photo credit: @TimUnwin
Mei Lin Fung
Mei Lin Fung is a technology pioneer working to ensure that technology works for humanity as the next 3.9 billion people come online. In 1989 she was part of the 2-person skunkworks team that developed “OASIS,” the first customer relationship management (CRM) system. She later served as socio-technical lead for the US Dept. of Defense’s Federal Health Futures initiative. In 2015, co-founded the People-Centered Internet. Mei Lin serves as vice-chair for Internet Inclusion within the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Internet Initiative & Smart Village. She is on the World Economic Forum (WEF) Steering Committee for Internet for All and facilitated the working group on Cross Border Data Flows at the WEF ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, Sept. 2018,. She works with EQUALS.org where PCI is a partner organization, developing the Global Women-in-Tech Taskforce. Mei Lin is an MIT SLOAN graduate where she studied under two future Nobel Economics prize winners. Mei Lin was a finalist for 2018 Woman of the Year at the Silicon Valley Women in IT Awards organized by Information Age.
Read the Marconi Society interview with Mei Lin, which connects her family background to PCI and beyond. “Mei Lin Fung’s work is defined by her heritage. … This family background gave Mei Lin her vision for the future and her passion for ensuring that the institutions around us earn our trust and keep that trust with by putting humanity first.”
Today digital technology brings perils as well as promise. Connecting the schools safely means regulators have to assure that technologies Do No Harm. I commend the ITU for #Reg4Covid and in 2019 WSIS, Regulators on the digital frontier spoke about the importance of “share and learn” together in Regional (cross border) networks. National implementations can be improved by sharing breakthroughs and building on lessons learned by neighbors. Regulatory learning networks are needed to keep up with rapid change and the constant cyber attacks. Regional networks are also key to designing regional infrastructure built on common digital building blocks (Appendix 1) This can decrease by ten-fold the cost of health, education, social support systems. I know because I am from Singapore where this strategy has been underway for 2 decades with huge cost savings. Singapore is also the home of the DQ Institute – Digital Quotient – recognized by OECD, IEEE and others for assessing child and adult digital literacy.
As we come to understand that our interactions with each other will continue to be primarily “virtual” for many months ahead, I find myself returning to the idea that friendship and empathy fueled the start and the success of the early Internet. I recently had the privilege of addressing the World Summit on the Information Society, where I emphasized that the future of the Internet must follow a similar path, with leaders prioritizing equity and “do no harm” policies in their shaping and design of new and old systems.
Some have called this time of COVID-19 our “World Wide Pause.” For some of us — especially in the United States, Russia, India, and Brazil, where cases continue to rise — the pause is lasting longer than we could have imagined, while our friends in New Zealand, China, and many in the European Union cautiously reopen.
In the midst of these unique circumstances, we joined the world in marking the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, which was signed in San Francisco on June 26th, 1945. The preamble to the UN charter establishes what can still, to this day, be rightly called one of the most ambitious visions for the world on behalf of “We the Peoples of the United Nations.” Of course, the signatories could hardly have imagined a time when half the world would be digitally connected with the ability to instantly share experiences and information, or the challenges that would bring.
Watch as PCI celebrates the 75th birthday of the UN. We asked, in a time of plague, poverty and protest, can people and the UN join together to Connect, Protect, Respect?
In 2018, following the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico, People-Centered Internet fielded a team of experts, working with the RAND Corporation, to offer recommendations for leveraging the Internet for the archipelago’s recovery plan. This initiative followed extensive disaster response work by PCI community member, Melvin Cordova, through his “Project Coqui.” PCI team members — including Marci Harris, Mei Lin Fung, and Lin Wells — traveled multiple times to Puerto Rico to engage with local business leaders, innovators, academics, and policymakers. They also participated in a knowledge-exchange trip, organized by Mei Lin Fung, for leaders from Puerto Rico to visit Singapore and engage with their counterparts in business, government, and academia to learn from Singapore’s post-colonial transformation. PCI’s work culminated in 11 recommendations (courses of action or “COAs”) for leveraging federal programs and private resources for Puerto Rico’s recovery and were included in the plan submitted to Congress.
As June begins, the world is still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic. The toll of human lives lost and families forever changed continues to climb. The Internet has helped our societies stay connected and continue to function as we limit physical interactions to prevent further spread of novel coronavirus. It has also facilitated the spread of a shocking video illustrating the continued proliferation of another deadly disease in America: racism and systemic indifference to black suffering. At this writing, the streets of U.S. cities are literally aflame and platforms amplify cries for justice and peace.