Why are we doing this?
The internet is indubitably one of the most important and transformative innovations of the past few decades - the influence of the now ubiquitous technology permeating the very fabric of our societies and economies. But while the rapid changes facilitated by the internet have brought much good, it is becoming increasingly clear that the digitisation of our lives also has many downsides, challenges we are still ill-equipped to address.
Particularly the centralisation of power over the internet’s infrastructure, business models and virtual spaces into the hands of just a handful of dominant tech companies is a source of growing concern, especially as the core values of these tech giants often do not necessarily align with those of the European public. This is why, as European internet users, we find ourselves increasingly out of options, having to rely either on the technologies and narratives of big tech companies more interested in our data than our rights as users, or solutions built in countries that do not value privacy and freedom from the government’s prying eyes in the same way we do.
But things need not be this way. The Next Generation Internet initiative is an important opportunity to radically rethink the way the internet works today, involving voices from across Europe (and beyond) to help us develop a vision for what an internet that embodies the values Europe holds dear, such as openness, inclusivity, transparency, privacy and cooperation, should look like.
The NGI is not just about thinking about what a better future could look like, but also about actually building the alternatives that could get us there. We are at a crossroads, with rapidly evolving technologies like artificial intelligence expected to radically reshape our societies, and growing geopolitical tensions threatening to rewrite the rules governing the internet itself. Alternatives and more human-focused narratives are needed more than ever.
What are we doing?
Engineroom is one of three parallel projects under the NGI umbrella, which together will help set the agenda for future phases of the initiative and bring together an ecosystem of key stakeholders and voices from across Europe. Within this framework, Engineroom’s role is to identify the technologies and emerging dynamics that will most impact on the future internet, and evaluate how their development could lead us towards a more ‘human-centric’ and inclusive future internet.
To do this, we focus on three strands of work:
- The development of a radical new vision for what the future internet could and should look like through a variety of foresight exercises.
- The identification of the most important emerging technologies that will have to underpin this more ‘human-centric’ future internet, using experimental new data science methodologies and non-traditional data sources.
- The mapping of the ecosystems and networks surrounding these previously identified topics: where do we see clusters of activity? And what are the key ethical, technological, economic, regulatory and political barriers we need to address
Engineroom is funded by the European Commission, as part of the Next Generation Internet initiative. The NGI is part of Horizon 2020, the EU’s biggest research and innovation programme to date, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020) to help bolster Europe's global competitive position. Engineroom will run for 15 months, from October 2017 until February 2019.
Our consortium is led by Nesta, in partnership with the Digital Economy Lab at the University of Warsaw, and Eurecat in Barcelona.
Engineroom’s work culminates with the selection of topics that will inform the European Commission’s funding priorities in later stages of the Next Generation Internet initiative, the development of a reusable and dynamic data methodology that can help policymakers better understand emerging internet trends and technologies, and the publication of a variety of guides and videos outlining a shared vision for the future internet. Expect these over the course of 2018.
In the meantime, we will publish a variety of outputs, such as short reports, guides and data visualisations showing what the current internet landscape in Europe looks like. We will also be present at events in several countries, where we are keen to hear the voices of as many stakeholders as possible.
If you are interested in learning more or becoming involved in the NGI, do not hesitate to get in touch with Katja Bego.