To conflate a recent Martha Lane Fox quote with a famous Winston Churchill speech - never has a tool given so much to so many for so little effort. Of course, Lane Fox was referring to the internet.

World Wide Web week is on 13-19 April. With more than 82 per cent of the UK’s population now online - over 50 million people - and this number only set to grow, it’s a good opportunity to look at the ethical issues around it.

The promotional site for the week actually uses the terms ‘world wide web’ and ‘internet’ interchangeably. Although for users the difference may be immaterial, the growth of walled gardens of content not available freely on the web is actually one of those ethical issues. (The site also has two sets of dates for the week - mentioning 14-20 April further down its homepage - which is it folks?).

In the Guardian on March 24 Martha Lane Fox called for an institution to examine the ethical and moral issues posed by the internet. She mentions some of the issues as being ‘about privacy, about security, about drones.’ She then calls for ‘an institute granting a deeper understanding of the net. A neutral, trusted intermediary, founded here.’

As you would expect from the Chartered Institute for IT, these are issues we take seriously - and talk about. In February Robert Pepper, Vice-President, Global Technology Policy, Cisco gave the 2015 BCS and IET Turing Lecture, entitled ‘The Internet Paradox.’

He said, ‘We are at a significant tipping point with the next wave of the internet - the internet of everything upon us - touching people, process, data and things. The dynamic between policy and technology has never been more significant to shape the future of the internet.’ His lecture focused on where we have come from and where we should look to go next in the online world.

The Institute’s 2015 research on the concerns’ of digital leaders highlighted internet-related issues facing business. It showed that the top three priorities for business over the next year are information security, cloud computing and mobile computing (including BYOD issues). The medium term issues, of three to five years’, were similarly internet-related: information security, big data and cloud computing.

Whilst these concerns are all inextricably linked to the tech of the web/internet, the skills of those operating systems are vital too. The BCS survey showed that a miniscule eight per cent thought they had enough resources (budgetary and skills-wise) to address their concerns.

During a recent BCS cyber-security awareness week the Institute drew attention to the fact that businesses need to adopt a common sense approach to their cyber security - from protecting networks, data protection and implementing device security to creating policies around email, web and social media use by employees. Everyone in the organisation needs to understand the policies, principles and their individual responsibility.

That is why BCS has qualifications, certifications and a vibrant and expert volunteer community.

As Martha Lane Fox said in her Dimbleby lecture: ‘The values of the internet have always been a dialogue between private companies and public bodies and right now the civic, public, non-commercial side of that equation needs a boost. It needs more weight.’

That is where BCS comes in.

Further reading

World Wide Web week

The Internet Paradox

Transcript of Martha Lane Fox’s Dimbleby Lecture

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About the author
Paul Fletcher is the Group Chief Executive Officer of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. Paul joined BCS in 2014 after ten years at RM Education where he was Group Managing Director of the Education Technology Division. Prior to RM, Paul held senior management consultancy roles with A.T. Kearney and KPMG. He started his career in the Aerospace Industry. Paul is passionate about the role of IT in education and society as a whole.

See all posts by Paul Fletcher

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