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April 13, 2018 | 0 comments

Nearly 30 years ago, Ermanno Pietrosemoli had a life-changing choice to make: accept an invitation to compete in the world’s first officially sanctioned mountain bike competition in the United States, or follow through with teaching telecommunications at Universidad de los Andes and consulting for the oil industry in Venezuela.

"I had to choose which way to go,” he said. “I decided I didn’t have much of a future as a mountain biker, but I could nevertheless go and have some fun. On the other hand, I did have a future as an engineer, so I chose the second.”

He apparently made the right decision, going on to become a pioneer in connecting Latin America and the developing world to the Internet. His efforts, both as an educator and hands-on network developer, earned him a spot in the 2017 Internet Hall of Fame as a Global Connector.

As a professor of telecommunications and head of the Telecommunications Laboratory at the Universidad de los Andes (ULA) in Venezuela for 30 years, Pietrosemoli was instrumental in building ULA’s direct connection to the Internet backbone in Homestead, Florida.

He was also one of the founders of Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes (EsLaRed), an organization that has been promoting information and communications technologies in Latin America since 1992.

Now a full-time member of the Telecommunications/ICT4D Laboratory at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)...

March 30, 2018 | 0 comments

Nepalese villagers may soon have greater access to health care thanks in part to the long-term vision of an Internet Hall of Fame inductee. 

Test flights are underway for locally-made drone prototypes that will be used to deliver medicine to remote health centers villages across rural Nepal.  

The drone prototypes are among the first projects launched out of Nepal’s National Innovation Center, a nation-building initiative established by Magsaysay Prize winner Mahabir Pun.  

A 2014 inductee into the Internet Hall of Fame, Pun returned to rural Nepal hoping to use technology to provide more opportunities for children growing up in villages in the Himalayan foothills. 

Pun first piloted a telemedicine program in 2006 to enable rural patients to consult doctors in Kathmandu-based hospitals. Now, 10 rural health centers conduct virtual classes with consultants in Pun’s home district, while the government has introduced telemedicine in 25 additional districts.

In a recent interview with the Nepali Times, Pun said developments such as the recent drone tests are a big reason why he came home after going to college in the United States.  

“I want to stop the brain drain of talented people by...

March 14, 2018 | 0 comments

The developer behind the world’s first online search engine sees his creation’s descendants as the Internet’s biggest strength and weakness. 

While pursuing a post-graduate degree at McGill University in Montreal, Alan Emtage launched Archie in 1990. Derived from “archive,” the site was basically a database of web file names that could be matched with a user’s query. In an interview from 2017, Emtage shared his thoughts on the future of the Internet.

As searching capabilities have evolved from that initial database, the Internet has frequently become a way for individuals to seek out connections that otherwise would not have been made.

“People with very specific needs or interests can now find each other in the world in a way that they couldn’t before,” Emtage said. “If you’re a teenager in Hong Kong and you have a particular interest in one star in the galaxy that you find fascinating, you can find other people who share that fascination with that one star. There may only be 20 of you across the seven billion people across the face of the Earth, but it allows you to build that community. 

“Those communities are not always for good. It’s not just the hackers, it’s the trolls too. It can be the sociopaths who enjoy hurting other people and that’s not a good thing.”

March 2, 2018 | 0 comments

After documenting the ins and outs of the Internet’s early days, Tracy LaQuey Parker does not take cyber security lightly.

Parker wrote two of the earliest best-sellers about the Internet: “The User’s Directory of Computer Networks,” a 1988 directory of academic networks around the world, and “The Internet Companion,” a guide book for users published in 1992. The latter was the first trade book published, and it went on to be translated into eight languages. 

The Internet has evolved substantially since Parker’s initial introduction to cyberspace during her tenure with the University of Texas System, but some of the changes have left her concerned about the platform’s accessibility in the future. 

The first person to successfully sue a spammer after her domain name was forged, Parker said in a 2017 interview that the potential security risks have her particularly worried. 

“I think a lot of people share this (concern), about privacy and security. You have to be pretty knowledgeable to protect yourself,” she said.

“I’m a pretty advanced user, and it’s confusing to me to make sure that all of my security settings on Facebook are right…and so that I don’t get hacked. There’s a lot of pressure on the user to protect himself or herself.”

February 27, 2018 | 0 comments

The recent death of an early self-described “cyber-libertarian” has left some in the tech world wondering whether his dream of an online Utopia will ever come to pass. 

John Perry Barlow, a Grateful Dead lyricist turned online pioneer died in his sleep February 7 at age 70. A frequent poster on the early Grateful Dead chat rooms, by 1990, Barlow was known for his involvement with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with two tech entrepreneurs he met through a chat room. For almost three decades, the foundation was the predominant civil liberties organization for Internet users, filing multiple lawsuits against the federal government in an effort to combat its perceived overreach into online speech and privacy rights, including attempts at blocking peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

Although he never formally renounced his published works that claimed the Internet was free from any single sovereign nation's laws, Barlow conceded by the mid 1990s that such a view was aspirational at best. 

In an opinion piece for National Public Radio, writer Stephen Witt wonders whether Barlow's vision for a fully egalitarian Internet would even be possible in contemporary society thanks to the implementation over the last decade of end-user license agreements and other...