On the first day of the London Conference on Cyberspace (LCC), an optimistic delegate stood up and prefaced his question to the panel with congratulations on the first steps in what he was sure would become known as "The London Cyber Process". It was an optimism the Foreign Office, which was hosting the summit, seemed to share …
PennyRed in disguise?
"And good old liberal capitalism, is that working out the way we all planned?"
The point of "liberal capitalism" is that it isn't planned, markets allocate resources rather than bureaucrats, rather than a command economy. Markets can fail, as we know.
So could the author please learn the basics, or better still, go back to school?
"After all, is democracy working all that well? "
It would be nice if we actually got the chance to vote on real choices. People hate us doing this.
Democracy is a great idea. Let's try it.
On closing the digital divide.
Short answer? If it implies, as it usually does, getting more people to join in the facebook fray, to put it uncharitably, then just forget it. It's not enough vision and anyway, you can lead a horse to water and all that.
If the government wants to get deadly serious about finally reaping some of those digital dividents they've been lusting after for years now, then it doesn't do to simply nibble at the edges a bit. Look at the whole process from begin to end. Move all the paperwork to entirely digital.
It'll be a lot of trouble since you now have to figure out how to do that old archival trick, that is entirely known when done with paper, but is decidedly non-trivial to do electronically, if only because, for example, tape formats don't last a decade. We're talking figuring it out for at least a hundred years, and technology, certainly government technology use isn't really up to that yet.
But once you've moved entirely to digital for internal processes, you can work out how to do multiple front- and back-ends. So that it no longer matters to government how people want to handle their, well, paperwork, and nevermind what then will have become a misnomer.
Once you have that worked out you've gained a lot of leeway to reach out to those who aren't part of the mainstream-du-jour. There's suddenly far less digital divide to cross, and crossing it is easier. That may be worth enough that there's no longer a need to force everyone to have the same type of computer just so that the government-approved boot keys and plugins and whatnot work as the government mandates (inexplicably only available on the one OS the vendor thereof happens to have a nice fat contract with the government) and other details that frankly nobody should need to "standardise".
But it'll never happen, because it's an anathema to the bureaucrat. He makes you do things as he sees fit; he won't accomodate your preferences. He won't stand for it. It's unnatural!
Since all these peeps are solidly from a bureaucratic (either governmental or big corporate) background, well, there you are. The whole idea of improving the world without being in full control. The very idea!
Oh dear. Usage of the 80s-vintage cyber prefix indicates the clueless preaching to the ineffectual, or vice versa. A forum whose premise is'we don't understand this stuff, but something must be done!'. Draft some white papers. Earmark a few million quid to fund some career-furthering timewasters to undertake another round of cyber-fannying-about. Speaking gigs for some high-profile vaguely on topic mouthpieces. And then, when the next buzzword-bandwagon arrives, jump ship and move on.
It Would Help If
..they stopped bolting-on security "solutions" to the commercial crap from M$ and Ad$ and instead used Linux, BSD, AppArmor, L4, Ada and so on for government IT systems. That would send a clear message to the commercial companies who still give a rodent's backside about strong security measures.
They could sponsor the development of safe versions of Firefox, Open Office, Evince, Samba and so on. With "safe version" meaning that it uses bounds-checked arrays, smart pointers and no insecure STL or other libraries in general. It might even be possible to mathematically prove the correctness of core parts of these programs (such as the format parsers).
Looking at the current state of these programs reveals tons of void* containers (evince/libpoppler), char* arrays, parsers using char* buffers and so on.
They could also sponsor useful AppArmor profiles and Linux distros using them.
If all these governments just made available 1 billion dollar, a lot could be achieved for the most important set of applications (Office applications and Operating Systems).