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What will the Web be in 20 year's time?
 Hyderabad, India  05 December 2008 
Good morning Ladies and gentlemen

Welcome to this joint ITU/EBU workshop on what the web will be in 20 years time – quite a challenging topic!

ITU is very pleased to cooperate with EBU on organising this workshop on such an interesting subject.

I am pleased that we speakers representing such varied constituencies that have agreed to join this panel today and I would like to thank them.

Ladies and gentlemen, if this workshop had been taking place in 1988 – 20 years ago I don’t believe any of us would have been able to envisage the Internet as it is today.

Even ten years ago the Internet was still in its infancy, and although we may have had an idea where the Internet was going, we were still struggling to understand how we could make it work for us.

It was a time of excitement – the dotcom era – but as we all know, the boom was followed by somewhat of a bust.

Nevertheless, despite the set back we moved forward into the world of convergence, and although we are now faced with a global financial crisis I am sure the internet will continue its rapid progress.

Over the last 20 years we have moved from dial-up modems of 56Kbps to broadband connections being used by over half of all internet users.

Of course, a large percentage of these connections are facilitated using the ITU standards for digital subscriber line (DSL), or cable modems.

ITU’s work has given significant impetus to the development of the Internet. The modem standards defined in ITU-T’s V-series Recommendations gave most people their first taste of online life.

ITU’s forward looking work on next generation networks (NGNs), access and transport technologies, and multimedia are already helping to shape the networks of the future.

Although it is difficult to predict what the net will look like in 20 years, there are some key concerns that will need to be addressed in its further development.

Issues that we are discussing at this IGF such as – the Internet and climate change, accessibility to the Internet for persons with disabilities, the protection of children online, cybersecurity, multilingualism – are already a strong focus of our work.

We know that the ICT Sector produces some 2-3 per cent of total emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and that Internet use is a significant part of this figure. We also know that this percentage will increase as Internet use continues to grow over the next 20 years. I am very pleased that we have established a dynamic coalition on this issue which met for the first time yesterday. It is something we must pay particular care to.

ITU’s mission is to connect the world – and that includes the ten per cent of the global population with disabilities. The Internet has a tremendous potential to increase the capabilities of persons with disabilities but accessibility requirements must be built in at the design stage. It is impossible or at least very expensive to retrofit equipment. I am very pleased that we have also established a dynamic coalition on this issue which will meet for the first time tomorrow.

Young people have an especially important role to play in the Information Society, both as potential beneficiaries and as future drivers of ICT development. However, as the number of children and young people accessing the Internet increases, so, too, does the likelihood that they will be exposed to harmful situations and websites.

According to recent surveys, over 60% of children and teenagers using the Internet talk in chat rooms on a daily basis. Three in four children online are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services, and one in five children will be targeted by a predator or paedophile each year. Sites promoting child pornography, violent games, and illegal content, are just a few examples of the risks they face. ITU has launched its “Child Online Protection” (COP) initiative which will provide a platform for governments, industry, educators, law enforcement and child experts to share views and develop best practices. We certainly hope that this threat to children will not exist in the Internet of the future.

Cybercrime continues to be a major threat to the future of the Internet. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) called upon the ITU to build confidence and security in the use of ICTs. In accordance with this mandate the ITU created the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, and within this framework is committed to connecting the world safely and responsibly. Ongoing ITU-T work on security includes threats and risk management; countering spam; identity management; security for NGN, IPTV, home networks, ubiquitous sensor networks, mobiles; etc. But the criminals are always one step ahead. The problem we are faced with is that the Internet is being used today for all sorts of purposes it was not designed for.

If we really want to know what the web will look like in 20 years we need to tap into the excellent talent that exists in the world’s universities and research establishments. Innovative ideas liked the Internet develop from there.

That is why this year in ITU we started a new initiative to attract academia, which we call Kaleidoscope.

We issued a call for papers on the subject of Innovations in Next Generation Networks (NGN).

Over 140 papers were submitted for peer review, and the best 50 papers presented over two days in Geneva last May.

We had 220 participants and around 50 universities participating.

The authors of the winning three papers received prizes totaling $10,000 and their papers will be published in the IEEE proceedings, and will be considered as the basis for new standardization activities in ITU.

We will repeat this event each year in different parts of the world.

One of the keynote presentations at this year’s event was entitled New Generation Network – Beyond NGN, by Professor Aoyama of Keio University in Japan. We had hoped he would have been with us today to repeat his presentation as it was certainly thought provoking.

In it he explains several research activities going on around the world towards so-called new generation networks which is seen as a coming together of NGN and the Internet. I am not going to try to explain it further but his presentation is available on our website and Art Levin will say a bit more about it later.

I have highlighted some of the concerns we feel must be addressed in the future development of the Internet. That is not to say of course that we do not recognize the tremendous benefits of the Internet. The spread of the Internet has brought enormous benefits to society, boosting economic growth, providing greater efficiency in business and government processes, and improving education. Although 20 years ago we might never have envisaged the Internet of today, and we may not be able to envisage it 20 years from now, but we certainly cannot image life without it now.

 

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