Role of Science in the Information Society

CERN, 12/8/03

R. Les Cottrell, SLAC


Science knows no frontiers. Scientists engage in close collaboration while at the same time competing to discover things first. All discoveries have to be validated, so need cooperation is an essential. Scientists are thus in constant communication with one another and have led the development of networks and the information society. The Information Society (IS) is thus a community of networks. There are glaring inequalities in the development of science and are growing. This results in an alarming loss of scientific input. The future of societies lie in the capacity to research, invent, develop and deploy new ideas. Scientific community must mobilize on behalf of countries which are disadvantaged. Need to ensure that trends to privatize results from scientific research need to be made more fair. The results of the OS are critical to the future of mankind, as such there are not just technological issues but also societal, political and ethical issues. The Summit is critical to deciding the future of mankind, it can assist in sharing information, communication,  to improve productivity, reduce hunger and poverty, and help with worldwide peace possible. Science is, and must continue to lead the way in this sharing of knowledge.

Yoshio Utsumi Secretary-General of ITU

Must build an inclusive scientific society to share the advances humankind is making. We need to make ICT accessible to all citizens of the world. Long-term scientific research is hard to justify to the populace, so funding is limited. Yet politicians recognize the importance of science. It is hard to bring together a shared vision of an IS and how to go about achieving. There are many divergent views that need to be reconciled. The difference between having and not having communication can be the difference between hope and despair.

Nitin Desai, special advisor to Kofi Annan on WSIS

Worst nightmare for IS is that net results is loss of capacity to talk to one another (e.g. too busy reading email). Internet and www developed by scientists for collaboration, sharing of information etc. and coincided with rapid drop in costs of communications. The ease of communication changed the way governments functioned both in turn of dealing with one another, with its citizens, and in inter-citizen communications. It has had a big impact on the way democracy works. Information affected the prevention of a coup in the Philippines, the creation of a land-mine treaty, the sharing of information as to what Milozovic was doing in Yugoslavia.

Digital Divide can be within a country, e.g. in US whether a home has an Internet enabled computer, or between countries. Only 30% Black American households have an Internet enabled computer, but only 0.1% of Africans have such a computer. Also not just the ownership of a computer, but also the knowledge/skills to use it. So there are very different views of the Digital Divide (DD). Dissemination of scientific information should be easier with the Internet, yet journals are increasingly expensive.

H.R.H. Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Crown Princess of Thailand

Internet can help promote quality of life, help decision making processes. The contribution by scientists to the IS are critical. However there are large gaps between countries and within countries, due to income levels, training, education etc. She has set up a fund to enable under-privileged Thais with the ability to get good education (literacy to enable reading documents for full participation in the IS). Focus on rural schools, disabled schools, hospitals and prisons. Want to train teachers and provide educational materials. Monitors the program and evaluates the performance of the programs. When the processes are proven viable and useful they are made available to be put into production use in the country.

Role of Scientists in the Future of IS - Esther Dyson

Scientists must control the development of the Internet, not governments. When the US government decided it should not administer the Internet, it asked for the community to come up with its own governance. ICANN is a small unit, it is making progress in becoming more open. What can scientists do about ICANN. Need to follow and get involved in ICANN, need to work with governments. ICANN has to do with the management of the Internet, not with all societal issues. Societal issues have to be dealt with by governments. However there are political, societal, linguistic issues to do with naming so it is tricky.

How the Information Society Fosters Research & Learning - Ismael Serageldin, director-general of Library of Alexandria

Digital Lib have enormous potential, remote access to information, able to search vast databases, shared copies. Problem of physical obsolescence, technical obsolescence, security, copyright, fair use, intellectual property.  Project to save the Internet history with Brewster Kahle. Average life of a web page is 100 days. Hole in the wall project (India and now Alexandria). Need to reduce the cost of connectivity.


Pakistan is investing heavily in education, 6000% increase in education/research budget in last 3 years. 1600 cities/town in Pakistan have Internet. Two years  $87K / 2Mbps line, now $3.8K for 2Mbit/s line. 200 PhDs per year today expand to 1600/year in 5 years. Also encouraging people to go abroad  to train, and at same time trying to make it attractive to come back. Increases by factor 5 in salaries. Now have satellite in space, putting up 4 new TV channels for distance learning. All universities being connected by fiber already 40 Universities connected.

Wants free access to journal articles that are over than a year old. Universities should make lectures freely available on the Internet (MIT model).

South Africa - Dr. B. S. Ngubane , Minister of Arts & Culture, SCience & Technology, Sooth Africa

More research to strive for better life for people, rich & poor, young & old, to deliver on the promise of the IS, Require access to information, services etc. Complained about the costs of scientific journals. Need a spirit of generosity form developed world. Developing countries must at the same time dedicate > 1% of GDP to science and development. Need global partnerships.

Cuba - Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, Cuban Academy of Science

Fidel Castro is the son of the president of Cuba. He introduced me to Ing. Melchor F. Gil Morell Rector of the Universidad de la Ciencias Informatica <> who will be able to get a contact for PingER monitoring in Cuba.

Panel - David Williams, Harvey Newman, Anthony Hey, Bob Kahn, Katepalli Sreenivasan (ICTP), Frederick Tusubira

Tony Hey runs the eScience program in UK.

Topics: information management; role of new technologies e.g. wireless, broadband (relative); interoperability (how to ensure interoperable sets of applications); protection; security (secure data transmission, law enforcement, encrypted technology for contracts across international boundaries, avoid disruption, authentication); sharing information;  quality of service, fragmentation; micro-payments; new modes of interaction (new units of creativity, new forms of expression); social systems, evolution, information sharing, dispute resolution etc.; role of science & relationship to the digital divide; democratization of science; open standards & open source; open access to publications; perspective of developing countries.

Managing digital objects on the Internet. Need persistent, unique & resolvable identifiers for the objects, with repositories to store digital objects. Then have federated repositories so can access information from multiple repositories. Metadata registries allow for searching based on user supplied inputs. The use of handles can simplify access.

eScience defined by John Taylor DG of Research Council of Office of Science & Technology UK eScience funding in UK is 250M UK pounds covering all areas of science, engineering & medicine. Data has to be made publicly visible, anyone can mine the data, democratizes science.

Katepalli showed the PingER graph of derived throughput seen from N. America and raised the concerns of some countries falling behind. ICTP proposes to work on pilot projects at U of Douala in Cameroon and at Dhaka University in Bangladesh. Will provide radio links, provide either locally or at ICTP training, work with publishers of scientific literature to make available.

Harvey mentioned the ICFA/SCIC and the monitoring group's contributions.

Access to the global Internet is a necessary pre-requisite ... Following this one needs ICT literacy training for people to use the Internet.

Makrere U in Uganda pays $28.5K for 2.5Mbps. Universities in Europe pay factor 1000 less.

Must get developing countries to recognize needs.


I had dinner with Prof. Tony Hey the director of the UK e-Science Core Programme <>, David Williams,  Bob Kahn of CNRI and Esther Dyson (daughter of  Freeman Dyson of Princeton) and Francois Fluckiger. Dr. Hans Hoffman <>, the director for Technology Transfer & for Scientific Computing asked for URLs for PingER Internet performance to the world, and also for information on how it looks from Europe. He later gave a presentation at which he mentioned PingER and showed some of our slides.  I met Michel Borghini the Monte Carlo Ambassador Extraordinary and plenipotentary permanent resident <> to the UN. I knew him from when we collaborated on a polarized target experiment at SLAC back in the 1970s. He will provide a contact for PingER monitoring in Monte Carlo. The December CERN Courier had a feature article on PingER and the Digital Divide. I discussed with Hilda Cerdeira of ICTP and Dr. Doan Minh Chung  <> of Vietnam getting a host to successfully monitor in Vietnam.

We (Hilda Cerdeira and Enrique Canessa of ICTP, Gideon Chonas of U Zurich and Ghana, and I) met with IDRC people to understand how we could submit a proposal to fund extending PingER to Africa. As a result we put together a draft proposal.

While making presentations on PingER at the SIS at the PalExpo convention center in Geneva, I  met people from many developing nations.  As a result we have add Reunion, Burkino Fasso, Sri Lanka, Cuba and Tunisia to the countries we monitor and are working with new contacts in  Ghana, Vietnam, Cuba, Indonesia, Armenia, Afghanistan and El Salvador