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The internet is at a crossroads. From the internet of things to big data, smart grids, smart cities, intelligent transportation, and e-health, online applications are continuing to transform our lives. But as more network objects become capable of sensing and communicating, new issues like cybersecurity and privacy continue to arise. That’s why it’s critical for technologists and policy makers to work together to shape the future of the Internet, says Karen Bartleson, 2016 president-elect and 2017 president of IEEE.
“For technologists, an advanced awareness of public policy issues should lead to development of best practices. For policy makers, an understanding of technology should help clarify tradeoffs in the decisions,” said Bartleson during a lunchtime talk on Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Cadence headquarters in San Jose.
Bartleson has more than 35 years of experience in the semiconductor industry, particularly in electronic design automation (EDA). In 2003, she received the Marie R. Pistilli Women in EDA Achievement Award at the 40th Design Automation Conference. In her current role with IEEE, she has a front-row seat to the dilemmas, discussions, and decisions around issues like governance, cybersecurity, and privacy. “My passion for this topic evolved during my 35 years in the semiconductor industry, especially in electronic design automation. My passion for this topic continues to grow through my work with the IEEE,” she noted.
IEEE, which now has about half a million members worldwide, played a vital role in the beginning of the internet. Two and a half years ago, the organization took a look at the challenges surrounding the internet and formed the IEEE Internet Initiative (3I). 3I’s charter is to raise IEEE’s influence and profile in global technology policy, particularly in internet governance, cybersecurity, and cybersecurity policy development. By bringing together technologists who understand the nuts and bolts of the internet with policymakers, 3I is already making an impact. For example:
“Technologists invented the Internet, and technologists will continue to be the leaders in shaping its future,” said Bartleson. Proposals by countries to wall off their data (the “Balkanization of the internet”) are “the wrong thing for humanity because then you are blocking the free flow of information that makes the internet powerful today.”
Technology innovation, however, can open the path to new solutions to address the concerns. “We are about innovation and change and change for the better,” said Bartleson. At this last point, Bartleson presented the audience with a challenge: “We must be ever more mindful in integrating the interests of society as we support the evolution of the internet. Whatever we do, we must advance not only solutions (that address) seemingly only technology problems, but societal as well.”
More than 7000 international technology standards exist to support the internet. There are nearly 7000 individual and more than 200 corporate IEEE Standards Association members in more than 160 countries. Worldwide, there are an estimated 30 million information and communications technologists. Bartleson urged audience members to get involved in organizations like IEEE and 3I, and not leave all of the decision-making to politicians or social advocates. “Engineers will be vital to shaping a society that will sustain us in the future,” she said.