Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Joining the 2009 prediction racket

with 4 comments

Forecasting has taken a beating in 2008, from the hard landing crash of the economy to the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, from the odds of seeing snow in Las Vegas this winter to the chances given to the NY Giants against the Patriots in Superbowl XLII. 

And yet we continue. In the spirit of tradition (if not science and probability), here are my top five calls on for where (and how) ICT will (and won’t) affect international affairs in 2009

1. Global economic conditions tilt the balance towards greater Internet regulation… Watch for nationalist-protectionist tendencies to surface in cyberspace as much as they will in the world of physical trade, assuming the recession extends until mid-2009 or longer. Expect commentators to blur their depictions of “unregulated finance” and “unregulated cyberspace,” and for politicians to justify Internet regulation as a means to “safeguard the economy,” whether by preventing cyber-crime or otherwise. 

2. …and prolong the “digital divide” in the developing world.  The capital drought has already halted or delayed major investments in the developed world. Watch for a similar, if not amplified, effect on ICT projects – charitable or otherwise – in BRIC countries, and definitely the Third World. Cell phones will remain a key network technology in the Third World – but without additional investment, will existing networks be able to handle increased capacity?

3.  Cybercrime gets worse.  The recession presents two key conditions for fraud and exploitation:  (a) significant dislocation in the corporate environment, presenting opportunities for the leakage of sensitive information, and (b) heightened psychological insecurity, increasing the size of the “target audience” for exploitation. Add in year-over-year improvements in criminals’ technical savvy, and 2008 looks to be a year to batten down the security hatches. For a good read, see McAfee’s annual cybercrime report.

4.  The next “Internet election” might be in Iran.  Expect a lot of attention to be paid to Iran’s 2009 presidential election, slated for June. There’s an interesting question as to whether Iran’s filtering mechanisms, which block access to five million websites, will be able to contain both (a) criticism of current President Ahmadinejad from political rivals and (b) both a web-savvy populace’s desire for information and the desire of external parties (e.g., exile groups) to provide it. OpenNet Initiative has an article from November (original source:  ynetnews.com) noting the passage of a draconian “computer crimes” bill earlier this year. Seems like the regime might lack some confidence in its firewall.

5.  Cloud computing will raise new questions about regulation, privacy, and security.  If there’s any technology in the hype cycle right now, it’s cloud computing (see this earlier post for more background). If – and this is a big if – we’re on a path towards the concentration of processing and storage in a limited number of massive data centers, servicing hundreds (or thousands, or…) of customers, there’s going to be a showdown with some questions that have yet to see satisfactory resolution. Such as:  will there be political acceptance of warrantless surveillance (not to mention government data-mining) once data is concentrated? Will government cybersecurity efforts concentrate on fortifying “clouds” as critical infrastructure, and leave the rest of the Internet wild? What responsibilities do Internet giants have towards governments for the data that runs through them? The answer’s going to have to be a little more precise than Google’s “Don’t be evil.” 2009 won’t be the year these questions get answered, but I’m betting that we’re going to start hearing (and listening to) them more.

Written by Mark

December 24, 2008 at 1:22 am

4 Responses

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  1. […]  I’ve donated to Save Darfur, as recently as last month]. Made me realize I missed something in my earlier attempt at predictions for 2009: […]

  2. […] comment » Here we go. A few posts back, I wrote about the global economic downturn, and the probable consequences for Internet regulation. The AP is reporting today that South Korea, one of the most Internet-intensive countries in the […]

  3. […] The danger, of course, is that “the economy” becomes the new excuse for worldwide Internet regulation (after “terrorism” and “pornography”)…a danger that’ll become depressingly real as 2009 progresses. […]

  4. […] data add to the argument that nationalism is prevailing over globalism in cyberspace, a trend likely to continue with recession and regulation. Absent a change in mood at Davos, the report’s call for an international cybersecurity […]

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