Overcoming US/China Digital Cold War

DDI Chairman Craig Warren Smith was established as a Visiting Professor at Peking University in July 14, 2020 explicitly for the purpose of organizing a network of Thought Leaders spread between US and China, in which both sides would collaborate to create ethics based alternatives to the “Splinternet” within low income nations.

The Splinternet, also called the Digital Cold War, refers to the division between China-based and US-based tech ecosystems. The staging ground for overcoming this division is not in Silicon Valley nor in Beijing but in large mid-level developing nations (India, Indonesia, Brazil, et al) which serve as the “battleground states” which will embrace one side or the other – or bring both sides into synergy. To set a framework for overcoming the Splinternet, Digital Divide Institute working with academic partners to  develop a vast community of experts in the ethics of Big Data  AI, IoT, 5G, et al.

This network of Thought Leaders, to be centered at MIT and Harvard (on the US side) and Peking University and Tsinghua University (on the China side) will formulate a scenario for 2024 in which the Digital Cold War is overcome. A possible outcome may be to activate ethics-driven strategies for the Republic of Indonesia, as a prototype battleground state.


Bringing Big Data into Data Poor locations

As indicated by Industry 4.0, we are in an era of Big Data, in which several emergent technologies (AI, IoT, 5G, 3D printing and Quantum Computing) will interact to accelerate data flows into developing countries. But so far, Industry 4.0 only focuses on bringing data to urban industrial sectors that are already data intensive – thereby widening digital divides. Digital Divide Institute is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) to promote a local model called E-semeton for bringing Big Data to establish “e-agriculture,” for food security and elasticity of supply and demand.

In the picture above, Ketut Kartika Tanjana and Digital Divide Institute’s Craig Warren Smith, co-authors of the E-semeton model, participate in a launch event for E-semeton in a traditional market in Bali in January 2020. The aim of the project is to enable the right foods to arrive into markets at the right time at the right price. Beyond this, the aim is to build a new genre of microcredit businesses tied to traditional markets to process immunity-promoting foods delivered through ecommerce via cashless bank transactions.  Digital Divide Institute wishes to support a brilliant concept called “Data Cooperatives”  developed by a team from MIT,  led by Prof Alex (Sandy) Pentland in a new book, called Building The New Economy  which furthers a plan to give low-income citizens control over their own data and its monetization.

The approach to bottom-up data management  recognizes that data is the new driver of our era,  and it  could remake data economics altogether,  challenging Big Tech companies to pay for data that they now freely sell on an open market. Digital Divide Institute may conduct test marketing of the data cooperatives concept to the Indonesian Ministry of  Cooperatives, to be integrated into the E-sematon model.


Remake “Universal Services”

Digital Divide Institute has developed a model for reinventing “universal services obligation (USO)” funds, in which developing nations impose a tax on their telecommunications operators worth about $12 billion collectively in 2020. The purpose of USO is to complement commercial investment by enabling telecommunications to meaningfully serve remote and low-income users. In many countries the money is poorly managed, misspent and unspent. In an effort to align universal service spending with the new dynamics of digital economies, Digital Divide Institute was asked by the Republic of Indonesia to develop a model called USO X 8.  It would activate $8 in market-based spending for every $1 spent in USO funds serving lowincome and remote populations. 


Examining Starlink: Musk’s satellite network for the Covid era.

In light of Covid 19, more nations see the urgent need for extending broadband infrastructure to close digital divide, big corporations want to help them. This year the big news is Elon Musk’s Starlink. Its massive network of low-orbiting satellites aim to reduce latency and accelerate internet speeds available to users in remotely located and low-income parts of the developing world. Digital Divide Institute will conduct independent research on Musk’s model and advise developing countries on its role in their broadband ecosystems.