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Fostering Dialogue on Internet Governance

ICTP hosted virtually the annual EuroDIG meeting for the second time

Dennis Kummer on Unsplash
Dennis Kummer on Unsplash

09/07/2021 - Trieste

"During the pandemic, we have become particularly aware that the Internet is not only essential for our personal lives, but is also key to our professional life." The observation, by ICTP Director Atish Dabholkar in an opening speech, marked the start of the EuroDIG 2021 conference, held virtually for the second year in a row due to COVID restrictions. This year's conference also marked the second consecutive year that ICTP has hosted the virtual event, with a proposal to host the conference physically next year depending on the global health situation.

The European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) is an open platform set up in 2008 to bring together organisations, government representatives and experts to discuss public policies for the use, management and governance of the Internet. EuroDIG aims to promote engagement and dialogue between various stakeholders, in order to share expertise and best practices. This approach enables EuroDIG to pull together national perspectives and to apply and shape European values and views regarding the Internet, to start and to facilitate discussions and further developments and collaborations.

"Most of us have been in touch with colleagues all around the planet thanks to an efficient and open Internet," continued Dabholkar in his opening remarks. "Therefore, I think Internet governance is particularly important for the academic community if we want to achieve a truly open science, and this is really fundamental to the mission of ICTP."

The three-day EuroDIG programme, held this year from 28 to 30 June, included discussions about themes that are crucial for building and supporting a fair, secure and people-centred development of the Internet. The main topics included IoT technologies, online security and safety, smart cities, copyright, data protection, and algorithm bias.

ICTP scientist Rosario Fazio, who leads the Centre's Condensed Matter and Statistical Physics (CMSP) section, organised and moderated a session on "Benefits and Challenges for Unleashing the Potential of Quantum Technologies", addressing projects for the development of a European-wide quantum internet, with quantum computers, simulators and sensors interconnected via quantum networks distributing information and quantum resources.

"Around 35 or 40 years ago, the whole discussion about quantum entanglement, quantum superposition, and all the related fields was usually relegated to the fundamentals of quantum mechanics," said Fazio. "Even within basic science, it was considered a sort of exotic subject, probably more close to philosophy than to science. Now, after just a few decades, we are discussing about new technologies that come from this field of research. We are talking about quantum information protocols that essentially change the whole paradigm for computation and information, applying new rules that offer new possibilities."

ICTP has been a key player in the field of information theory and quantum information research. In 2019 ICTP, together with the Scuola Internazionale di Studi Superiori Avanzati (SISSA) and the University of Trieste (UNITS), created the Trieste Institute for the Theory of Quantum Technologies (TQT), an international centre of excellence promoting research in the field of quantum technologies, and the catalyst for theoretical activities not only in Italy, but also in neighboring as well as in developing countries. "These developing field of quantum technologies raise challenges from the point of view of infrastructures and networks, or even from some legal perspectives," said Director Dabholkar. "And it will require a new theoretical framework, and a robust technical development."

“With the pandemic we have all witnessed the importance of a stable and fast internet connection, but we know that Internet access is not available everywhere," said Marco Zennaro, coordinator of ICTP's Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) section and local organiser of the EuroDIG meeting. According to a recent report, global Internet penetration now stands at 59.5 percent, with 4.66 billion people around the world using the Internet in January 2021, up by 316 million (7.3 percent) since this time last year. "At current growth rates, it would take roughly 10 years to connect the ‘next 3 billion’," explained Zennaro.

He added, "What I find interesting about EuroDIG is the “D”, which stands for Dialogue. We had contributions from the private sector, academia, government representatives and technical experts. We can learn from the European experience and try to use the same dialogue-based process to support academic networks in developing countries. We are looking forward to hosting the EuroDIG meeting next year in person in Trieste.”



--- Marina Menga