Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission Information Society & Media
Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission Information Society & Media

The Internet is undoubtedly permeating and transforming all aspects of our economies and societies. It is a remarkable catalyst for creativity, collaboration and innovation and more broadly, for the development of our economies and societies. A few examples: in 1998, Google indexed 26 million web-pages, today it indexes 1 trillion; Within only five years, Facebook and MySpace have attracted each more than 100 million users world wide; user-generated content such as YouTube produced more than 73 billion streams in 2008; with around four billion mobile users world wide, the Internet is becoming more and more mobile and capable to support a range of new applications and services that were not foreseen in its original design.

Contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view of progress , Ray Kurzweil predicts accelerating returns: at today's rate, we will experience as much progress in the next 100 years as we saw in the past 20,000 years! This revolution will only become more evident as the Internet becomes more pervasive, available anywhere and at anytime. By 2011, we expect that about 3 billion hosts will be connected to the Internet, (a more than 500% increase compared to 2008) and that by 2012 annual global Internet traffic will reach ½ zettabyte, that is, 250,000 times more than in 2003.

In the coming years we expect an exponential increase of information, the further development of social networks, the accelerated growth of online video traffic, and the emergence of the Internet of things, which will progressively cause the online and real worlds to become inter-linked . Mobility and extended nomadicity, the growth of security and privacy threats, the diversity and sheer number of new applications, services and business models supported by the Internet mean that the existing Internet architecture may soon be placed under strain.

This raises the crucial question as to whether the today's Internet architecture needs to be redesigned and, in particular, how should it evolve in order to meet such challenges as: availability, heterogeneity, scalability, mobility, manageability, security, trust, openness and neutrality; while at the same time guaranteeing that business and governance models are sustainable and supporting spontaneous and emerging behaviour, user creativity and unanticipated new usages.

These and other dimensions of the future Internet need to be carefully explored. The research community has a key role to play in this exploration to shape a future of growth and prosperity in Europe.

With the 7th research framework programme, the European Union has launched more than 90 Information and Communication Technologies projects addressing several challenging dimensions of the future Internet. These projects are rallying over 500 organisations across Europe - and have an overall budget of more than 400 million Euros. This represents one of the most significant investments ever made in Internet-related research which will propel Europe into a leading worldwide position.

However, the sheer size of the challenges ahead requires the coordination of efforts of everyone involved in developing Europe's future Internet. The creation of the Future Internet Assembly (FIA) which gathers all major European actors has been a first decisive step.

I am pleased to note the FIA's all-embracing approach that combines a multi-stakeholder industrial strategy, visionary scenarios and multidisciplinary research underpinning a new generation of Internet technologies while supporting shared European values such as social acquis, culture and inclusion.

The European Commission is also supporting the future Internet through several policy-related initiatives. Our recent Communication on future networks and the Internet highlights the need and opportunities presented by launching a public-private partnership at European level that would consolidate the currently fragmented research efforts in this field.

All these European actions support our ambition to strengthen Europe's footprint on the Internet of tomorrow to shape its technological and socio-economic development. Only by working together, can we assure that Europe gains the competitive advantage it needs to succeed in the 21st century economy.

This issue of ERCIM News provides a comprehensive overview of the numerous activities, projects and initiatives addressing Future Internet research all around Europe. I welcome the remarkable achievements and ambitious goals illustrated in this report which prove that European academic and industrial stakeholders are well aware and well prepared to address the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Viviane Reding

Next issue: January 2019
Special theme:
Transparency in Algorithmic Decision Making
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