The shift of business applications and business data into the Cloud has led to the following challenges:
- The physical locations at which data is stored, and the physical locations through which data travels are increasingly unknown to the producers and consumers of data.
- Data ownership and the responsibility of data custodianship is increasingly impossible to determine, as deep Web service supply chains transect multiple contracts and jurisdictional boundaries.
- Local (national) privacy legislation is increasingly impossible to enforce.
- The control over the integration points between a specific pair of Cloud services is migrating away from the thousands and millions of organisations whose data is being integrated to a few handfuls of vendors that specialise in connecting the specific pair of Cloud services.
- Correspondingly the responsibility for the robustness and reliability of system integration solutions is shifting to a small number of proprietary Cloud services.
The centralised and constrained Web of today
The structure of the Web of today artificially imposes the same constraints on the digital realm that apply in the physical realm.
Centralised and hierarchical control of the Web creates a whole number of avoidable problems. Netizens, and especially the younger generation of digital natives, are using the digital realm as an extension of their brain. The value of the digital realm to human society is not found in the technology that is being used, the value is found in the information, knowledge and insights that flow, evolve, and multiply in the digital realm. To be very clear, Web technology is fully commoditised. There is very little intrinsic value in the mundane software that powers the services from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other providers of Cloud platforms. The digital realm is currently owned and controlled by a small number of corporations, which is increasingly incompatible with its use value:
- Digital knowledge as a personal brain extension
- Unlimited on-demand communication between any number of netizens
- A public tool for tracing information flows and for independent validation of scientific knowledge
- A globally accessible interface to technologies that operate in the physical realm
Leaving these functions in the hands of a small number of corporations is not in the interest of society.
The decentralised Web we should aim for
It is time to acknowledge the commoditisation of digital technology, to decentralise control of the Web, and to provide digital technology as a public utility to all netizens, without any artificial constraints or interference.
What are the implications for governments and governance?
The governance challenge consists of:
- Protecting personal freedom in the digital realm
- Sustainable management of limited resources in the physical realm
- Integration of social and ecological concerns in the interest of the inhabitants of the biosphere
Important first steps that can be undertaken today to address the governance challenge are outlined here.