Highlights, Insights and Soundbites from the “Our People-Centered Digital Future” Event

Held December 10, 2018 at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose.

The Occasion Marked the near 50% Tipping Point for Global Internet Access and 70 Years Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Archive of the Livestream available online with subtitles.

Visual Journal by Eileen Clegg and Yolanda Youngblood, Visual Insight

Mural by Eileen and Yolanda

A historic event scaling the vision for the People-Centered Internet coalition was held on December 10, 2018 by Ray Wang, Founder of Constellation Research, who worked closely with Dr. David Bray, Executive Director for PCI. It was a moment in time coinciding with these milestones:

  • 50 percent of people in the world now officially connected to the Internet
  • The United Nations marks the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights
  • 50 years since Dr. Douglas Engelbart created the “Mother of all Demos” showing the first computer mouse, hyperlinking, videoconferencing and other inventions that foreshadowed the era of personal computing.

Among the speakers were People Centered Internet (PCI) founders Dr. Vinton G. Cerf and Mei Lin Fung, Dr. David Bray and Marci Harris, Executive Director and Board Treasurer for PCI respectively, Constellation Research CEO Ray Wang, World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, semantic web visionary Dame Wendy Hall, iconic technology designer Joy Mountford, former President of Estonia Toomas Ilves and Ieva Ilves, authors Doc Searls and Joy Searls, along with other luminaries. The event was a marathon series of panel discussions on topics ranging from the future of the Internet and the ethical challenges of Artificial Intelligence to Data Ownership and Human Rights.

Here, we’ll share some highlights, insights and soundbites that emerged from the day, captured in murals created live by Visual Insight’s Eileen Clegg and Yolanda Youngblood. We will also share some of the photos taken by PCI volunteer Bill Daul.

PCI’s Mei Lin moderating
Vint and Ray on stage


Vint Cerf—inventor of the TCP/IP protocols enabling the Internet along with Bob Kahn in 1973—has devoted the past four decades to finding ways that the Internet can serve humanity by linking people around the globe in a supportive network. In 2014, he joined forces with Mei Lin Fung – who worked closely with Dr. Engelbart on networked improvement communities – to create the nonprofit People-Centered Internet organization (PCI).

CEO Ray Wang, Founder of Constellation Research, worked with Dr. David Bray, Executive Director for the People-Centered Internet coalition, to organize a Team of Constellation personnel and volunteers to produce the December 10 conference and gala to garner international support for PCI’s vision for an Internet that measurably improves people’s lives and livelihoods around the globe. Special thanks extended to everyone at Constellation Research (notably Meghan O’Neill Ruona, Aubrey Coggins, and Dennis Kanemitsu) as well as to Marci Harris, Stephanie Wander, Corina DuBois, Tricia Wang, Inna Bagoli, and Felix Velarde. Also thank you to the Internet Society, Joly MacFie, and Cory Strandberg for helping with the videos and interactions.

PCI’s David Bray moderating
Tricia Wang and panelists on stage


 “We’ve got this 50-50 moment,” declared Tim Berners-Lee, referring to the milestone declared by the ITU, the United Nations agency for information and communications technology – that 3.9 billion, half the people on the planet, are now connected to the Internet. “The Web can be there for humanity…It’s all about the individual,” said Berners-Lee, who created the Web Foundation in order to “make sure we get the Web we want.”

Mei Lin Fung talked about unleashing the power of technology for good, making the Internet beneficial in ways specific to individual and community needs.

Vint Cerf honored the memory of Doug Engelbart with the reminder that the famous December 9, 1968 Demo was inspired by a desire to improve people’s lives. Cerf called on people to focus on the hope and the vision for the Internet, instead of their fears.


International Perspectives and Future of the Internet by Early Pioneers

        Dame Wendy Hall called on the assemblage to focus on another 50-50 statistic. “Women are 50 percent of the Internet,” she said, emphasizing the need to include more women in decisions about the Internet – and the world – moving forward. She expressed hope and concern about a future with “social networks on steroids.” She expressed worry about children in an era where the Internet is being attacked and manipulated but hope for levelling the opportunity landscape. We are bringing the world to the table,” she said. She cautioned against relying too heavily on software to make decisions that should be made by humans.

        Cerf, Berners-Lee, and Hall as a panel discussed what the future might hold. The group cautioned about upcoming complexity with the Internet of Things (“what if your fridge digitally attacks someone?”) and the need for people to control their own data.


Governing the Internet / 70 Years of Human Rights

The former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrick Ilves, declared the biggest problem on the Internet today: digital interference in elections. He talked about a positive earlier governance event that was initiated by people rather than governments – the “Arab Spring” uprising of people against oppressive governments in 2011. Then political manipulation by Russia followed. He suggested looking to the EU’s approach to Internet governance emphasizing freedom and responsibility rather China’s repression or Silicon Valley’s laissez free-for-all.

Perspective from history came from Scott Campbell, Senior Human Rights Officer for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Hunan Rights, who said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be invoked today to help us deal with problems eerily similar to those that shook the world when the document was written in 1948: disinformation, hate speech, destruction and the Holocaust. How can we insure “never again”? Commitment to the fundamental conviction that “all people are born free and equal.”

Tim and Vint on stage
Wendy on stage
Toomas on stage

Building Human Rights / The Internet & Human Rights

        Distributed ledgers emerged as a proposed solution to guaranteeing what’s being called the 31st human right: The right to our own data. Richie Etwaru called on people to become “courage agents” supporting network agreements the enable people to own their data.

        Then, members of the panel on the Internet & Human Rights raised a call for faster action if the Internet is to hold to the original hope as a place of connection, imagination and self-expression. Will technology interfere with those human rights or enhance them? The decisions we make today will be with us for a long time.”

Remedying Disinformation / Free from Fear / Internet Growing Pains

        Multiple panelists concluded that it’s up to all of us to grow a digital world where truth can survive.” Among the branches are:

  • New approaches — with good intentions, humility and government working together with industry
  • Safety — with user education, ways to rate the accuracy of information, and inclusion of children’s needs;
  • Attention to unfinished work – ethics, awareness that all information tends to persist
  • Identity – focus on privacy
  • Education – listening and making commitments/agreements to care about the next generation’s safety and well-being.

PCI’s David Bray moderated a panel of Ilves, Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the ITU, and Alex Gladstein from the Human Rights Foundation on the challenges that the Internet presents to societies and pluralistic co-existence, to include the need for guidelines for corporations.

Smarter Cities & Digital Heartlands / Digital Inclusion

This is the era of cities with more than 55 percent of people living in urban areas, while rural areas are less connected and more vulnerable. Populations including Native Americans and countries including Africa are not being served by the Internet. Right now, it’s important to look for “cultural hotspots” where people aren’t connected.

This is where People Centered Internet can have real impact. We need to get the policies right – government must get involved – and stay focused on serving people regardless of their financial resources. It’s a problem that “when money gets involved, different people are served.”

“Think of the Internet as a basic utility.” That way, finances are not the determinant of who has access.

Panelists on stage
More discussions on stage
Ray Wang leading a Fireside Chat on stage

World of A.I. / Shared Prosperity

        Artificial Intelligence will bring a wave of challenges and opportunity. The emerging technologies should be considered ways to augment – not replace – human capacity. They can enhance the mundane with innovation, creativity and personalization. But we must balance the risk with how A.I. can meet our needs.

Inclusive growth requires real time data + better decisions + a clearer picture + peer-to-peer analysis.

Both PCI’s David Bray and Salesforce’s John Taschek emphasized a vision for technology-enhancing prosperity that requires we lead with empathy and scale our personal morals into social ethics. Most problems are a failure in communication.

The Internet and Whole Human Health / Open and Personal Data Sets

        The People-Centered Internet starts with the individual, and the most basic need for the individual is health. Individual health can be enhanced by data in context.

        “We are all digital beings now” and each of us could be a “data donor.” Via sensors, we can, if we want to, contribute information that enables research to deliver better healthcare.

        Our health data – and all our data – can better serve us if we have a personal dashboard enabling us to access it. But we need to be cautious at a time when “the Internet knows more about me than I know about myself.”

Education / Community Resilience / Safeguarding Digital Infrastructure

“Technology was thrust on education.” While can continue to try experiments to make it work within the current educational structure in the U.S., there are barriers. “The only firewall bigger than China’s is public education.” Imagine a world where public education embraced the capacity of the Internet. “What if we could be more portable with our learning?” For students the potential is endless: “Technology connects us with the world.”

On the topic of Community Resilience, we heard a call to work from the ground up – using technology to create a local alert and multi-alert network. High definition cameras can help us anticipate disasters – seeing fires before they rage out of control. Instead of bouncing back – we can bounce forward.

Accessibility for All / Mural Nets / Trust

        Mariel Triggs described how accessibility is occurring on tribal lands with new libraries and access to education. The engine that will run these networks is trust. “The DNA for the future needs to have trust at the core.”

Safeguarding digital infrastructure matters as we increasingly become dependent on the Internet.

Already we have proven models at the community level, but for partnerships to scale, we need government to focus on fostering – not simply regulating – partnerships. Developing trust is good business. Elements of trust are transparency and a long view of the future.

Panelists on stage
More discussions on stage
Discussing resiliency
Discussing artificial intelligence
Discussing corporate responsibility
Discussing social impact

A.I. and Human Lives, the Internet and Corporate Responsibility

Artificial intelligence transforms our lives, yet panelists raised caution about aspects of human intelligence that might not be replicated, the potential for bias baked into the box, and the need for ethics. Joy Mountford raised a laugh from the crowd, then said, “hopefully you’ll see the humor in things the computer cannot.”

How can we motivate corporate responsibility? One idea was to have a seal for best practices. Moderators continually invoked another method – peer pressure, calling out companies who have had failures in responsibility, and praising those that demonstrated responsibility

The Future of Work and Social Impact

Looking at the future of work in the context of the Internet, panelists noted the biggest problem is that people do not feel safe online. If we are to achieve a truly people-centric Internet, the locus of control must move from corporations to individuals; individuals need protection. If these problems can be addressed and good decisions are made today, technology will augment rather than eliminate jobs. We are likely to have a new definition of work and new social contract that benefits workers.

The social impact of the Internet balances risk and freedom – a balance that can be hard to understand because there are so many variables we cannot predict.

PCI’s Marci Harris moderating a panel
PCI’s David Bray leading a Fireside Chat
Vint Cerf and Ray Wang provide closing remarks

The day closed with a reflection from Vint Cerf on the future ahead and a motivation for everyone to visit www.peoplecentered.net and sign-up both for the newsletter and to indicate what they can do as positive change agents in the world.

Posted in Events, Mei Lin Fung, PCI News, Vint Cerf and tagged , , .

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