Riding the Digital Wave: A Dialogue with Mei Lin Fung on the Internet’s Evolution and PCI’s Trailblazing Odyssey
The 50th anniversary of the Internet calls for reflection and forward thinking. Mei Lin Fung, our distinguished PCI Co-chair and co-founder, shares her invaluable insights on the Internet’s transformative journey and PCI’s evolution. Mei Lin’s vast experience and commitment to a people-centered digital future are instrumental in shaping our vision.
Q: Can you reflect on the journey of the internet over the past 50 years and its transformative impact on society? How has it evolved and adapted to accommodate the diverse needs of different generations?
Each community in each country has the opportunity to decide how to develop the opportunities that the internet brings. I have just spoken at the Bangladesh event at the UN launching the e-quality initiative #ZeroDigitalDivide – in the end, the Internet is lost without you! It is up to each of us to decide how we want to use this amazing tool that bridges distance and time – to improve our own lives and the lives of people and communities – the Internet helps those who help themselves – and we have seen the amazing market-driven and government-driven progress in the last 50 years – it is now up to people in communities in civic organizations to apply and adapt the power of the internet to advance humanity and steward our planet.
Q: Together with the Internet evolution, can you describe PCI’s journey and evolution over the last years?
PCI has brought together leaders from around the world, including Brazil Minister Virgilio Almeida, the CEO of Digital India Arvind Gupta, 3 former chairs of ICANN, the CTO of UNDP, and the current Secretary-General of the ITU Doreen Bogdan Martin, the director of the UN office of South-South Cooperation, the CEO of the World Bank/IFC Global SME financing forum Matt Gamser to engage with our community at our bi-weekly PCI community calls and the Digital Cooperation and Diplomacy monthly calls which have run since March 2020, chaired by Vint Cerf, our founding chair.
Our latest event is the series of 10 sessions at the 2023 Science Summit where we served as chair of the Digital Regulation dialogues with a historic fireside chat with the fathers of the Internet Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn with Dima Al Khatib, the director of the UN office of South-South Cooperation. This establishes PCI as a leading think and do tank where our contributions to the German G7 and Japan G7 have led to our involvement in the first two Digital regulation sandboxes in the Caribbean and Africa – in the coming years we will expect to expand to sandboxes in Latin America, ASEAN, and India.
Q: As the internet has become a crucial part of our daily lives, what are some key ways it has brought people of different ages and backgrounds together? Can you share any PCI experiences or anecdotes that illustrate this intergenerational interaction?
Our Operations lead is Sneider Alfonso, 27 years old. Our executive chairman is Jascha Stein who just turned 50 – we know that the future will be fueled by the youth and it is our responsibility to bridge the generational divide, which we do by activating youth in our own operating communities – we look forward to encouraging all organizations to share and learn from our parallel learning in intergenerational partnerships – it is not easy but it is worth it!
Q: In terms of digital inclusion, how can we ensure that all generations have equitable access to the internet and the opportunities it offers? What steps can governments, organizations, and individuals take to bridge the digital divide among age groups?
We should follow the example of Bangladesh and join the initiative of #ZeroDigitalDivide. There is so much we can do better and faster together – I recently spoke about how the world helps those who help themselves and gave the example of Singapore – as incomes rose, savings were invested in public infrastructure; in the end, Singapore has the 4th largest sovereign wealth fund in the world – we can all play a role in shaping the future we want to see – for PCI, that future MUST be the future fueled by friendship.
Q: Looking ahead to the next years, how do you envision PCI’s role in making the Internet for the people, by the people, and with the people?
Mei Lin’s answer:
We will be working with many countries to shape a people-centered digital future, and we will do that with on-the-ground projects like the Tribal resource center working with tribal leaders, like the Puerto Rico Prosperity Initiative working with the people of Puerto Rico, and with Bangladesh on #ZeroDigitalDivide and other multi-stakeholder, multi-country initiatives who want to be people-centered.
PCI’s mission to bridge generational divides and champion digital inclusion reflects a commitment to a people-centered digital future, shaping the next 50 years of the internet. Thank you for being part of our community and making it possible!