Obsolescence, Responsabilité et Economie Numérique

Récemment une histoire a attiré mon attention sur un point particulier de ce que j’appelle la Responsabilité Numérique, notamment dans sa dimension militant pour une charte et un label ouvert de conception durable et équitable de systèmes et de services numériques (principe de Co-Conformité).

L’histoire en question est l’annonce pour le 18 février 2015 de la fin du support et du service du fameux lapin connecté Karotz, initialement connu sous le nom de Nabaztag. Une FAQ (un peu “maigre”) sur la question tente de répondre aux questions soulevées par cet arrêt. On y trouve notamment deux point qui m’interpellent :

  • A la question de ce qu’il peut advenir des lapins existants après le 18 février 2015: la réponse est édifiante: “votre lapin restera auprès de vous, mais sans activité”. En d’autres termes, il s’agit de convaincre ceux qui possèdent un lapin de le conserver comme objet de décoration, artistique, ethnographique d’un temps des débuts de l’Internet des Objets! Une telle réponse n’est bien entendu pas acceptable pour toute personne utilisant actuellement encore ce service (selon eux env. 10% des lapins en circulation).
  • Ce premier point entraine nécessairement une deuxième question aussi mentionnée sur le blog concernant la possibilité du passage en Open Source des codes relatifs aux opérations du lapin. Et là, nous pouvons lire : premièrement une phrase bien pensante et encourageante mais qui n’engage à rien : “nous y pensons et étudions la façon d’y arriver”. Deuxièmement, et ça c’est beaucoup plus inquiétant : “sans investissement de notre part, un transfert en Open Source ne serait pas possible”. Autant dire que ça n’arrivera jamais !

Ainsi, et c’est là toute la question qui se pose dans une économie numérique, comment permettre la cohabitation durable et équitable, donc responsable, d’une industrie qui n’est pas seulement composée d’approches Open Source mais aussi d’initiatives privées et propriétaires.

Une piste intéressante consisterait à inciter l’économie numérique privée à adopter volontairement une clause de Responsabilité Numérique consistant à s’engager à mettre dans en Open Source les codes relatifs à tout système et service dont l’activité commerciale privée s’arrêterait. Une telle clause, dans le cas précis du lapin Karotz aurait le mérite de ne pas se retrouver dans cette situation délicate d’obsolescence numérique ayant un impact négatif tant sur l’entreprise que sur les utilisateurs… à méditer…

Merci à Romain (@romain_bp) d’avoir attiré mon attention avec son Tweet sur la question, même si je ne suis pas nécessairement d’accord avec le fait qu’il ne faut “jamais acheter du matériel connecté non Open Source”. En fait, avec un tel engagement et une clause de Responsabilité Numérique d’ouverture du code en cas de cessation de services, la question ne se poserait plus dans les mêmes termes, et la société aurait la possibilité de continuer à utiliser les systèmes et les services malgré l’obsolescence forcée et économiquement probablement justifiable dans notre économie numérique. Soyons numériquement exigeants et responsables. Il est temps de concevoir cette charte et ce label ouvert de conception durable et équitable de systèmes et de services… Rejoignez-nous, nous serons bientôt légion… Qu’en pensez-vous ?

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Special Presentation by Korea NIA agency president, Dr. Seang-Tae Kim on Smart Society

As Concerned Citizens, Concerned Workers, Concerned Parents, Concerned Species in an increasingly complex, multistakeholder, digital society facing “wicked problems” for its sustainable future, there is urgency in rethinking what information society we want to live in. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Dr, Seang-Tae Kim, president of the Korean National Information Society Agency, sharing his view on the coming of smart society.

Everyone is welcome to the talk on Tuesday October 25, 2011 at Uni-Mail, 6:15 pm, Room M S 150.

This is all the more significant than Korea is ranked #1 in the 2010 UN E–Government Development Index and E-Participation Index. Korea is among the most connected and technology driven societies in the world with a culture of exploring digital territories in its DNA. I am extremely enthusiastic about this, having lived myself for two years in Korea. During my stay, I was able to experience first hand this extraordinary phenomenon of a country having undertaken a massive effort in developing its society around digital technologies. As a foreigner and immigrant, not only did I feel comfortable and “at home”, but I was able feel “included” (even when dealing with basic issues with the administration). After returning, I admit having had a shameful feeling looking at our own administration and how we welcome foreigners. Part of my soul stayed in Seoul and I therefore feel partly Korean. 감사합니다

For details, please refer to the official announcements in the news section of HEC Genève or on the CUI news page.

Swiss (ICT) foresight 2025 : BRACE for hard landing !

I’m really confused today (to say the least) re-reading the 2025 outlook for Swiss federal policy foresight document released recently.
Paying careful attention at the parts dealing with ICT, namely : pp 16-17 and challenge #10, pp 58-59, I couldn’t help feeling totally depressed.
Every point is presented stressing threats rather than opportunities or challenges to address and tackle.
Here are a few examples (based on the French version) :

  • technological developments and innovation surges are expected in a variety of domains. (“poussées d’innovation”) as if it were a childhood disease or fever to be controlled.
  • “Cette évolution fulgurante ne semble pas vouloir s’arrêter…” sounds like disappointment!
  • “La tendance à l’interconnexion des systèmes ouvre la perspective de gains d’efficacité réels sur les plans économique et écologique, mais elle risque d’accroître les situations de dépendance et de vulnérabilité ; les systèmes et les réseaux TIC sont en effet de plus en plus sophistiqués, et donc de plus en plus fragiles, et la société est de plus en plus tributaire de ces systèmes.” : should we understand that we should disengage and rollback ?
  • “Il a une dimension écologique, les ordinateurs modernes consommant une grande quantité d’électricite” : okay could we eventually balance that with the added value for society and the progress in green IT ?
  • “L’accélération du progrès technologique recèle toutefois des dangers…” : more of the same threats…
  • “Enfin, les questions du respect des droits d’auteur et de la protection des données se posent de plus en plus souvent.” : is that “news” ? Should we shut down the Swiss Internet ? Please see some of the talks of Prof. Larry Lessig who gave another brilliant talk yesterday at CERN.
  • etc.

Is it really a sustainable option not to embrace technological innovation and progress ? Can we afford to have such skeptical digital public policies for our future ? Shouldn’t foresight stress opportunities for action rather than threats leading to status quo ?

Remembering news from last September (see Le Temps, 14/12/2010, “La Suisse n’utiliserait pas assez les nouvelles technologies”)
“A wakeup call” facing the “collaps” of Switzerland in the 2010 Digital Economy Ranking (The Economist) dropping to 19 (from 12 in 2009) vigorously said Isabelle Welton (IBM Country General Manager for Switzerland)

This was further amplified by Doris Leuthard (in charge of Economy at the time) showing worries for Switzerland being ranked 45th worldwide in terms of eGovernment and falling behind Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark in terns of eHealth. She also stressed, and this is important, that it wasn’t about the technology, switherland being very well equipped, but about the Uses of that technology in society
This has led to the launch of the eEconomyBoard, a public-private partnership involving IBM, Microsoft, EPFL, La Poste, SECO among others. But the latest activity dates back to November 2010 according to their web site. It would have been nice to see this entity be slightly more proactive towards defining the challenges and prospective opportunities to shape public policies for the future in this area.

Considering this and coming back to the document discussed here, I would have expected a much more ambitious (i.e., less negative) plan to stimulate the debate towards setting the agenda and priorities for digital society / economy public policies for 2011-2015.

There are some very good examples out there, starting with the EU Digital Agenda (May 2010), one of the “seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, set out to define the key enabling role that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) will have to play if Europe wants to succeed in its ambitions for 2020″.
Juxtaposing both documents inevitably leads to identifying the shortsighted view of the Swiss document in shaping the future policies allowing Switzerland to not only stay competitive but more importantly thrive in a global digital and service oriented world. Let’s not forget the Web was born in Switzerland at CERN and to quote Larry Lessig who gave a wonderful talk over there yesterday : “giving a talk at CERN is as cool as speaking at Pixar”…

In summary, I’m afraid we’re not anywhere close to seeing emerge a Digital Society state secretary or minister in Switzerland, even though it would be among the highest priorities for competitiveness and development. The document released is among the most depressing piece of ICT prospective thinking I’ve ever seen. Switzerland is therefore facing two major challenges: first to get our country officials to understand what is at stake, and then to design the ambitious strategic plan this country must implement in order to at least stay competitive if not leader with respect to this important societal challenge for our future.

So, in three words if nothing changes: BRACE BRACE BRACE ! Oh, and by the way, please don’t forget to pull the electricity plug before we crash (ecology), the saved power may help other countries implement their more ambitious plans.

And to finish on a positive note I call upon everyone to engage in this vital conversation towards a true debate on the opportunities of ICT for Switzerland and the corresponding public policies.

Old Scenario Rejuvenated through Cloud Computing

Well, interesting to see an “age old” (in Internet timing) scenario finding a second life, so to speak… This FT article, from Shane Robison in response to Nicholas Carr’s Digital Business cover feature published on January 30th 2008, talks about Cloud Services needed to fulfill a kind of scenario we all remember from the early Internet days involving a series of coordinated actions (such as reminders, information gathering for weather, flight status update, recommended route to airport based on actual traffic conditions, etc.) that need to be carried out for a traveler scheduled on a given flight. Assuming cloud services, the article further stresses some properties of such services like pervasiveness, proactivity and personalization.

Now what exactly would we find behind “cloud computing” ? Of course, all the great technology and infrastructure we now have at hand stemming from grid and utility computing and storage, service architectures, etc. but we may still be missing a basic building block. One which would offer some of the nice and desirable properties to realize such scenari. Actually, thinking about it again in terms of pervasive, proactive and personalized immediately triggered the idea of “personal avatars” or “electronic butlers” launched in the Ethos of the Cloud knowing at all time what to do, where I am, what I need, and of course able to protect itself from the outside since it is likely to hold many personal information. Having worked for some time on Mobile Agents, peer-to-peer protocols and DRM led me to think this might just be the time for a new start for Mobile Agents. Moreover, combined with virtual environments such as for example Second Life could represent just the right Human Computer Interface for Mobile Agents.

What better metaphor could we find for a mobile agent to which we delegate complex tasks than one of an Avatar which by the way may not necessarily have a human like representation. People may want to think about it as a simple “black box” with a mood like interface on it instantly showing a sign of its status… Real World and Virtual World probes and sensors helping along the way…

Fun times ahead and as we very well know, sometimes the timing is just not the right one, mobile agents have been around for decades, maybe just waiting for the right “Cloud” to start delivering on their promises and capabilities…