Final remarks – Roberto Viola

Roberto Viola, Director General of DG CONNECT (Directorate General of Communication, Networks, Content and Technology) at the European Commission.


Robert first of all, thank you very much for offering me this opportunity and thanks to you all for resisting till the end and listening to me.
When I proposed to Robert, when he was still in DG CONNECT, in two or three years ago to work on the next generation internet. He actually didn’t throw me out of the room, which could have been a perfectly legitimate thing to do because the idea was absolutely crazy and many of our colleagues had thought so and two crazy people Robert and Roberto started to think a little bit about – in a single page – how would the internet look 30 years from now.
And we invented even a code name for it, we called it Agora, because we wanted really and open space for everyone to be in. And we continued discussing it with our colleagues with various successes, I must say, but we kind of insisted as you may see also from both of us being here.
And then when I actually proposed to president Valery and the secretary-general of the Atomium Foundation to work on this, again they didn’t really think – well what a crazy idea. They immediately said yes, this is a fantastic idea. I must say I’m very happy that from a little bit of a piece of paper, a little bit of an idea of a few enthusiasts the work has developed in such a structural way.
Yes, there has been –  I have read many of the speeches and my colleagues reported what has been discussed – a bit of an eye level discussion on issues which are maybe not really the next 30 Years but tomorrow.
This is the way it should be honestly, I think it’s also important that through the report through the platform of the Atomium foundation, we sense a little bit the interest of the society in this thing. Also, we understand a little bit better, what society expects from all this.
Because yes, maybe in a few months from now to space ship will leave towards directing all this too intense ground-breaking research, but before we do that, we have to be sure of what we do and especially that there is some link with issues which are present.
So, I mean what is the value for me of these two days, the report is that we have a bit of a better idea what are the political and societal expectations about the internet that is going to be. I think the next stage is how to turn to young start-ups, young researchers people that have something important to say. Frame a little bit but not too much, really support them, with publicly-funded research. To actually go in ground-breaking territory.
Because we are again not doing an exercise for tomorrow. We have the time, we have to take our time, we should not be too much obsessed by the recent effect, so we have to now solve the problem through the Next Generation internet.
Project of the issues which are compelling – I mean we have seen every day the news reports. But we have to be clear what is to be the parting point. I see the value in all the discussions you had in the last 2 days the report, all the work that has been done really to frame a number of issues. 
The little intuition we had at the very beginning of the Agora, of the internet of the humans, to really have a more human centric internet where the being, the self has been recognized as very much. Now in society it took us several hundred years to arrive to a democratic recognition of the individual. The same that we expect on the internet, the same that we expect – we preach about it, but I mean one thing is to preach but another is to have the technology that actually follows – which we don’t.
Today we don’t have the technology for a universal recognition of identity, we don’t have technology for personal data spaces, we don’t have the technology to guarantee that every part of the internet remains open. 
That is something that now is the challenge for many young, bright individuals that want to engage in public funded research for the years to come. What we have done now is to make an important reservation in the program for Horizon 2020, 2018 – 2020, for the Next Generation internet.
Also, we did this by reorganizing some of the issues that are already presented in the war plan, like virtual reality for multilingualism into the umbrella of next-generation Internet. 
I think we want an internet which is participative, that speaks many different languages for instance. All the elements that compose the internet in the years to come, we try to frame it in a comprehensive work program, but the work of still sound in the society should progress in parallel.
 I think, these two days are of course and important contribution to this debate but it should continue. 
What I imagine, sound in the society, working with the Civil Society, getting feedback and stimulating ground-breaking research – this will continue hopefully in the months to come, the years to come and we do hope that leaders will recognize in the next framework programme that investing in the digital, investing in the internet is something very important.
Thank you.

Day 2