In 2008, Bitcoin was introduced to the world, and still, it is not quiet clear to the lay audience of internet users. In 2010, I had a chance to get Bitcoins for my birthday from my geeky, open source expert friend. I refused them over the traditional paper notebook, as I knew about bitcoins but I didn’t know for sure how could I use them in the rest of Europe where it wasn’t present and developed enough to act. Eight years forward, now I know.
In 2012, I chatted with Mike Hearn, a former BitCoin core developer on the future of the cryptocurrencies and the bitcoin, and back then, he expressed his doubt that there are not many other open source projects with such large social implications such as cryptocurrencies. Especially, Hearn stressed that social scientists have a lot to contribute and collaborate together with computer scientists and IT developers.
The revolutionary power of such technology can be compared with the revolution sparked by the world wide web and the Internet in general. As the Internet can be seen as a mean for sharing information, so blockchain technologies can be seen as a way to introduce the next level: blockchain allows the possibility of sharing digital value. As the Web 2.0 was all in the zeitgeist of social network(ing)/s and Web 3.0 in semantics, the blockchain technologies could be the advent and the rise of the Web 4.0. Blockchain technologies, and more specifically, cryptocurrencies, present a disruptive and revolutionary technology, which will have major impacts on multiple aspects of our lives, impacting industries, organizations, and governments.
Cryptocurrencies are limited entries in consensus-decentralized databases secured by strong cryptography. One of the most popular, BitCoin is p2p, decentralized digital currency, with no central bank or authority. Instead, it relies on collaborating of independent computers sharing copies of a set of data. The concept of a digital currency is very appealing and real innovation on many levels: it is open source, decentralized, distributed, transparent system and peer-authenticated ledger. However, the digital assets exchanges services need to work on trust and feeling that is a safe technology. Many digital assets exchange platforms and wallet services need to earn users’ trust and gain reputation. In any of the transactions, and it won’t be easy in the current crypto craze ecosystem. While there is a massive potential for returns and transparency and decentralization, on the other side, there are potential mismanagement, increased volatility, the security issues, and the education as a big part before the average people use this technology, as well as continuous work the user experience.
Cryptocurrencies are relatively new and disruptive technologies in terms of social, economic and technological consequences. We can only anticipate the dynamics and consequences of the blockchain technologies in a variety of disciplines settings. They are still somehow geeky and not understood by most people; banks, governments and many companies need to be aware of its importance. There are potential applications for blockchains in the sharing economy, the financial services companies, big banks (currently experimenting by JP Morgan, the Bank of England, and the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), stock trading; then, handling digital identity across social networks and online services, handling of voting (already experimenting by the open source project Sovereign using blockchains), governance, protection of intellectual property, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, in reducing the economic and social inequalities and gaps.
What it needs to be seen in regards to digital media and blockchain is to explore the socio-economic and technological aspects and consequences of decentralized technologies. We are really only just starting to explore the true potential impact of this kind of technology.
To be continued.
I just returned from the winter holidays that I used to practice some time offline, the so called digital sabbatical. Around this time of the year, and a couple of times during the year in general, I take a time off social media and email, to reset myself and prepare for the next phase for work and interaction online. I do keep my phone for calls and texts, though internet interaction is on hold during this time. Why do I practice this?
We live in times where our attention is being hacked. Our brains are being fragmented and distracted. And we are not paying enough attention to what is literally in front of us, often because of this and we need to detox from all kinds of things, including the digital one.
Last week, we had an opportunity to participate and discuss with other internet creators and practitioners in Geneva, at the Internet Governance Forum. Since there were numerous parallel tracks, I followed and participated in those tracks related to access, digital inclusion, policy, and privacy. I tweeted live from the event (#IGF2017), and there are the main lessons and thoughts that came out to the surface (many of them, again, for years now):
- Technology is personal, and political.
- We need to unpack power structures in technology, digital security, and usage.
- Basic literacy training with respect to how to use computers and basic applications with computers and basic applications on the Internet.
- Digital literacy is a key pillar in terms of opportunities and barriers, of privacy and security online. It’s not just about the usage, also about the awareness and engagement with the local communities.
- Digital skills and awareness are needed not only in underdeveloped countries – also – in developed countries.
- We need good practices for the safer online environment -> our entire educational system has to start early on what they hear and see in an online sphere.
Background: Agenda 2030
The United Nations have established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing 17 goals with a total of 169 targets. Given the ongoing development, it is obvious that development need digital inclusion, and the transformation towards digital societies.
Basis for digital societies is information for all, and the digital access. Given that roughly 4 billion people (status 2016) are not connected to the Internet, the first focus is ‘Goal 9 on sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. We see that target 9.C Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020 is directly addressed through the InfoInternet standard on free access to information for all.
My colleagues and I, at the Basic Internet Foundation, invited 9 partners for the DigI activity “Non-discriminating access for digital inclusion”, with the goal of piloting digital health in Tanzania (TZ) and the digital ecosystem in Congo (DRC). The Research Council of Norway and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are supporting this pilot.
As part of the activities, the consortium has established a pilot installation of a village hot-spot for digital health, and is now planning the Connectivity of the 4 pilot villages in TZ and the villages Kano and Palu in DRC. During the pilot, we identified the need for cost-effective infrastructures in the villages. Regarding connectivity, we have standardised on cost-effective equipment from Mikrotik and Witelcom.
However, we have seen the need for a village server and an IoT gateway. We envision student work or hackathons to establish the infrastructure for sustainable development.
We currently discuss a “village platform” as the digital hub for the remote villages. Goal of this hackathon would be to establish a low-power community server for a village of 2.000 – 10.000 people. Given the costs of communication and electricity, we envisage:
- a low-power (<50W) platform for storage of local video information
- PoE or solar-powered operation
- server for local community content
- social network platform for the village society
- cache server for network content
- low-cost server
Hackathon: IoT home platform
Goal of this hackathon or student work is to establish a low-cost IoT gateway, first of all controlling the power from the solar panel, charging of battery, and priority of attached devices. Current low-cost solar regulators have no Internet connectivity, thus remote configuration and assistance is not possible.
The goal of the implementation would include:
- a solar charge regulator for panels up to 1000 W
- communication interface, typically Ethernet or Wifi based
- controlling of produced energy, consumed energy (e.g. USB), batteri status
- interface towards IoT devices, e.g. controlling other IoT devices
Both hackathons are done in collaboration with industry (Eye Networks, Witelcom, IPXextenso), the Partners of Partners of DigI, and the University of Oslo.
Goal of this hackathon is showcasing the talents of women and girls in coding and software development, and encouraging them to become involved in the world of technology through the creation of solutions using technology. This hackathon is expected to attract women in Africa who are already in a technology-related field, and who are helping other women. The goals of this hackathon are:
- coming up with solutions affecting societal problems and women today in Africa. Solutions such as: inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG 4), including girls development, women’s health, and assisting rural women to upskill.
- one day “Digital media literacy” workshops on the following topics: 1) Bridging the gender divide on the internet, 2) How to use social media to address digital inequality, 3) education and leadership for girls and women.
- helping women and girls in science.
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An article I wrote few months ago (and was that prompt not to share it here) is about the current activities and projects at the Basic Internet Foundation I wrote earlier. We’re working on providing free access to Global Health Information in Tanzania, and education information in DR of Congo. It is published on Global Voices Community blog, where you can read it, and is currently available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.