Sunday, September 09, 2007

Paul Twomey on the Future of the Internet

Paul Twomey, CEO of ICANN, just finished his talk on the future of the Internet at Influence Forum 2007. He talked about the need for broadband, Internet security, the transition from IPV4 to IPV6 and their implications for Australia.

Paul was in Bangalore recently and mentioned how the outsourcing industry there was dependent on Internet addressing working (as provided by ICANN). The outsourcing industry depends on good communications and on there being one network everyone is on. He used the analogy of TCP/IP as a flatbed truck, with DNS as the addressing for deliveries. If had have made this a container truck, this would be an even better analogy, with the standard ISO containers moving from truck to ship to train, the way IP data packets move from network to network.

Paul mentioned that ICANN supported the use of multiple languages on the Internet. But the issue of multi-byte Asian languages is still contentious. This is an issue more generally with ICT standards.

Paul then gave his own personal view of where he saw the Internet going in the next ten years. One interesting comment was the innovation with the Internet happening from "the edge". Unlike the traditional telephone networks, where a few large companies decided the technical standards and the rate of introduction of innovations, with the Internet innovation can come from small developments out on the edges of the network.

Within ten years there may be 3 billion Internet users, the number perhaps exceeding those having electricity. Some Chinese provinces are already putting all villages on broadband (in my talk on broadband in Tasmania this week I will give examples from India).

Mobile wireless will be the normal mode of use in developing nations. Broadband will increase to provide 100 mbps to 1Gbps to home users.

Machine to machine will be a growth area for the Internet, with cars and planes having internal networks, utility monitoring, geo location and sensor networks. The last few of these are potential areas of growth in Australia and I will be suggesting them as growth areas for the Australian economy in Hobart on Wednesday.

Paul pointed out that as VoIP is used more, emergency location becomes an issue. The location of conventional phones are known, so the emergency services can know where to respond to a call for help. But VoIP and mobile locations are not known and some form of GPS or other geo location would be useful. Also VoIP implies free phone calls, which causes problems for telcos pricing phone services.

Voice operated computing is an option being investigated for illiterate rural users in India. Previously I looked at the Simputer, which has voice output. Such devices could also be of use in Australia.

In the future essentially all businesses will be online. One way they may differentiate their services is to use interactive games technology to the service industry. Paul used the example of the interface for the SIMS game.

At this point it struck me as odd that none of the audience had a laptop out and none seemed to be doing a "live" report to the Internet. If this was an academic IT event, there would be at least half a dozen of the audience (inlcuding me) at keyboards, reporting the event as it happened. It may be that professional journalists are not rewarded for "live" reporting, or want to do a properly researched job, or would just rather have lunch. ;-)

Paul pointed out that most TV which is broadcast is not live to air, but prerecorded. He predicted that this will be how most digital video will be provided over the Internet: not streamed live, but provided in advance for playback using a device like a TiVo. I thought this was going to happen years ago, but the intellectual property issues and business models are taking a long time to sort out.

Paul predicted more public key encryption to protect the Internet and the content on it. He predicted a continuing "arms race" between hackers and network protectors.

Paul called for the creation of a national wireless sensor network to measure environmental parameters, such as salinity and rainfall. This would be more useful than politicians and bureaucrats arguing about water and land use based on out of date information.

For Australia Paul called for "proper" broadband. He gave the example of South Korea with 1gbps to homes. He argued the debate should change to one about the services which could be provided and how to use it to reduce costs, rather than the technical details of what sort of broadband. Examples provided were video for health and aged services, particularly for rural communities.


During this part of Paul's talk a heavy rainstorm started to make it hard to hear in the tent the talk was held in. This happened at the last Influence event I attended shortly before the last election, when the Minister for Communications continued an uninterrupted speech in the middle of a thunderstorm in a tent, even when water started flowing under the walls and across the floor.

Paul used the example of Estonia, which suffered a large scale and sustained cyber attack on government and business systems. Such attacks may be made by disaffected individuals, criminal gangs or governments. Australian corporations, as well as governments, need plans prepared and tested for what to do when such attacks happen. He argued that Australian governments and the financial sector were relatively well prepared, but other business sectors were not. Organizations and sectors needed to conduct "war games" using scenarios , with political and business leaders taking part, so they know what to do.

I will be talking about some of this in Hobart, with wireless devices being used for dealing with an Influenza Pandemic. It also occoured to me that one thing organsiations and governments need to do is ensure there are online outlets for legitimate dissent and discussion available. If the community feels they are not being listened to, that will legitimize protests. For the next election Online Opinion is having a new forum.

IPV4 to IPV6

Paul pointed out that IP addresses will run out in the next thre3 to six years. Some IPV4 addresses are being reallocated, but this is being addressed by moving from IPV4 to IPV6. China will have essentially moved to IPV6 for the 2008 Olympics. Australian need to plan the move now, or be left behind.

Keeping with the green theme, the event is remarkably free of the usual brochures and handouts. The media room is equipped with rows of low power laptops. There is also a podcast room for digital audio and a digital video room. Out every window you can see a golf course, which is less green. ;-)

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