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15.03.2001 · Research Group on the Global Future

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Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP)
Munich, Germany

"The Chinese government is fully aware of the challenges that we are facing, and the consequences if we miss the chance. China is determined to catch up this fast moving express in order to make a fundamental change of our economy."

Wang Quiming, Deputy Director, Global Information Infrastructure Commission (GIIC), Washington, in his speech held at the policy dialogue "Digital Inclusion," Berlin, January 23 - 24, about the perspectives for China concerning information and communication technologies.

"The political response to the challenges of the digital revolution are education and training, and research and development. I am convinced that these are the key domains in which we - the public and private sectors - must jointly invest at the global level in order to secure a shared, successful future. This is where new partnerships between the private and public sectors, and developing countries, are both possible and necessary."

Hans Martin Bury, Minister of State, German Federal Chancellary (BK) in his opening address at the policy dialogue "Digital Inclusion," Berlin, January 23 - 24, to the response on digital progress.

"For the last five years, efforts have been concentrated mainly on sensatitation and awareness raising. Even if tremendous progress has been registered, these efforts should continue in order to reach more decision-makers and key-actors of African development. They would reinforce a sense of urgency and obligation to using ICT to help solve Africa's most pressing problems. Without this commitment from the highest level of leadership, it is unlikely that national governments will be able to react to the challenges ahead either quickly enough, or with sufficient vigour to ensure an effective and comprehensive response."

Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, Chief, Development Information Services Division, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Addis Ababa, in his speech at the policy dialogue "Digital Inclusion," Berlin, January 23 - 24, about the perspectives for Africa concerning information and communication technologies.

(1) New Design
(2) Digital Inclusion of Developing Countries
(3) A Global view on Land Use Planning and its Future
(4) The "Farsite" - A new Architecture for the Internet?
(5) Waging War on the Internet
(6) Noted in Passing
(7) Team
(8) Feedback

Dear friends of the newsletter global_futures:
The Research Group on the Global Future will continue to inform their readers about interesting issues concerning the future debate all over the world. In this context, the group has created a new design for its newsletter global_futures, and we hope very much that this will be the right way to serve you still in a better manner with interesting trends, important news and thrilling issues about the future.

Digital Inclusion of Developing Countries

In cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology the German Foundation for International Development (Deutsche Stiftung für Internationale Entwicklung, DES) carried out the Policy Dialogue "Digital Inclusion: Impact and Challenges of the Networked Economy for Developing Countries" from January 23 - 24 in Berlin. About 50 participants from developing and developed countries- from governments, companies and non-governmental organizations - all over the world discussed the problem how to include developing countries into technological progress.

Although the Internet offers increased opportunities for economic development, it also includes the risk of exclusion for those economies that do not adjust. As Gudrun Kochendörfer-Lucius, Director of the Development Policy Forum at the DSE, mentioned, there has been mounting concern that developing countries who lack the resources to benefit economically from information and communication technologies will be further marginalized by the networking revolution. From the view of the Foundation, the main consequences of these risks are that increasing digitalization of global economic processes requires increased international cooperation and the further development of global structures of governance to encourage the growth of the digital economy and to ensure that its benefits are more evenly distributed around the world.

This policy dialogue was a contribution to the ongoing international debate on digital opportunities and, more recently, on digital inclusion. The conference makers brought the event into a close context to some international initiatives which, for example, were started by the Group of Eight Nations (G8), who decided to establish a Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), or the United Nations, who decided to set up an Information and Communication Technology Task Force (ICT Task Force). This all reflects the growing acknowledgement about how crucial it is to develop the right policy framework to encourage the adoption of information technology, the Internet and e-commerce.

The policy dialogue is completely documented on the Internet and can be found here. By clicking this link one finds preface, opening and key addresses, summary of discussions, speeches and issue notes, agenda and the list of participants.

A Global View on Land Use Planning and its Future

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have collaborated to develop a system which enables rational land-use planning on the basis of an inventory of land resources and an evaluation of biophysical limitations and potentials. This is referred to as the Agro-ecological Zones (AEZ) methodology, which evaluates digital global databases of climatic parameters, topography, soil, terrain, vegetation and population distribution.

The results of this approach allow predictions and estimates on how agriculture will develop in the 21st century, and where problems are most likely to arise for achieving food security, particularly in developing countries. The estimates are currently being revisited and extended in FAO's study "Agriculture towards 2015/30." The study confirms that the Earth's land and climate resources are adequate to meet the needs for food and fiber of a world population of 8.9 thousand million, as projected for the year 2050 by the UN medium variant. On a global scale, the estimated amount of land with good agricultural potential would permit to nearly also maintain in 2050 the level of current (1994-96) per capita cultivated land (of little more than 0.2 hectare). Despite this hopeful aggregate picture, there are also reasons for profound concerns. Several regions exist, where the rain-fed cultivation potential has already been exhausted, as for example is the case in parts of Asia. Land degradation, if continuing unchecked, may exacerbate regional land scarcities. Concerns for the environment may prevent some resources from being developed for agriculture. Global warming may alter the condition and distribution of land suitable for cropping. In addition, socioeconomic development may infringe on the current agricultural resource base.

The project serves as an example how digital technology can provide an effective early-warning system to facilitate long-term planning and also enable global scale environmental impact analysis. The data used for the study and its results are available on the Website of the IIASA and can be accessed directly via this link.

The "Farsite" - A new Architecture for the Internet?

It seems that Napster-clones like Gnutella have shown the future way of the Internet to the big guys. Now Microsoft wants to develop a system architecture that functions exclusively Peer-to-Peer. Their project named "Farsite" ("Federated, Available and Reliable Storage for an Incompletely Trusted Environment") aims at a "symbiotic" and dispersed filesystem, disposing completely of traditional servers. Every client-desktop creates a directory for data storage, which in turn can be accessed like a server from every client-computer. The system handles the distribution and storage of the encrypted data bits and guides users to the required files.

The advantage of such a Peer-to-Peer architecture is obvious: any digital content from simple texts to music files, videos or programs can be shared and targeted more efficiently. Applications like Gnutella or Mojo Nation in principle provide the perfect tools for the scientific community to share required information and research, without having to crawl through tons of junk, wasting valuable time. Possible applications are endless. Anybody who ever looked for an MP3-file both on MP3-websites and through Napster knows the difference. On the other hand, if everybody becomes a server and nobody knows what information he hosts, any attempts at regulating web content or copyrights become even more difficult if not at all impossible. Good or bad, decide for yourself.

Waging War on the Internet

The most striking feature about cyberwar is that everybody can be a participant, and it is usually not so straightforward to distinguish between good and evil. Are you using Internet Explorer 5.x? That can be dangerous. The hackers of malware.com found a way to exploit a flaw in Outlook Express. It can be forced to create a fully functional email attachment that does not show up in the header. With the help of an ActiveX control component this can be utilized to silently drop and execute any executable file on the target computer. The user triggers this only by opening the email. Nothing else is required.

One serious option for the attachment would for example be a tiny 10KB program called Hard Drive Killer Pro (HDKP) developed by two Australian wizard hackers, which completely formats the hard drive in a few seconds, irregardless of its size:

"The Hard Drive Killer Pro series of programs offer one the ability to fully and permanently destroy all data on any given Dos or Win3.x/9x/NT/2000 based system. In other words, 90% of the computers world wide."

However, do not get too paranoid. In contrast to how they are portrayed by the media for hype, real hackers who develop and use such tools are usually very upright people with good intentions and reasons:

"The software was developed in order to hinder operations of the corrupt sector of society. It wasn't made to cater for immature acts of vengeance by annoying little 16 year old kiddies. HDKP has, in the past, and currently is, fulfilling it's purpose. In the process, it is unfortunate that there are some innocent victims being subject to, and incurring the costs of running HDKP. I believe there are a greater amount of people putting the software into good use. We hear of Nazi Web Servers (running on Windows), scammers, and may other undesirable characters being cleaned out by HDKP...innocent victims are those who are fooled into running the software even though (from an objective, non-subjective point of view), they have done nothing wrong to suffer the consequences of HDKP. We really disapprove of this, we don't say this for legal reasons, or because it's the politically correct statement, we do get very frustrated when we hear of HDKP being used on innocent people, and we have in the past abided with authorities to track down the perpetrators. One such example was with an individual in Sydney Australia, who unrecoverable put down a mission critical business computer with HDKP - he was taken to court and charged."

Moreover, even socalled script kiddies who use such tools indiscriminately or maliciously may in the end provide a valuable service to the companies they harm, as they show them how insecure and vulnerable the software they use and the business operations which vitally depend upon this software really are. This information comes at a cost, but in relation to the costs of undiscovered industry espionage, which may be prevented because of this knowledge, it may be a price worth to pay. Companies should never forget that security is a process of continuous effort and not a state reached. Of course, learning this the hard way hurts.

Noted in Passing

(1) How much information?
Peter Lyman and Hal Varian from the University of California in Berkely have measured how much information in bytes the world produces every year. The total yearly output lies between 1 and 2 billion gigabytes, or 250 megabytes for every person on this planet. Only 0,003 percent of this information flood is text. 80 billion images produced every year use up around 400 million gigabytes. All web-pages of the Internet together need around 21000 gigabytes. The by far biggest information-producer are the USA. They output 25 percent of all printed information, 30 percent of all pictures and 50 percent of all digital content. A summary of the study can be found here.

(2) Democracy and the Internet
How does the Internet influence democracy and the legitimacy of our democratic institutions? Are these influences for the better or the worse, and how can the Internet be utilized to the service of democracy? For an expert opinion on these matters read the new paper "Dimpled-Hanging-Pregnant-Chad.com: The Impact of Internet Technology on Democratic Legitimacy" by Dr. Beth Simone Noveck, President and CEO of Bodies Electric LLC, the maker of Unchat™, software for democratic communication and deliberation. The paper will be published shortly on our homepage.


Jürgen Turek, Sascha Meinert, Richard Resch
Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research (C·A·P)


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