🌐 Global Internet Access and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The World Economic Forum has been focused for years on practical solutions for bringing the power of the Internet to those who still don't have sufficient access. And they want to make sure that access empowers their lives. During this session, you'll hear from Daniel Dobrygowski of WEF about opportunities for the next steps in this effort.
Related blog posts:
- Understanding Where the Internet Isn’t Good Enough Yet
- Announcing Project Pangea: Helping Underserved Communities Expand Access to the Internet For Free
Visit the Impact Week Hub for every announcement and CFTV episode — check back all week for more!
Welcome, everybody. My name is Doug Kramer. I'm the General Counsel at Cloudflare.
As part of our ongoing series of Cloudflare TV segments related to Impact Week, I'm very happy to be here with Daniel Dobrygowski.
I got 80% of the way there, Daniel, I think.
I almost got there. We're going to be talking today about Internet accessibility around the world and the role that the World Economic Forum plays in that.
Before we jump to the subject, Daniel, why don't we just talk a little bit about level set with who you are, what WEF is for people who might have heard about WEF, might have heard about functions they run around the world like Davos, but really need a better understanding of where you're coming from.
First of all, why don't you just tell me a little bit about WEF, tell me a little bit about what their goals are and how they go about achieving those.
Sure. I think the World Economic Forum is most well-known for its convening power.
It's a convening organization that is known for its meeting in Davos and other meetings around the world where we bring together senior leaders, heads of state, CEOs to talk about issues of global public concern.
But what a lot of people don't often recognize is there's more than that, right?
At its base, it's a mission-driven Swiss foundation, right?
And its mission is improving the state of the world. Just a small ask, right?
But functionally, the way we act is that it's the international organization for public-private cooperation and it's recognized by the Swiss government as such.
So we work for a world where governments, business, civil society can cooperate in innovative ways to create progress that serves both all people and the planet as a whole.
So we use our ability to convene people, we use our ability to kind of set international agendas in order to do that.
And for the last 50 years, the Forum has been the indispensable, in many respects, global platform for public-private cooperation where all stakeholders sort of have an equal footing in a non-commercial, independent, impartial platform for cooperation.
Yeah. No, I think, and I think that's really important to talk about that, that sort of tissue that connects us, the connective tissue that sort of connects the convenings, the very large convenings that may get the headlines, may get the press attention.
But then I know, because a number of us at Cloudflare have been involved in the World Economic Forum for years, really starting with Matthew and Michelle, our co -founders.
But the work that gets done in between there, where you bring together on an ongoing basis, different task forces or project teams that bring in the best people from government, from industry to talk about these problems.
And then WEF is there to make sure that this wasn't just a good conversation or a good panel, but there are actually scribes there to sort of force, you know, a report or an outcome or a goal to that extent.
Because there'll be a lot of times you go to conferences and you're like, these people are really smart and I wish they ran that problem or they solved it.
And then everybody just kind of goes back to their job and it just sort of sits out there in a recording.
But I've found that WEF does a really good job guiding that to some sort of practical outcome.
So it's not just a bunch of ideas that hang out there in the wind. Is that what you end up doing with a good bit of your time?
Yeah. And that's, I mean, it took us a long time to realize that, right, that you're getting decision makers together in a room.
So if you also bring in experts on a variety of topics like me and some of my colleagues to be part of that conversation, to help shape it and guide it, working together with, you know, the leading decision makers, experts around the world, people within the forum itself, we can really sort of move the needle on some of these global public goods, as long as we are continually pushing on them, that it's not a one-off meeting or even set of meetings, but that we have continued, you know, research and development on some of these bodies of work.
So that's absolutely right. You know, Cloudflare has been involved in a number of things.
So you can see the experience working there. So before we get onto the dive deep on the subject matter of the day, what within WEF then, what is your general, you know, job, the subject areas you work on?
And I know we're going to talk about some of the specific examples, you know, during this conversation, but what's your, your sort of general job day to day?
Sure. So I'm an attorney in the U.S.
I come from private practice on academia and advocacy. And I've been with the forum for about six years.
I've run a number of our work streams on technology governance and policy.
I'm one of the founding leaders for our Center for Cybersecurity, where I act as our head of governance and trust.
So that means I oversee our work on the governance of cyber risk and some other digital risks, but also on how to build a consensus around digital trust, which is an important framework for us.
Good. Good. Well, as discerning viewers can tell, we're doing this as a part of our impact week here at Cloudflare and specifically to talk about some of the announcements that we made around Project Pangea and just global Internet access.
And I think we've thought since our founding about different ways that the role we play in the Internet, we can, we can leverage to sort of make the Internet better for everyone, right?
Whether it was, you know, introducing access to cybersecurity tools and reliability tools and all of that.
I think this is a big new step for us this week, because I don't know that we ever saw that we had a role to play in access and underserved communities for access to the Internet until we got to a certain scale maybe in the last year.
And clearly, I think having been involved in this, the decision to launch Pangea, I think was inspired to some extent by work that a number of us had done with WEF on things like the fourth industrial revolution and some other things that WEF had conceptualized that we came to know about and then allowed us to make that connection.
So I want today to sort of let people who are watching this get a feel for what all that is about.
So if we could start there, why don't we talk about, you know, WEF's focus on the fourth industrial revolution, what they mean by that, what are the components of that and why that matters?
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, like I said, it's really gratifying to see when partners of ours, you know, come share knowledge and information and go on and build new and important initiatives that kind of help move the ball forward on some of our key priorities.
And like you said, one of the key priorities of the forum is making sure that the world as a whole can work together to harness the technologies of what we're calling the fourth industrial revolution.
And a lot of people, when I bring that up, they'll ask, you know, what do you mean fourth industrial revolution, right?
Like I've learned about the industrial revolution at school.
Did I miss something? I don't know about two and three, but we just fast forwarded to four, but go ahead.
Exactly. Sometimes that happens.
But, you know, the way we think about it is, you know, there was what everyone recognizes as the industrial revolution, sort of steam engines and trains.
That was a significant change from everything that happened before.
Right. But then if you sort of look at the progress of history, right, you have another significant change in industrial revolution around the time of electrification, right, where we wire everything with electricity, we bring in assembly lines and it significantly changed the way people live and work and business models as a whole.
And that's worth at least recognizing as another industrial revolution.
It's a significant change from what was before. Then for the third, industrial revolution, people playing at home, in the back half of the 20th century, we brought in computers, the Internet, digital policies and parts, frankly, of our society as a whole.
And that was a huge change from having this more mechanized version of industry that we had before.
So that's what we think of as the third industrial revolution.
And now we're on the fourth, right, which is definitely a technological change.
And we see technological change in innovation in a number of different areas, right, not just computers and digitization, but in machinery and automation.
But then we also see significant revolutions in biology, physics, and chemistry, our understanding of how the world works.
And what makes it, I think, really interesting and different is you have these megatrends where technologies and innovations impact each other, and they work to accelerate the pace of change in a way that we haven't seen in the past.
And at the same time, you have a change, a revolution that's impacting not just technology, but communication, transportation, the nature of work, society itself.
And it's happening, unlike historical industrial revolutions, it's happening virtually instantaneously in every industry, every country at once, every aspect of society.
And it's creating both these amazing opportunities, but also a lot of uncertainty and the potential for unforeseen risks and consequences.
So that's why we think it deserves its own special recognition in order to bring attention to it, in order to help everyone recognize that there's something that needs to be done that's different than what we've done in the past.
And some of our tools in the past aren't going to work in the future.
Yeah, you know, it's interesting to hear you talk about it that way.
I'm reminded a little bit, you know, about 10 years ago, I worked for a couple of years at USAID, the international, the US sort of international aid organization.
And we talked a little bit about the way that those second and third revolutions kind of in some parts of the developing world had sort of overlapped, because, you know, cell phones were this miracle of sort of distribution that could never have been anticipated the way that so many people in the developing world were able to get cell phones and use them.
And the problem they had more often than not, we were surprised by, was getting access to the electricity to charge them.
And you'd go to a lot of these, you know, very distant communities, and they'd have sort of one light post in the middle of town and one outlet at the bottom of them.
And there'd be a signup sheet for people to charge their phone, right?
But once you had that, you had an ability to educate and an ability to monitor HIV drug protocols through apps and just so many things that they would have never imagined when they were otherwise dealing, first of all, just with the machines, and then with the electricity.
And that third revolution changed and solved a lot of problems in ways that was just a different paradigm than they had thought about before.
So when it comes to the fourth industrial revolution, I want to ask a little bit, go deeper on that, you know, what, if any, are the changes that, you know, we're sort of anticipating or getting ready for that sort of change that paradigm for us.
And also, as I heard you describe it there, it sounds like a, you know, very high on the hierarchy of needs.
We're going to take great life, a lot of access to things and make it even better.
But I know that a big focus of the fourth industrial revolution has been a little bit of what we're talking about today and making sure that we're taking those developments and making sure that certain people aren't left behind.
So can you talk to me a little bit about that aspect of it?
Yeah, absolutely. Like I think, like you said, right, the fourth industrial revolution has the potential to dramatically improve quality of life as other industrial revolutions have in the past as well.
But there's that, there's that threat that exists that it's going to be unequally distributed just as other sort of industrial revolutions happen.
So I think because the fourth industrial revolution relies so much on digital connectivity, right, there's the opportunity, like you said, like you're working USAID to connect folks who haven't been connected before so they can start taking advantage of some of these technologies now in a way that we couldn't, you know, we couldn't possibly do with, you know, steam engines or something, right?
So because part of the benefit of these technologies of the third industrial revolution of computing digitalization has been to make things smaller and faster and more accessible, like that's a huge benefit for us today to kind of bring in some of the benefits of fourth industrial revolution to other folks and to spread these benefits more widely, especially ones related to connectivity.
I think that, you know, if you think about fourth industrial revolution technology benefits like, you know, quantum computing and things like that, that's still something that's going to be for now the purview of, you know, a few leading companies or organizations or countries.
But some of these other more connectivity related, the sort of, you know, health related benefits are going to have the possibility to come more widely to a wider software world.
That's great. And my apologies, by the way, I think secured my first spot on whatever bloopers reel we come up with for Cloudflare TV, because in the middle of my asking my question, my AirPods sort of went out.
So after another couple of minutes, I'll be able to go back online.
But so what you do when you do back to back meetings all day and forget to check that.
So hopefully I'm still coming through on that.
One of the things I want to pick up on there, you know, I sort of mentioned USAID thing, obviously now I'm a Cloudflare working, you know, more closely with WEF.
How do you think about for the fourth industrial revolution, that public private partnership?
Because I know that's so central to what WEF does, and they don't want really anything moving without that handshake, because I think it's so important to get both sides of that working together.
Yeah, I think, you know, it's not so much a matter of what we want or a preferred way of working.
It's just, if you look at the trends that are coming in the fourth industrial revolution, it's almost impossible to get this right and get it right for the vast majority of people without public private cooperation here, right?
So many of these technologies are created, owned, run by the private sector, by private companies.
They're part of the fourth industrial revolution. But the ramifications aren't just in the private sector.
They're not just within industry, right?
They expand to almost every individual who can be connected to the Internet, or can, you know, take advantage of some of these new medicines.
So in order to understand how best to govern them, and I think that's a significant challenge that we face, how do we think about how best to govern all these variety of quickly changing technologies?
The best way to do that, in our estimation, is to make sure that the people who are building them and running them and have the expertise, know how they work, are closely working with those who represent sort of the public good or represent the will of the people who write the laws and write regulations.
So it's really important for us that, you know, that we have cooperation at the very beginning, as soon as possible with with some of these technologies, so that we can understand both the potential for the technology, and the abilities we have to protect people from its worst excesses.
Great, very good.
Okay, so let's go. We've been talking in the abstract a little bit about what happens in this space.
I'd like to, for us, maybe talk a little bit more practically and a little bit more specifically about what's going on.
As I sort of alluded to at the top, you know, part of this is motivated and background for Cloudflare's project Pangea, which launched on Monday.
There's a blog post about there.
I recommend people go do that. This isn't going to be an infomercial for project Pangea, but to understand, you know, the rest of the space.
Can you talk to me about some of the programs that you all are involved in? I know, like the Edison project in particular is something that's, that's really important and significant, and would appreciate if you spent some time, you know, describing that.
Yeah, I think, you know, access is a hugely important issue.
We're talking about technology in general, especially the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Like I remember, you know, back in the mid 2000s or in the mid, the late nineties, people were talking about digital divide.
And then we've made that more complicated in the 2000s, talking about digital inequality and different kinds of divides.
But for the forum, you know, since the early to mid 2010s, we've been talking about, you know, how to ensure access to the widest group of people to the Internet in a sort of safe and secure way.
And this, you know, started with what we called the Internet for all initiative, which was a collaborative framework to improve broadband connectivity, where we laid out a framework for the infrastructure, the affordability issues, the skills and use, and sort of the adoption criteria that would be required.
And that led to work that we've done in places like Rwanda, where we've collaborated with local and global partners, and the national government itself, in order to help connect as many people as possible.
And I think more recently, because of what happened in the coronavirus pandemic, we've recognized, and I think it's not just us, right?
The world as a whole has recognized that access to digital technology, access to the Internet, access to digital connectivity are just fundamental at this point to learning, to doing business, to interacting socially.
But at the same time, inequality in that, that bare access, inequality in use, there remains a vast gulf there.
So I think that the Edison alliance grows out of the kind of thinking that I think was put best by Robert Smith, who's the founder of Vista Equity, one of our, one of the forum's partners, when he said connectivity is oxygen for opportunity.
And I think we've taken that idea that by connecting a significant number of people, by increasing the base of people who have access to the Internet, we can also increase opportunity in this fourth industrial revolution world, right?
So the Edison alliance is a platform. It's not just us running it, but it's a platform for collaboration between governments, industries, and industries to accelerate digital inclusion, to take some of the best practices that already happen and kind of elevate those and make sure that we're working together as well as we can around that shared goal.
And I think that, you know, while its goal is to, you know, as quickly as possible, ensure an unprecedented level of collaboration between the technology industry and other sectors and governments as well.
I think one thing that it does particularly well is it links access and connectivity to the United Nations sustainable development goals, which are, you know, 17 goals that we, that the United Nations has put forward.
And we as a sort of world community have all bought into to improve the state of the world, to ensure a better and more sustainable future by 2030, everything from zero hunger to responsible consumption.
And what the, what the Edison alliance does is it links up our progress toward those, and it shows how digital connectivity can help with each of those sustainable development goals.
So it's not just an end in itself, but connectivity helps us to create that better, more sustainable future.
So I know it was a lot about the Edison alliance. That's very helpful.
And I'm actually going to talk a little bit about PNG here, because it, to the extent it sort of creates an example of how that works, right?
Like cloud players, you know, a goal since, since its founding has been, you know, helping build a better Internet.
And certainly, like I said, this issue of accessibility and equality and sort of access to the Internet is central to that.
But it's such an overwhelming task in some ways, right?
And even the state we are at now, it would, we would not be able to do everything soup to nuts.
And so if you look at what PNG does, it says, okay, we don't really do last mile stuff, right?
Like, like we don't, you know, but, but we observe that out in the world, there are all these civil society groups that are doing really good work, building up these local networks and cooperatives of people trying to get Internet access, right?
And so that is something that has been, you know, conceptualized and executed on.
And so now we have a number of these groups out there and, and, and trying to solve this problem.
But one of the obstacles they were running into was getting, you know, accessible bandwidth that, that wouldn't then tax them to agree they couldn't pay for it.
So once they built this structure, plugging that pipe into something that could give them reliable, cost effective, you know, sort of bandwidth.
And that's now where we can come in with the breadth of our network and be able to do that.
But, you know, short of the other side of that handshake, having been built out by people who conceptualize this coming together in convenings, like the Edison project, we just would have been standing out there with sort of a hose that didn't go anywhere, right?
But now you've got this, this group of people that have been doing this on a local level.
And as I sort of referred to, which I think is apt here, even though it's a transportation metaphor, that real last mile, you know, problem was one we weren't gonna be able to solve, but because people were focused on that, it was so much, it's going to be so much easier for us to solve this next problem at scale without getting dragged down.
And I think that's the sort of, you know, circumstance of things coming together.
First, it's got to happen that way, you know, very few circumstances where one entities can be able to come in and, you know, solve the whole problem end to end.
But you've also got to make sure that everybody's sort of building in the same direction and conceptualizing.
So when that moment comes, you know, the puzzle pieces fit together.
And that's what we're seeing now. And I'm actually looking forward, we've seen this with some of the other projects we run, whether it's Galileo or Athenian, really the stories of the partners on the other end who are doing that sort of work, and just really amazing people and be able to just empower them and elevate what they're doing, I think is one of the most gratifying things we've seen in these programs.
But again, it can be abstract, it can sound very sort of in the clouds, no pun intended.
But it's really the way these things have to work.
And it's nice to see those successes. I'm not sure if you had any other thoughts or successes you've seen of those puzzle pieces coming together or things like that, that you might want to highlight for people who don't sort of live in your space all the time.
Sure. And I'll say like, this is the heart of what's called multi-stakeholder collaboration, right, which is the forums operating model that you bring together.
First, this starts from a recognition that no one can go it alone.
And that's absolutely true for most of these issues that we're facing.
But it's that recognition, right, that you need to bring together all the different operators in a space, all the people who have a stake in the outcome, and everybody holds part of the solution.
So the forum does this with a number of different areas, from cybersecurity, which is a lot of our work, to Internet connectivity, to food provision and agriculture, to a number of different areas.
And the way we always act is bringing together people who are on the ground, doing the work, global companies, governments.
And that's exactly the kind of results that we're looking for.
So it's great to hear. Good. We've got about seven or eight minutes left here.
And I want to make sure, as one of the examples we talk about, about the challenges that have been identified in this space, I know that digital trust is a very significant new and important effort in this space.
Can you talk to us a little bit about what digital trust means in this space, why it's important, what's the goal there?
Yeah, sure. I think one of the things when we're talking about access, right, is that you can't just stop at access, right?
It needs to be secure and trustworthy access to the Internet.
And that's true of a lot of different technologies.
So when we're thinking about digital trust, when I said earlier on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it's a rapid pace of innovation.
We recognize that that's coming faster and faster all the time, right?
And people, governments, even businesses are beginning to wonder whether that's good or bad for individuals and society as a whole.
At the same time, because of all these Fourth Industrial Revolution factors that are coming in, we're witnessing the digital disruption of every single industry, all aspects of society, even sometimes democracy itself, as we've seen, in part because of these new technologies, right?
And that's causing people to mistrust, not just the technology itself, but the companies who apply it and the governments who are supposed to protect them from the worst excesses of these technologies.
So in that light, we think of digital trust as a kind of choice that we have to make.
So we can decide to use innovation to improve the lives of the greatest number of people.
We can decide to govern technologies more responsibly.
We can decide to provide education and technological tools, including access more widely and build a trustworthy set of technologies for the future.
Or we can kind of keep on as we are and eventually build this mistrust more and more until we get movements of modern literatism that sort of break it all down.
So for us, rather than looking at the downside of technology and the very real harms that technology can cause regular people, rather than looking at all that as an externality, we can apply a combination of tools and rules, right?
To ensure that technologies that we produce are trustworthy, safe, secure, and I think most importantly, that their use represents our common values.
And that's what digital trust is, right? And that's putting that sort of thinking front and center in everything we do about how we access technology, about how we access the Internet.
That's the core of what we think of as digital trust.
Yeah, that's really interesting because we think, I mean, certainly we've seen, you know, this is more than just a brand development thing over time, you know, the way people perceive different companies.
I do remember at one point, again, in my previous life where we were, we were dealing with, you know, sort of corruption payments and, you know, USAID would pay out, you know, millions of dollars to contractors to do certain work.
And you would just see that for a lot of those organizations, pre-digital, you know, and pre-digital bank or like online banking, you know, those had to be made in cash and, you know, defying sort of every audit, you know, preference you would have.
People would walk around with stacks of cash and give them and that would be payroll, right?
And it was just, it was so clear that, you know, the stack would start out this big.
By the time it got to the manager, by the time it got to the employee, you know, there was amounts would disappear off the top.
And so we're like, well, we got to get folks electronic banking because it will create an audit trail.
It will create these sorts of things. And you sort of saw the opportunity for trust built in those sorts of systems.
And in some ways that was going to provide, you know, that sort of thing.
I think though, and everybody I think sees this now underneath that, I think we have just seen festering and developing over time, a lack of trust in what's happening online generally, that you can see the ones and zeros, you can see the math, you can talk about that, but there's a bit of a resistance to that.
And is there anything in particular, either thematically or operationally you think is most important for sort of reestablishing that digital trust so that you can get the benefits of, you know, the digital revolution out to the next group of users that need that access?
I think there's a number of things.
There's a great body of work at the forum called the Coalition for Digital Safety, right?
And that specifically looks at like people online and online access, child safety, digital literacy.
And I think as you look at like the rise of violent extremism, terrorism, child exploitation, right?
And right, we've seen health misinformation causing significant real world detrimental effects.
What we did at the forum, some of my colleagues, is bring together one of these coalitions of civil society groups and companies who have a stake in this in order to make recommendations and understand how better to sort of improve the digital safety of people as a whole.
So that's just, you know, those kinds of coalitions are one example of how to improve these outcomes.
I think the other thing, and this is sort of more general statement, is that anybody operating in this space needs to think about what next, right?
We've had, we have access, we've built this technology, we've done X, Y, and Z.
What comes next is the question that we always need to ask.
What comes after access? So I would say that, you know, cybersecurity, digital safety, building an agenda around protecting and empowering users comes next.
And that's something that stakeholders need to get together to build and we can help do that.
But I think that that's the question we need to ask for a lot of these areas.
Yep. So this has been great. And we've sort of flown through our time here.
We've got about two minutes left. And so I just wanted to start to wrap up with this question and that is, you know, we've got a lot of people watching this episode who probably won't get an invitation to a WEF event at any point, you know, may not be, you know, engaging in some of the task forces or things like that.
But if they, you know, are hearing what you're saying, inspired by it, understand that, are there things they should be doing as a citizen, as a, you know, member of a community that you think runs in parallel or supports a number of the things that you've been, you know, the sort of vision of the world you've been talking about today?
Sure. I think like first, you know, just as we talked about at the top of this session, what we do is transparent.
So some of the stuff that we do where we have meetings, where you hear about world leaders, that's the tip of the iceberg for what we do.
If you go on weforum.org, our website, you can see a host of our reports, recordings, the agenda blog that lets everybody know kind of what we're doing, what we're thinking, how they can take some of the knowledge that hopefully we're generating and have an impact in their own communities and lives.
But I think for people in general, you're a stakeholder too, right?
You have a stake in the outcomes of what we're doing here. So being active, putting pressure on governments, businesses to create trustworthy technology, to ensure that there's wider access.
These things all have an impact in how leaders think about their role in the world.
We've seen it firsthand.
So I think that that power that people have is underestimated and it can be used to ensure that whatever comes out of the fourth industrial revolution works for everyone, not just the people at the top.
No, that's perfect. I think that's a great way to wrap it up.
I mean, Daniel, you're spending a lot of time working on some very big problems.
I thank you for that. I thank you for spending some time with us today talking about all of those problems and hopefully through our continued relationship with WEF, through what you're doing with everybody else, we can kind of keep making steady but directional progress towards some of these big issues.
So thanks so much for your time today, Daniel. Thanks, Doug. We appreciate your partnership and thanks.
This was a lot of fun.