Last evening, as I approached my apartment, I heard my wife shouting at my daughter: “I told you not to play with Skype”. I entered as the peacemaker between warring factions and realised that there was a problem with Skype. As you know, Skype was down globally for 5 hours on Wednesday. Many of our friends reported similar “incidents” blaming others for their Skype problems. This shows our high level of trust in “machines” (computer,Internet and applications) and our low level of trust in those close to us. It also shows how easily we have invested our trust in something which is so vulnerable, as the Internet certainly is.
Finally, it shows how important the Internet (and its applications) is for us. Several of my friends told me that they felt emotionally empty while they could not see the “green light icon” representing the Skype-presence of their friends. Suddenly, the proximity of Skype-ness was replaced by vagueness and distance. For 5 hours while Skype was down, we went back to “real geography”, where distance matters.
Following a mantra “do not waste a good crisis”, I used this Skype-silence as a way to explain what I do to my friends. I work in the hope we can avoid this type of situations. How? By participating in Internet governance global policy processes, whose aim is to make sure that the Internet remains open and accessible to people everywhere. Or put more simply: I work with others around the world to find a way to ensure we don’t ‘break the Internet’. We can no longer take the Internet and its applications for granted, increasingly, not only for technical reasons, but even more sofor policy and legal reasons. We now count on the Internet for far more than Skype — we must keep it running for everyone, or shouting will be the least of our problems.