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Challenges Chat – Cathy Novelli, Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Marina Ruggieri of IEEE, Discuss Advancing the Internet

IGF USA LogoBrief session description:

Thursday, July 14, 2016 -Cathy Novelli, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, and Marina Ruggieri, vice president of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Technical Activities, spoke about continuing to work to connect everyone, globally, to the Internet because the benefits of economic development – access to education, medicine, information and global markets that are fostered by the Internet – are not yet shared by all. The chat was moderated by Karen McCabe of IEEE. You can read a written account and see video highlights on this page or see full archived video of the session here starting at 31:00.

Details of the session:

A catalyst to reach the next billion? The World Bank released a study stating that for every 10 percent increase in Internet connectivity there is a 1-to-2-percent increase in GDP.

Global Connect – a joint effort undertaken by the U.S. Department of State and the World Bank in conjunction with IEEE to establish support for bringing 1.5 billion more people globally online by 2020 – was the focus of a conversation between moderator Karen McCabe of IEEE, Cathy Novelli, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, and Marina Ruggieri, vice president of IEEE’s Technical Activities Group.

Novelli said Global Connect is helping unite investment bankers, foreign ministers, engineers and other technology professionals from around the world to find ways to connect more people and enhance connectivity for all.

She said they are working to identify and address multiple challenges, working to inspire positive policy and the fostering of competition in regional marketplaces.

“Connecting people, per se, is good, but if you don’t have policy, it’s not,” Novelli said.

Private sector, governments and technologists unite to advance connectivity

In June 2016, President Barack Obama released an executive order on Global Entrepreneurship to expand Internet access. Novelli said she hopes the private sector will join in to advance many global-connectivity projects that are already in the planning stages or underway.

“Every country wants to have its own Silicon Valley, but we can’t do that without connectivity,” she added.

Ruggieri agreed that expanding Internet connectivity globally can help people everywhere tackle major issues such as providing access to education, initiating economic opportunity and expanding sustainability.

Global Connect Principles Sheet She explained that there are broad differences in the geography and technological capacity of the 160 countries involved in IEEE and that is why this engineering group, consisting of thousands of members globally, must work together with other stakeholders to expand communications capabilities everywhere.

“Being technical we can help to solve issues, but this must be combined with other things like policy and education,” Ruggieri said. “IEEE’s mission is advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. How can you do that without global connection?”

Ruggieri said the technical community must work alongside policy makers and others to solve connectivity issues across four dimensions: technology, policy, education and ethics.

“We need to connect communities that can do really impressive things for the global mission,” she said. “The community is one of the answers for the problem.”

Combining forces for positive change magnifies results

Novelli said groups in both the governmental and private sectors need to look into how education and training can occur in areas that are not connected. No one person is capable of managing the many moves needed to better foster a wider development of the capacity for non-users to learn to take advantage of connectivity, she pointed out; brainpower combined can multiply the overall impact of efforts.

Cathy Novelli IGF Speaker PhotoWhile more people are connecting all the time, the gap between those who are connected and those who are is widening. Many areas are falling far behind in the advancement of knowledge-sharing, health and prosperity. Novelli said building Internet capacity and connectivity can help gain billions more people access to a better education, a healthy life and the benefits of commerce.

Ruggieri said technologists and engineers must not only be concerned with enhancing global connectivity to close the access gap, but they must also try to assure that the next billion has even better online capabilities than the first billion had as they came online in the Internet’s first years.

“There is no way we can stop,” she said, “so we’d better cope with a better way than before. We must find solutions before issues become very, very serious.”

Software-Defined Networks, post-5G networks and Internet-to-brain networks on horizon

Ruggieri said improvements in network and software architecture must continue. She mentioned software-defined networks, what comes after 5G networks and even spoke speculatively about cutting-edge research investigating ways in which technologists of IEEE may someday provide Internet-to-brain connectivity. “We can connect everyone,” she said.

Novelli said the U.S. Department of State is helping to lead the Global Connect effort, wishing to act as a catalyst to global development. The U.S. does not provide direct funding, but it is investing resources in encouraging governments and businesses to work with technologists for a continuous positive evolution toward adding the next 1.5 billion online by 2020.

“Other countries have initiatives here, too,” she explained. “We wanted to get everyone on the same page.”

– By Courtney Campbell

Click here to return to IGF-USA 2016 homepage.

The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at IGF-USA 2016 included the following Elon University School of Communications students, staff and faculty:

Bryan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Bryan Baker, Elizabeth Bilka, Ashley Bohle, Courtney Campbell, Colin Donohue, Melissa Douglas, Mackenzie Dunn, Maya Eaglin, Christina Elias, Rachel Ellis, Caroline Hartshorn, Paul LeBlanc, Emmanuel Morgan, Joey Nappa, Diego Pineda Davila, Alyssa Potter, Kailey Tracy, Andrew Steinitz, Anna Zwingelberg