Vint Cerf @SxSW: An Internet for the People

Vint Cerf, inventor of the internet @sxsw discussing the movement of the People Centered Internet (PCI)  with Susan Hassler, Editor of IEEE Spectrum. Not only do we want to connect to  the 3 out of 5 people who do not have access to the Internet, Vint called on the packed hall of 400

“to think more carefully about what more useful things we can build on the internet infrastructure to help countries in need to increase their GDP and income of the people.”

It will take work to get the Internet where it isn’t. Major global institutions are lining up to harness the Internet and technology to improve GDP:

the IEEE – Tech for Humanity
the World Bank – Digital Dividends
the World Economic Forum – Internet for All

Vint cited PCI Organizer John Ryan’s clever idea – why not build Internet when you build the road or dam – ride along with big investments already underway.

How can the interactive, music and film communities of SxSW make the Internet more useful for everyone?

In order to make sure the Internet is useful to people –we must measure the value it brings to their lives and to be locally useful, let’s ask ourselves: Is it available local language? Does it provide local information? We must imagine all the ways the Internet allows us to connect to thrive.

Poppy Crum, Chief Scientist for Dolby Labs and Skip Rizzo, Director of Medical VR at USC discussed with Mei Lin Fung what happens when the Internet plays local music. It builds a “gut level” connection that operates at a primal level. How can we assure that the Internet makes local music available to the community, and get local culture out to the rest of the world?

People must be able to take advantage of access. To explore how to bring real benefits to everyone the IEEE Special Interest Group for Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT) has launched the Tunisia project, called Tawasol which means Connectivity.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.                                     Margaret Mead 

The Internet started with a small group of people at Van Nuys High School in California who were interested in math and computing.  Steve Crocker has been Vint’s best friend since high school started the math club in 1959. Jon Postel was 1-2 years behind, he became the editor of RFC  (Request for Comment) series. Vint called the group “Nascent Inter-Nauts”. This small group reconnected as UCLA graduate students working with Professor Len Kleinrock who ran network measurement system for ARPANET .Vint went to Stanford in 1973 and worked with Bob Kahn on this problem: the US Dept. of Defense wanted to use the Arpanet where no wires could go: Mobile vehicles, ships at sea – ARPANET at that time ran only on fixed wires – so had to find a way to use mobile radio and satellite for ship to ship and ship to shore. They had to find a way to connect packet switching together – it was a natural choice for the network of networks After 6 months – Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) was published in IEEE 1974 May. The more complete specification of TCP/IP – Internet transmission protocol was published paper and this was the first use of the term Internet.

We are so early in determining the impact on the world. Its’ hard to realize that we are not even 10 years into the Smart phones era which Vint considers invented 2007 with iPhone – the aesthetics and person-centered design of the iPhone went beyond utility. This has driven investment in mobile telecom investment and so much access to Internet driven by mobile phones.

People who worked on the moon shot remember it as the defining episode of their lives – where they made a difference for the rest of the world. The People Centered Internet is up to us. And if we do this, we will have changed how humanity is connected together for the first time. A once in humanity opportunity to connect to thrive.


SXSW: Vint Cerf on Connecting the Next Billion People

The ‘Father of the Internet’ has a plan for making the Internet truly worldwide.


Vint Cerf is known for a lot of things. He is an IEEE Life Fellow, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, and founder of the People-Centered Internet (PCI). He is also the winner of the national Medal of Technology, The Turing Award, and even The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The title that is most enduring, however, is “Father of the Internet,” a title he shares with fellow TCP/IP inventor Bob Kahn. In laymen’s terms, TCP/IP is the communication protocol that runs the internet and everything connected to it.

This week, Cerf is in Austin, Texas, at SXSW where he is headlining IEEE’s “Tech for Humanity Series.” I got the chance to ask Cerf a few questions via email before the show started.

PCMag: You have a tremendous platform in Google, you have traveled all over the world advocating for people-centric technologies—why go to Austin for SXSW?

Cerf: SXSW has developed a reputation for attracting creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, and I want to engage with them on ways in which to make the internet more accessible, more useful, and more widely and affordably available.

What is the mission of People Centered Internet?

For the rest of the article click here

Vint Cerf at SxSW 2017

An Internet for and by The People

There is a continued spread of affordable Internet access, and tools are widely available to make information useful and accessible. The users of the Internet are also the creators of its applications and its content. Focusing on the well-being of every person on the planet means assuring their access to knowledge they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Allowing anyone with new ideas to test them on the Internet and provide access to them to anyone on the planet seems the surest way to uncover the best ways for the Internet to produce social and economic benefit. Education and work are keys to dignity and self-worth and the People Centered Internet effort is committed to helping people find useful roles in a global economy.”

Vint Cerf

Vint Cerf, February 14, 2017
Join us on Sunday March 12 at 11 am where Vint will speak about the People Centered Internet with IEEE Spectrum Editor in Chief, Susan Hassler as part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity Series.

People Centered Internet is co-hosting with IEEE the “Future of the Internet” Meetup, March 12 at 3 pm, a more interactive and participatory session.

This is a wonderful opportunity as the People Centered Internet is expanding our efforts and John Ryan and Mei Lin Fung will be at SxSW looking to recruit individual and organizational members. If you are attending, and even if you are not able to attend SxSW 2017 at Austin TX:

Who should we speak with to discuss People Centered Internet membership?Please write to us at or 

We are happy that People Centered Advisory board member David Bray Eisenhower Fellow, who happens to be FCC-CIO, will be at SxSW with us.

Help us spread the word about this wonderful series of events at SxSW! And join us at the Tech for Humanity part on March 12 8-10 pm. 
The People Centered Internet is proud to partner with IEEE in the Tech Series for Humanity.

Trading Post on the Digital Frontier

Vint Cerf visits Singapore

Vint Cerf was invited by the Singapore President Tony Tan to speak at the Global Young Scientists Summit (GYSS) where 250 of the world’s outstanding PhDs and post-doctoral fellows under the age of 35 share and learn and get to know each other. He was one of 19 highly distinguished guests comprising Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists, Millennium Technology Prize winners, and Turing Award winners. While Vint and this illustrious group very much inspired and engaged the young scientists – it was clear that these extraordinary young scientists greatly inspired and energized them in return! This fruitful inter-generational exchange was both heart-warming and productive, Singapore is to be congratulated for bringing them together in this the 5th annual meeting. GYSS is the brainchild of the National Research Foundation and initiated by Singapore President Tan when he was CEO of the organization which is an important steward for Singapore’s commitment to invest 1% of GDP to Research and Development to develop strategic capabilities.

Vint had a chance to visit the President of Singapore, the CEO of the National Research Foundation and with almost all the universities in Singapore and as a citizen and long-time friend of Singapore, I helped to set up meetings with the Minister of Health, GAN Kim Yong, Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister in charge of Smart Nation Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Communication and Information (ICT) Dr.Yaacob Ibraham ( a fellow Stanford alum of Vint’s)  and the Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam who holds responsibility for integrating the social and economic ministries to serve the people. We discovered real interest at these highest levels in Singapore in finding ways that they can share and contribute the lessons they have learned with the rest of the world – just as Singapore learned and benefited from others, they recognize the need and increasing responsibility to reach out and provide a helping hand.

Randeep Sudan who is the World Bank’s global Adviser on Digital Strategy and Government Analytics based in Singapore joined Vint Cerf in the meetings with the Monetary Authority of Singapore FinTech Innovation team, GovTech Innovation team, and the Minister for Communication and Information. With Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Vint Cerf and Randeep identified Health Analytics as an important point of focus for many organizations and people to partner to harness the Internet for a better future for all the people of the world.

Health is a sweet spot for the People Centered Internet as our first meeting was sponsored by the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences. Founding Secretariat member, Dr. Ahmed Calvo is the leading pioneer in the deployment of networked improvement communities to improve health outcomes. Networked Improvement Communities and their essential role in the co-evolution of our human and tool systems were discussed1 at the World Library Summit in Singapore by Dr. Douglas Engelbart.

The conversations in Singapore triggered thinking about what might be ‘The Lewis and Clark expedition to the Digital Frontier”  which might be engaged with and financed by many players in the world. For if there had been no Lewis & Clark expedition, we could imagine that the Louisiana Purchase would have been exploited by wealthy and powerful interests carving out large privately controlled spheres of influence.

With the pioneering of the Oregon Trail – ordinary people could pursue their dreams with less danger and risk. With a general map to follow, the Trail was no longer a risky lonely maverick’s quest and it became an adventurous expedition with the company of others, learning from the experience of those who went before.

There were many problems.  Many people were disadvantaged, not least the native Americans who suffered greatly – but it unleashed economic opportunity and a way for the adventurous to learn by doing and by learning from others, learning and sharing with others. Vint Cerf asks “who will play Sacajawea on this digital expedition?”

Over 50 years passed after the expedition before Abraham Lincoln set out the Homestead Act in 1860 – giving property rights as an incentive for farming, institutionalizing the pioneering of what we now call the “Wild West”.

  1. Turing Award winner, Dr. Douglas Engelbart later gave a very similar talk at the IBM Co-evolution Symposium in 2003 – that paper “Improving Our Ability to Improve” can be found here 

Working out the civilizing of the digital frontier could become the major research challenge of our time. With GYSS and leading in FinTech and GovTech, Singapore may guide the way to the settlement of what we might call the World’s Wild Web.

Mei Lin Fung

Network that improves networks

Putting people at the center of ICT4D projects

Steering Internet evolution requires a new model of networked learning

As you are reading this article online, you maybe shocked that about 4 billion people – more than half the world’s population – have not been connected to the Internet. For those born pre-Internet era, think about how it has changed your life, and imagine how it will affect the lives of those who will soon join us. About 1.5 more billion people will get online by 2020, a bold goal of the Global Connect Initiative led by the U.S Department of State. With all the joy and lament it has brought to the connected part of humanity, the Internet is only at its beginning. The essential question remains: how can we steer it towards “the better angel of our nature”, to quote Abraham Lincoln?

People-Centered Internet (PCI), co-founded by one of the fathers of the Internet Vint Cerf, is an evolving answer to that question. PCI is organized based on the concept of Networked Improvement Community (NIC), a term first coined by the inventor of the mouse Douglas Engelbart as “any group involved in a collective pursuit to improve a given capability…that puts special attention on how it can be dramatically more effective at solving important problems, boosting its collective IQ by employing better and better tools and practices in innovative ways.” While many professional communities share common interests and purposes, a NIC also shares “common accomplishments” such as clearly defined and measurable outcomes. For Information & Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) projects, the question a NIC seeks to answer is not only if some programs work but more importantly how to make a program work reliably across contexts. PCI works to improve communities which are all striving to improve the lives of the people through technology and particularly the Internet. In other words, PCI is a real life action lab that gets better at getting better. Some partners include IEEE, US State Department and the Internet Society.

The why and how of NIC

Combining with the Silicon Valley penchant for technology, PCI started out with a belief that communities must be at the heart of any development projects, particularly ICT4D. Otherwise the financial risk will be too high, a lesson learned the hard way from the World Bank as extensively documented in its World Development Report 2016. While connectivity is essential, it has to go with the “analog complements” such as sound regulations for businesses to leverage Internet to innovate, improved skills for individuals to take advantage of opportunities and accountable institutions for governments to respond to citizens’ needs. Together they are the Yin and Yang for development.

Khuyen Bui