have become prominent aspects of current developments in Web usage; multi-million dollar fines have been levied against careless data custodians. The legal complexities of accelerating changes in ICT are forcing new jurisprudence.

Every week there are scores of new laws, regulations, and decisions around the world, ranging from employees’ information rights on computers attached to a corporate network to the ownership, patenting, and copyrighting of software. There is no worldwide legal system to handle complex technological and intellectual property disputes involving multiple parties in different jurisdictions. Although there are no globally accepted policy or approach to replace the password for identity authentication, progress has been made on two-factor authentication for business, fingerprint for consumers, and proximity of other devices.
Governments are wrestling with how to control harmful content (and how to define “harmful”!). Vigorous regulatory debate continues on net neutrality, the doctrine that technical and economic factors for Net users should not be affected by considerations of equipment, type of user (e.g., being a second-level communications provider), or communications content. The International Telecommunication Union has not agreed on what are proper activities for governments in security-oriented monitoring of communications, which has been brought dramatically to world attention by the Edward Snowdon NSA disclosures.

Low-cost computers are replacing high-cost weapons as an instrument of power in asymmetrical cyber warfare. Information security has to address a wide and diverse range of “enemies”, from the “geek in the back room” to criminal organizations and governments, whose sources are very difficult to trace. “Correspondence courses” on how to commit a variety of cybercrimes are available on the Net for $50. Cyberspace is a new medium for disinformation among competing commercial interests, ideological adversaries, governments, and extremists, and is a battleground between cybercriminals and law enforcement.

The full range of cybercrimes worldwide is estimated to cost $1 trillion annually. Akamai Technologies found that during the third quarter of 2014, cyber-attacks were originating in 201 countries and regions, 49% of them in China. Globally, cyberattacks were up 48% in 2014. Fundamental rethinking will be required to ensure that people will be able to have reasonable faith in information. We have to learn how to counter future forms of information warfare that otherwise could lead to the distrust of all forms of information in cyberspace. Nevertheless, the value of ICT for reducing the divisions among people outweighs its divisiveness.

Future artificial intelligence, robotics, and other ICT-related technologies could lead to long-term structural unemployment worldwide. New work models like one-person-businesses that seek markets around the world instead of local non-existent jobs will be increasingly needed. However, earning a living in a future AI/robotic dominated world may not be possible for many to earn a living; and hence, new economic systems should be considered.

Real-time streamed communications shorten the time it takes from situational awareness to decisions. There may be a danger in losing the practice of thoughtful investigation and contemplation, as exemplified by short attention spans and the near-disappearance of investigative journalism. Multitasking with smart phones may cost the world economy billions per year in lost productivity due to lack of concentration and interruptions. The 3D and 4D printing presages a whole new world of personal manufacturing, from simple chess pieces to eventually body parts, and unfortunately fabrication of weapons.

Governments, locally and internationally should create regulations and procedures that anticipate future cyber security issues, not regulations based on current or previous cyber threats. How well this is done, Microsoft argues will determine the future of cyberspace.

Universal broadband access should become a national priority for developing countries, to make it easier to use the Internet to connect developing-country professionals overseas with the development processes back home, improve educational and business usage, and make e-government and other forms of development more available. Challenge 6 will have been addressed seriously when Internet access and basic tele-education are free and available universally, when basic tele-medicine is commonplace everywhere, and when cyber-security is nearly universal.

Regional Considerations

Africa: Over 300 million Africans use the Internet, opening the door to tele-education, tele-medicine, and eventually tele-everything else. Africans overseas will be able to help the development back home more easily – matching African brains overseas with the development process back home. Also the remittance market is adopting mobile money transfer; according to WorldRemit, half of the world`s 261 mobile money service providers are in sub-Saharan Africa. Texting is the most common use of mobile phones in Africa. About 15% of Africans have access to smart Internet connected phones. Mobile applications (money transfer, medical help, farm production information) are revolutionizing life in Kenya, and driving development in South Africa and Nigeria. There are 100 million active Facebook users on the continent, 80% of them using mobiles. Madagascar offers a mobile cloud phone service based on a login like e-mail so that users who do not have to have their own phones can borrow someone else’s mobile phone to make a call. The new Main One and West Africa fiber-optic cables are cutting cost and increasing speed. QuizMax is a free mobile phone app for math and science education used by 100,000 children in South Africa. Uganda received an African Development Bank award for its cell-based health management system. Kenya’s Digital Villages Project integrates Internet access, business training, and microcredit. FAO’s Africa Crop Calendar Web site provides information for 130 crops. Tight government budgets and AIDS deaths among professionals make tele-education, tele-medicine, and e-government increasingly important. Teachers and students in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda have received over 1,000 Kindles and 180,000 e-books, bringing massive e-libraries to schools. Google Translate is now available for Chichewa, Hausa, Igbo, Malagasy, Sesotho, Somali, Yoruba, and Zulu.

Asia and Oceania: Asia has the largest share of the world’s Internet users (45%) but only 26% penetration. In 2014 China has about 632 million Internet users (47% penetration)(up from 420 million in 2011), and in 2012 about 388 million Internet-connected mobile phones (up from 280 million). There are stiff penalties there for “rumor spreading”, i.e. forwarding non-official news items on the Net. The government has introduced the “Great Cannon”, a technique for a DDoS attack on Web sites that are considered to be carrying anti-China material. Phones are being smuggled into North Korea to post reports on conditions. Although South Korea is rated by the UN as a leading e-ready country, its youth struggle with video game addiction. The BBC offers educational courses via the newspapers, TV, and mobile phones for learner-paced options in Bangladesh, with plans to improve the English language skills of 25 million Bangladeshis by 2017. Pakistan has a program to teach literacy and then guide students to job openings. India is establishing e-government stations in rural villages. The rise of the mobile phone in India has led to the development of caste-oriented social media communities.

Europe: Finland has made 1 Mbps broadband a legal right for all Finns and plans to increase that to 100M bps by 2015, and Estonia has declared Net access to be a human right. It is EU policy that Internet access is a right that can be cut off for misuse. The EU’s Safer Internet Programme is working in 26 European countries to counter child pornography, pedophilia, and digital bullying. Montenegro is creating Tele-Montenegro to connect its citizens overseas with the development process back home. The Czech Republic has passed a law requiring most companies to have a Web site with relevant corporate information. Over 50% of Russians use the Internet more often than once a week, and it is a major source of news free from government control. On the other hand, Russia has banned profanity and obscenity from all public media, including literature and news. In the Netherlands, virtually all households have a computer (97%) and Iceland has the second highest proportion of households with Internet access globally, at 96%. The European Union’s Digital Agenda aims at bringing fast broadband (> 30 Mbit/s) to all, and achieving 50% of households with superfast broadband (> 100 Mbit/s) subscriptions by 2020. This will be achieved through increased investments in broadband (including EU financing EU financing as well as funding from national and private sources), increased competition between broadband providers and regulatory initiatives.

Latin America: About 40% of the region has Internet access (up from 34% in 2011). About 30 million of the region’s children are expected to have Internet access by 2015. Uruguay is the first country to provide all primary students with their own Internet-connected laptop, followed by Costa Rica. Fulfilling the promise of these tools will require more serious attention to training. Peru’s construction of a fiber optic backbone is planned to begin at the end of 2013 and to be completed in 2016. Although fiber optic cable has been laid between Cuba and Venezuela, connecting their governments, Cubans still have the slowest access in Latin America. Brazil and Colombia have plans in place to bring affordable broadband to more households. The goal of Brazil’s Programa Nacional de Banda Larga is to bring broadband access to 40 million of the country’s households by 2014, in particular in rural areas, in cooperation with Brazilian operators. Colombia’s Vive Digital aims to connect 50% of the country’s households to the Internet by 2014.

North America: The US has the fastest computer as of 2018 with Summit from IBM at 200 petaflops. For the past five years, China had the fastest computer. 73.% of US households have high speed Internet access. Silicon Valley continues as a world leader in innovative software due to company policies like Google’s that gives its employees 20% free time to create anything they want. This “20-percent Time” is credited with half of Google’s new products. The White House has proposed ConnectED, a project to connect all schools and libraries in the US to high speed Internet within five years. The Digital Public Library of America houses more than five million books, manuscripts, etc. from museums and libraries. Cyber-attacks are increasingly viewed as the #1 threat to US national security; the State Dept. has warned that such an attack could trigger “self-defense”. A private foundation is giving free Wi-Fi to New York City’s Harlem to cover 95 city blocks by May 2014 for about 80,000 Harlem residents.
world internet penetration
world internet penetration
Top 5 countries
Source: Global Index