An Exciting Time

Aug 15, 2017, 14:49 PM by Jasmine Zhu

good time photo

What if the Internet becomes so pervasive that it becomes even more intertwined in every aspect of everyday life? What if there’s a social backlash from living in a “hyper-connected” world? How involved should the government be in online activities?

These are the kinds of questions that members of the Internet Society — now celebrating 25 years since its founding — are exploring about the internet’s future. Internet Society members work together on issues including internet governance, net neutrality, and online privacy. Members from six continents have worked with policymakers to increase high-speed internet access and promote internet innovation, and are collaborating with private-sector leaders and developing partnerships to fulfill the Society’s mission of “Internet for Everyone.”

How does an organization that is all about the online space design an event that commemorates a significant anniversary? By creating a hybrid event that combines in-person celebration with strong online participation. InterCommunity 2017, the Internet Society’s global, one-day membership meeting, will take place live in Los Angeles — and engage participants online around the world — on Sept. 19. “I’m really looking forward to seeing our community come together in a meaningful way online,” said Nicole Armstrong, Internet Society’s director of stakeholder relations. “That’s the struggle that we’re trying to solve with the event. To create something global and hybrid that delivers on our organizational objectives without people having to get on airplanes.”

Yet there will be a group of individuals happy to be flying out to L.A. As part of its 25th anniversary, the Internet Society is sponsoring its first “25 under 25” program, recognizing 25 young online innovators between the ages of 13 and 25 in a special ceremony and enabling them to connect face-to-face with their peers.

Other live elements in L.A. include the fourth annual Internet Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and a roundtable discussion involving several of those inductees and next-generation internet leaders from the 25 under 25 program.

Interactive Regional Nodes — viewing nodes comprising a minimum of 15 participants from Internet Society global chapters who gather together in person that day — will then take part in a lively online discussion on critical factors shaping the future internet, focusing on key findings from the Society’s 2017 Global Internet Report, the results of which will be released earlier that month.

When it comes to the future of digital and hybrid events, Armstrong has a bright outlook. “You look at global meetings, and global meetings online, and there are all kinds of challenges that are very quickly getting addressed by all of these different technology solutions,” she said. “For example, the speed of simultaneous interpretations and machine translations — those are areas that when those technologies catch up to people and the speed at which people want to operate, it’s going to be a tremendous boon to global meetings.

We’re really at the forefront of a pretty exciting time for meeting planning online. Having said that,” Armstrong added, “there will always be a place for the in-person meeting.”

Looking to the Future

Last year, the Internet Society embarked on a research project to take stock of the key forces of change that could impact the future of the internet. The project’s two global surveys received 2,500-plus responses from 160 countries, and as part of the research, the Society conducted interviews with 130 internet experts and hosted 10 virtual roundtables.

Three issues were identified as likely to be significantly affected — digital divides, personal freedoms and rights, and media and society — by six drivers of change. Those include: 1) the role of government, 2) cyber threats, 3) the internet and the physical world, 4) networks, standards, and interoperability, 5) the internet economy, and 6) artificial intelligence. Full results will be released in early September.

On the Web

For information about Digital Event Strategist certification, educational opportunities and resources, and more, visit PCMA’s Digital Experience Institute at

Todd Tolbert, DEI's Advisory Board Member, is part of the Internet Society. For more information on the Internet Society’s InterCommunity 2017, visit

Jasmine Zhu is digital editor of Convene.