The Internet Society Celebrates 25 Years With a Global Hybrid Event This Week

Author: Jasmine Zhu       

As the Internet Society celebrates its 25th year, leaders predict a bright future for online and face-to-face events.

What if the internet grows so pervasive that it becomes even more intertwined in aspects of everyday life? How involved should the government be in online activities?

These are the kinds of questions that members of the Internet Society — who work together on such issues as internet governance, net neutrality, and online privacy — are exploring in the Society’s 25th-anniversary year. Members from six continents have worked with policymakers to increase high-speed internet access and promote internet innovation, and are collaborating with private-sector leaders and developing partnerships to fulfill the Society’s mission of “Internet for Everyone.”

How does an organization that is all about the online space design a celebration honoring a quarter-century of work? By creating a hybrid event that combines in-person and online participation. InterCommunity 2017, the Internet Society’s global, one-day membership meeting, will take place live in Los Angeles — and engage participants online around the world — on Sept. 19.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing our community come together in a meaningful way online,” said Nicole Armstrong, the Internet Society’s director of stakeholder relations. “That’s the struggle that we’re trying to solve with the event — to create something global and hybrid that delivers on our organizational objectives without people having to get on airplanes.”

Yet there will be a group of individuals happy to be flying out to L.A. As part of its anniversary, the Society is sponsoring its first “25 Under 25” program, recognizing 25 young online innovators between the ages of 13 and 25 in a special ceremony and enabling them to connect face-to-face with their peers.

Other live elements in L.A. include the fourth annual Internet Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and a roundtable discussion involving several of those inductees and 25 Under 25 program participants.

Interactive Regional Nodes — viewing hubs with a minimum of 15 participants from Internet Society global chapters who gather together in person that day — will then take part in an online discussion on critical factors shaping the future internet, focusing on key findings from the Society’s 2017 Global Internet Report, the results of which will be released earlier that month.

When it comes to the future of digital and hybrid events, Armstrong has a bright outlook. “You look at global meetings, and global meetings online, and there are all kinds of challenges that are very quickly getting addressed by all of these different technology solutions,” she said. “For example, the speed of simultaneous interpretations and machine translations — those are areas that when those technologies catch up to people and the speed at which people want to operate, it’s going to be a tremendous boon to global meetings.

“We’re really at the forefront of a pretty exciting time for meeting planning online. Having said that,” Armstrong added, “there will always be a place for the in-person meeting.”

Global Survey Early Results

Last year, the Internet Society embarked on a research project to take stock of the key forces of change that could affect the future of the internet. The project’s two global surveys received 2,500-plus responses from 160 countries, and as part of the research, the Society conducted interviews with 130 internet experts and hosted 10 virtual roundtables.

Three issues were identified as likely to be significantly affected — digital divides, personal freedoms and rights, and media and society — by six drivers of change: 1) the role of government, 2) cyber threats, 3) the internet and the physical world, 4) networks, standards, and interoperability, 5) the internet economy, and 6) artificial intelligence. Full results will be released in early September.

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