Today the Internet is integral to almost every part of our existence. It creates unlimited opportunities to communicate and to access information and entertainment and has reshaped economic and societal behaviours. Earlier this month the Commission set out legislation proposals and ambitious targets for a European Gigabit Society, including free public access to Wi-Fi for Europeans. Our proposals will encourage investment in very high-capacity networks to meet our growing connectivity needs and boost Europe's competitiveness.
Yet we have to look at another fundamental issue. What kind of Internet will we be connecting to in 10 years from now? Today, even if omnipresent and intensively used, many Europeans still have some hesitations about going online, for instance around financial transactions, and concerns about personal data and transparency.
The next-generation Internet should take a fresh look at all these issues. It should offer more to people and to our society, providing better services and greater involvement and participation. It should be designed for humans, so that it can meet its full potential for society and economy and reflect the social and ethical values that we enjoy in our societies.
What will the Internet look like in 10 years from now? Will we see the world exclusively through augmented reality glasses? Will we use big data to foretell our future? How will it feel when 'things' really talk to us and cognitive smart applications answer our needs instantaneously?
New European initiative
In my vision of the next-generation Internet, objects of the physical and virtual reality can be contextually searched and logically related to give users a unique cognitive experience. For example, this is the basis for fully autonomous driving or for holographic or virtual reality systems. Moreover, artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies will increase our awareness of what is around us and augment our perception of the cyber-physical space.
More than anything else, our future Internet will be free and open, reflecting our values.
But more than my vision, we need the collective vision of all stakeholders to create this Next Generation Internet. We need to gather and discuss ideas concerning concepts, technologies and applications coming from the largest possible community.
In order to become a driver and developer of the next-generation Internet, the European Commission kicks off a new initiative. This will bring together today’s best internet innovators, including startups and SMEs, working within a productive internet research ecosystem with leading academia and the corporates that will enable, in the longer run, European companies to become global champions.
The scope of this European initiative should therefore be broad, addressing technological opportunities arising from advances in various research fields, extending from new network architectures and software-defined infrastructures to new concepts for services and applications. For this to flourish, both long-term research and applied research/innovation are necessary with a mid – to long-term perspective.
Preparations for this next-generation Internet initiative starts in autumn 2016 with a public consultation, with workshops to reach out to researchers and innovators and with a call for support actions to identify the specific research topics, to create an ecosystem of relevant stakeholders from the business and scientific community, high-tech start-ups, civil society and other interested parties.
If you can’t be there, the recorded session will be available online in the coming days.