Marconi Society Names Four 2017 Paul Baran Young Scholars

Cutting edge researchers drive significant advances in machine learning, wireless communications, and network localization and navigation

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, September 12, 2017 – The Marconi Society, dedicated to furthering scientific achievements in communications and the Internet, has named four 2017 Paul Baran Young Scholars, honoring them for their outstanding research and academic performance. The four will receive their awards at the Society’s annual awards ceremony in Summit, NJ on October 3, 2017.


Wenhan Dai 2017 Marconi Young ScholarWenhan Dai, a Chinese native who is a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was selected for his work on network localization and navigation (NLN). Dai’s research enables services that touch the lives of many people each day through applications ranging from conveniences like finding an open restaurant nearby to mission-critical search and rescue operations. By solving a challenging problem in localization and navigation – how to prioritize different nodes and measurement links for maximum resource efficiency – Dai’s innovations significantly improve localization and navigation performance, doubling the network lifetime.

“In fact, Wenhan has gone beyond theory by implementing his solution in a real system, and he has demonstrated that node prioritization can significantly improve the efficiency of a localization network,” says Dr. Santiago Mazuelas of Qualcomm Technologies.


Negar ReiskarimianNegar Reiskarimian, an Iranian native who is a fourth-year PhD student at Columbia University, was selected for her work on non-reciprocal microwave components for new wireless communication paradigms. Her research has focused on the fundamental physical principles and the engineering applications of breaking Lorentz Reciprocity, which allows signals to be routed in new ways, enabling new wireless communication applications. Her advisor, Associate Professor Harish Krishnaswamy, calls it “the highest-impact research that I have had the privilege of participating in throughout my career.” The work has garnered nearly $4.5M of research funding from NSF, DARPA and through industrial funding from Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

A paper on the physical principles behind Reiskarimian’s work was published in Nature Communications, and a full-duplex receiver using her circulator was reported on at IEEE ISSCC 2016 followed by publication in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.


2017 Young Scholar Shu SunNYU PhD candidate Shu Sun, also a native of China, was selected for research that focuses on making the case for the viability of 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) communications as the next generation of high capacity wireless communications promising broadband access to people around the world, regardless of location. She was the lead student author of the 2013 seminal paper in the field, based on an analysis of NYU’s massive data sets, called “Millimeter Wave for 5G Cellular: It Will Work.” Sun has also led the 3GPP global standards body to adopt her optional close-in free space model, and developed the world’s first open source channel modeling software, NYUSIM, which accurately recreates difficult-to-take field measurements on a computer and is relied upon by over 8,000 engineers worldwide to understand radio propagation.

“The ability to influence and change the minds of others who are ‘set in their ways’ or bound to legacy thinking is the hallmark of an entrepreneur. Shu Sun has demonstrated her ability to change minds and lead the world to completely new approaches that were once thought impossible or untenable,” said Theodore Rappaport, NYU WIRELESS Founding Director and David Lee / Ernst Weber Professor at NYU, as well as Sun’s PhD advisor and nominator for the award. “Were it not for her intellect and tenacity to attend conferences, work with industry leaders, and continually urge consideration for what she knew and that others had not yet come to accept, we probably would not now be talking about 5G millimeter wave wireless communications.”


2017 Young Scholar Ananda Theertha SureshIndian native Ananda Theertha Suresh, a Google research scientist, was selected for his research focusing on understanding efficient ways to use information, data and communication. As the first in his family to attend college, Suresh’s goal is to deeply understand the fundamental limits of what is possible in data science so that he can develop a set of tools that will make an impact on people who have access to only limited resources.

While a PhD candidate at UC San Diego, he demonstrated why Good-Turing frequency estimation works well and developed improvements to the technique, creating an estimator that works across fields ranging from genetics to ecology to language modeling. At Google Research, his work helps provide sophisticated communications capabilities and applications to people with low bandwidth Internet connections and low-end devices.

According to Dr. Michael D. Riley, Principal Research Scientist and Manager at Google Research, “Ananda’s research has already led to algorithms that give better compression for a given decompression time budget than we have previously used and this work is now used by millions of people within speech and keyboard input applications in Google products.”


Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies, and receive a $4000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. This year’s Young Scholars will be honored at the same event where former Bell Labs chief Arun Netravali, regarded as the “father of digital video,” will receive the $100,000 Marconi Prize, and Stanford Professor Thomas Kailath will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Media Contact:

Hatti Hamlin

About the Marconi Society

Established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio, the Marconi Society promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize and Young Scholar Awards. More information may be found at www.marconisociety.orgSubscribe. Follow: Twitter and Facebook


5G For All: Busting Myths With Measurement

By Paula Reinman

Co-authored by George MacCartney, Jr.

Are you waiting impatiently to get that amazing virtual reality experience in your living room, or chomping at the bit to have high-speed internet at your rural farm, or planning to stream 4K TV on the go? What you probably don’t know is that these exciting new applications begin on sweltering rooftops in New York City and the rural hills of Riner, Virginia, where people like George R. MacCartney, Jr, 2016 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar, investigate how millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequencies will work in these environments to ensure that 5G wireless delivers on its promise for an enormous increase in bandwidth and data rates.

Let’s start with a bit of history. Just over a year ago, the FCC voted unanimously to make new portions of radio spectrum available for 5G wireless services. This made the US the first country to set aside more than 28 GHz of spectrum for 5G wireless communications and networks and triggered a global race by companies and countries to be “the first” to deliver 5G to their customers. Around the same time, the Marconi Society announced the 2016 Paul Baran Young Scholars, including George R. MacCartney, Jr., a PhD student at NYU specializing in mmWave propagation measurements and models showing that mmWave can work in various environments and scenarios. MacCartney and his groundbreaking work with NYU WIRELESS are helping to bring 5G closer to reality each day.

While media and communications companies tout 5G as a panacea for bandwidth-hungry applications such as streaming, artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), it can also be the game changer that eliminates the rural broadband gap in the US for 23.4 million Americans who live outside urban areas and who are currently denied the educational and economic opportunities of having readily available broadband.

With such big aspirations riding on a still-developing technology, it’s helpful to understand the current state of 5G and how MacCartney sees the evolution.

What’s the Problem?

The beauty of 5G and mmWave bands is that they offer huge amounts of wireless bandwidth, making them an open playground for applications and business models accessible through a wireless network. This is what makes it a potential delivery mechanism for people who are currently off the grid in both developed and emerging countries, where digging fiber lines and building extensive infrastructure is not an easy or affordable option. The massive bandwidths at mmWave also provide wireless backhaul options from remote stations.

Ultra-high frequencies behave differently than lower microwave frequencies used in our current wireless networks. As frequency increases, wavelength decreases and the resulting signal strength is much weaker in the first meter of propagation compared to traditional cellular bands. This fact has led to the myth that mmWave frequencies are not viable for long-range wireless compared to traditional cellular bands. However, aside from the additional loss in the first meter of propagation, mmWave signals attenuate as a function of distance in a very similar manner to cellular frequencies. Additionally, for transmit and receive antennas that remain the same physical size as frequency is scaled up, the gain of each antenna increases by the square of the increase in frequency such that the path loss in free space in the first meter reduces by the square of the increase in frequency. This means that if you can build highly directional antennas, then mmWave can result in stronger signals than today’s omnidirectional cellular.

Measurements by MacCartney and his colleagues at NYU WIRELESS have helped to dispel the myth and have shown that even with low transmit power (less than one watt) and using high-gain directional antennas, mmWave wireless links can be made at distances as far as 200 meters in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) or obstructed conditions in urban microcell (UMi) environments like Manhattan and Brooklyn, and out to distances of more than 10 km in rural areas. Many in academia and industry believe that the additional loss in the first meter can be easily overcome, even in inclement weather, by using high-gain electrically-steerable phased array antennas – especially since many antenna elements can be packed into a small-form factor when operating at mmWave frequencies. The 200 m range in urban environments is also quite conservative given the lower transmit power and the fact that antenna combining and signal processing techniques will be used in future systems to increase range and link margin.

There are still issues to overcome in terms of blockage at mmWave frequencies, due to pedestrians, cars, and buses, that cause rapid degradation in signal strength . MacCartney has also worked on developing models for characterizing blockage events and will present his recent findings at GLOBECOM 2017. Additionally, MacCartney’s recent work has focused on the use of multiple base stations in an urban small-cell scenario to study how base station diversity can be used to mitigate blockage events and to avoid outages via rapid re-routing, handoff applications, and sectored beam-switching.

Why Do Measurements Matter?

One of MacCartney’s unique contributions to developing 5G is taking real-world measurements with a system called a channel sounder. A lot of researchers don’t take real-world measurements when developing models or systems – they rely on software simulations, which are purely theoretical or calibrated from a few measurements at mmWave or from traditional cellular bands. This is problematic because we do not yet know how mmWave frequencies will interact in dense urban or even rural environments. Simulations are not always realistic, but real-world experiments give insights into the true nature of these frequencies and reveal observations that one might not expect, such as the strong reflective nature of mmWaves off of buildings and their interactions with metallic lamp posts and street signs.

Propagation measurements are difficult and time-consuming but have great merit. “I am passionate about looking at measurements as an asset, rather than as something that is too difficult to do,” says MacCartney. “You don’t understand the channel and the environment until you have measured it yourself.”

First-hand measurements are done mainly in Europe and Asia and much less frequently in the US, mainly because the US funds much less communications research than Europe and Asia do. One of the assets of NYU WIRELESS, however, is the strong support from their 18 Industrial Affiliates and the tireless efforts of professors to generate support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Furthermore, taking measurements can be difficult: they are done outside, sometimes in extreme heat or cold. They can take a long time – researchers have to take measurements over many weeks to months and in a plethora of environments and scenarios to collect terabytes of data. Since high-gain narrowbeam antennas are needed for mmWave measurements, many systems implement mechanically steerable horn antennas at the transmitter and receiver, where snapshots of the channel must be taken over a multitude of antenna pointing combinations. This can take considerable time and effort for individual transmitter and receiver combinations. Phased-array technologies are not particularly mature yet at mmWave frequencies for accurate and simple measurements. However, technology and systems are improving, including a promising channel sounder system from AT&T, yet such systems are extremely expensive, difficult to calibrate, and can take years to perfect.

How will 5G Show Up for Users?

Given the media hype around 5G, it is sometimes difficult to remember that we are very early in the technology’s lifecycle. While some carriers claim to be offering the first 5G connections, these are really advancements of the LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network in the quest to improve capacity and speed. For initial 5G deployments at mmWave, we should expect to first see fixed wireless access as a fiber replacement for ultra-broadband connectivity to the home. For 5G mobile access at mmWave, it is likely that we will first see a rollout of connectivity to tablets or devices larger than a mobile phone, similar to the initial rollout of 4G which included mobile hotspots and dongles.

The Olympics traditionally showcase new mobile and wireless technologies. Anticipate seeing 5G and mmWave on display at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and then even more visibly at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Perhaps mmWave and 5G technologies will be useful for solving connectivity issues like those experienced at a recent Pokemon Go event in Chicago where a densely populated crowd of participants experienced outage and performance issues on most wireless carriers.

Initial applications on the business side will likely increase productivity and make sophisticated services more accessible. Some of the most promising applications include:

  • Healthcare using ultra-reliable and high speed 5G networks for telemedicine, supporting breakthroughs such as remote surgery via robotics
  • Machine to machine (M2M) communications for manufacturing, an environment where machines need very low latency wireless networks to perform their tasks and cannot tolerate any break in coverage
  • High-density environments with extreme traffic that support high-bandwidth applications, such as omni-view, 360 video, and hologram live applications, such as those predicted for Olympic viewers to experience events live while not necessarily physically at the event.

It is likely that initial consumer applications will focus on AR and VR gaming and entertainment experiences.

Just like the Internet, no one knows what the killer applications and business models will be for 5G. In major social impact areas, such as providing broadband coverage for everyone, technology is the easiest thing to solve. Business models and regulation – not technology – will be the gating factors in making broadband truly available for consumers around the world.

“I wanted to work on wireless because it’s still the relatively early days compared to other technological revolutions that have been around for many decades and even centuries, and I believe we are due for an impactful evolution of wireless. Being selected as a Paul Baran Young Scholar has helped me in my work by allowing me to meet and network with other bright and talented Young Scholars and to learn about them, their research, and their passions. It has also given me the opportunity to meet and interact with pioneers and distinguished scholars and engineers in the field of communications, networks, and the Internet,” says MacCartney.

Despite the current vagaries of business models and regulation, we can rest assured that the technology will eventually work based on measurements that are taken by intrepid researchers like MacCartney.

Securing Blockchain and The Applications of the Future

By Paula Reinman
Coauthored by Salman Baset

From the first work conducted by Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in 1991 to its entry into the popular lexicon in 2014, blockchain has grown into a young distributed database technology that has the potential to secure and improve transactions from medical records to food delivery to our own personal identity.

As is the case with many new, life-changing technologies, a Marconi Society Young Scholar has a leadership role in defining and applying the new rules. Salman Baset, CTO Security for IBM Blockchain Solutions, was recognized as a Young Scholar in 2008 and has been doing amazing work ever since.

Salman talked with me about blockchain and its potential impact, his focus from a security perspective and how he came to this unique position.

For a technical description of blockchain and its history, click on the Wikipedia definition.


Since blockchain is a relatively new concept, let’s start with an overview of who’s using it and why.

SB: Simply put, blockchain is a way to record transactions in a digital ledger. Just as the Internet lets people communicate, blockchain is a peer-to-peer network, sitting on top of the Internet, that lets individuals or organizations to conduct transactions in areas ranging from safe food delivery to global trade and finance to healthcare.

The major applications right now are in cryptocurrencies and in transactions between mutually distrusting parties. To understand the latter, consider this food safety example.

The food industry is concerned with quickly and precisely identifying the sources of foodborne illnesses for effective recalls and to tackle the cost of food waste. Food waste and inefficient recalls cost hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Between the time a crop is harvested by a farmer to the time it ends up at a retailer, several parties including local brokers, truckers, shippers and custom officials have been involved . One would think that it is simply a matter of digitizing the entire food supply chain and making it public. While digitization is needed, making the entire supply chain public has implications for the business models in food delivery all over the world. For example, a farmer may be targeted by criminals if they learned about a bumper food harvest. So how do we collect the information needed for effective food recalls without making the entire supply chain public?

That’s where the blockchain comes in picture. Blockchain uses a shared ledger so that all parties (farmers, local brokers, shippers, truckers) involved in this transaction can interact. It lets parties agree on key transfers and changes in ownership as a crop travels from a farm to a retailer. It establishes trust between mutually distrusting parties, minimizes or eliminates disputes and provides visibility into supply chains. All information is kept on a permissioned ledger that only relevant parties can access.

We must recognize, though, that we are in the very early days of blockchain. While IBM Research has done fundamental work in blockchain consensus protocols and, of course, in crypto algorithms, IBM became involved in the space in 2015 with the establishment of the Hyperledger project under the Linux Foundation, creating prototypes in 2016, and implementing full-blown blockchain solutions this year. The solutions and applications may look much different in five to ten years.


Coming back to your mention of cryptocurrencies as an early blockchain application, are bitcoin and blockchain synonomous?

SB: They are not the same thing. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that can be implemented using blockchain. There are a couple of key areas where bitcoin is different from blockchain.

Bitcoin uses a public blockchain. This means that bitcoin is an open and non-permissioned network, accessible to anyone who has bitcoin or wants to participate in bitcoin payments. Blockchain networks can be public or permissioned – permissioned blockchains are limited to a set of participants mimicking business relationships and thus only available to those participating in specific transactions.

Also, bitcoin shares only information about bitcoin transactions, whereas blockchain applications can share all kinds of information, including goods bought, sold and moved and financial transactions initiated, completed and cleared.


Although blockchains are secure by design, I know there are a lot of potential security concerns. What do you focus on as CTO Security for an organization serving some of IBM’s largest customers?

SB: I concentrate on security from a blockchain, as well as a non-blockchain, perspective. By design, blockchain creates a shared and permanent record of transactions across involved parties. Thus, it is not expected that one would store sensitive information such as social security numbers or personally identifiable information (PII) on the blockchain. At the same time, information such as change in ownership or consent to information can potentially be recorded on blockchain. I spend a lot of time with customers and prospects to understand how they plan to use blockchain, make them aware of the potential security and data privacy issues in permissioned or public blockchains, and developing the governance of permissioned blockchains. I am also developing security best practices focused on the concerns that are unique to blockchain.


What about your background that made you the right fit for this job?

SB: Prior to this, I was in IBM Research focusing on security and performance issues in cloud. On the security side, my work included developing a novel language for validating application configurations to meet security and compliance needs (part of IBM Vulnerability Advisor service), identifying potentially vulnerable libraries in mobile applications without access to source code, being security architect of first generation IBM Container Cloud service, and building a patch management for IBM Enterprise Cloud. On the performance side, I led a consortium of cloud, hardware and software companies in Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) in a multi-year effort to develop a first industry standard cloud benchmark for measuring cloud scalability and elasticity. My background in building peer-to-peer communications systems, including my dissertation work, and cloud systems for research and production with a focus on security led IBM to ask me to take on my current position of leading security for blockchain solutions that we build for our biggest customers.


As an underlying technology, blockchain can potentially impact many aspects of our lives. What are some of the key developments that you are watching?

SB: There are a number of very interesting implications of the technology.

  • Digital identity: 1.1B people live without an officially recognized identity.   One of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development goals is to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration since many children in emerging countries have no official identification until they get their first vaccination. In developed countries, sharing identity information in a privacy-preserving way is of key concern. I represent IBM in external efforts to coalesce around an industry point of view on identity.
  • Smart Contracts: Blockchain allows organizations to write smart contracts, which will replace today’s paper-based contracts. Machines will execute these new contracts. These smart contracts need to be written correctly and executed flawlessly. The flawless execution is important to avoid potential double spending problem, where an account may potentially be debited twice for the same payment. Designing provably correct smart contracts and executing them across a wide-range of industries will likely be a major area of research and development in the coming years.
  • Governance: We need policies and governance structure to clarify who operates blockchain – especially permissioned blockchain – and what happens when something goes wrong. For example, a farmer may not be expected to have a computing infrastructure for maintaining a distributed ledger, but a large retailer will likely want to have such infrastructure. How does a farmer post his or her crop data on blockchain, potentially through intermediaries, to enable retailers for potential recalls? Similarly, how can banks participating in a blockchain network for financial transactions deploy and test a smart contract when it goes into production? And what happens when the smart contract does not behave correctly?

While we do not know what tomorrow’s blockchain applications and solutions will look like, we think it’s a pretty good bet that Salman Baset will have influenced those outcomes on a global level.


To learn more about blockchain:

The Truth About Blockchain, Harvard Business Review, January, 2017

What is Blockchain and Why is it Growing in Popularity, Ars Technica, November 16, 2016

Blockchain: The Invisible Technology That’s Changing the World, PC Magazine, February 6, 2017

The Internet’s Next Frontier: Getting Better at Getting Better Together

By Paula Reinman
Coauthored by Mei Lin Fung

Mei Lin Fung’s work is defined by her heritage, starting with her great-great grandfather who escaped famine in China by accepting indentured servitude in return for his passage British Guyana in South America. A self-made man who invested in education, he sent his grandson, Mei Lin’s grandfather Samuel, to study law in London. Samuel Fung became a respected member of the community in Singapore in World War II until he was unjustly “fingered” as an enemy collaborator and, in his innocent belief in the rule of law, bicycled to a scheduled appointment and was never seen again. Her mother was the first local woman to become a Medical Social Worker and spoke about how sad and silly it was to send hospital patients back to the very conditions that made them sick in the first place.

This family background gave Mei Lin her vision for the future and her passion for ensuring that the institutions around us earn our trust and keep that trust with by putting humanity first.

Mei Lin focuses on ensuring that the Internet, potentially the most disruptive tool since the printing press, is used to empower, enlighten and uplift people around the world.

Humanity faces a fork in the road and Mei Lin, along with Marconi Society Chair and Fellow Vint Cerf, are working together to achieve a People Centered Internet (PCI) where each human being can harness the Internet to realize her or his potential so that all have the opportunity to “Connect to Thrive.”

Mei Lin was gracious enough to some questions about her work at PCI and beyond.

Q.  There are lots of digital inclusion projects out there. How is PCI different and additive?

A.  When we think about digital inclusion, many of us think about putting the power of technology – the ability to learn, to connect with others and to contribute from wherever we are – into the hands of the half of the world that currently has no access. Those may be people in rural or developing areas that have no service, they may be people who cannot afford access or people who, based on their ethnicity, gender, income or other demographics have few or no opportunities for technical education.

Many digital inclusion projects are doing tremendous work in specific countries and in one or more focus areas. A few of the more broadly based are Alliance for an Affordable Internet (A4AI), the World Economic Forum Internet for All (I4A) initiative, the Internet Society and the IEEE Internet Initiative.

PCI is not a digital inclusion project. We weave into the waves of change the essential need to use the Internet to strengthen the human fabric. As we who have benefited know, the Internet can be a force for good. But only if we relate it to the aspirations, imaginations, cultures, hopes and dreams of people who may be very different from us. If we are to have an Internet of the people, by the people and for the people, that Internet must also provide pathways for ordinary people to be involved in substantive ways to shape the future Internet.

PCI’s Model for Keeping the Focus on People

Traditional approaches to working together in a network to achieve goals beyond individual and institutional agendas are faltering and being re-thought in the age of the Internet. PCI asks policy makers and technologists: How can we harness the Internet to track pipelines of Internet projects so funding delivers real outcomes?

A.  How does PCI envision the coordination of effort and funding so that people can connect to thrive?

A.  Culture takes years to change – institutions are resistant to new ideas. The Federal Health Futures Group, which I was part of and which spawned PCI, drew leaders spanning public and private boundaries. They recognized a unique opportunity to use connectivity to improve health and thriving by finding new ways to harness the emerging community networks. Looking out to 2045, they saw shared common aspirations and wondered how to achieve them.

The Federal Health Futures built on the learnings of the US Air Force Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop: Fast flying aircraft require adaptive response to the environment and the decisions and actions of other aircraft in the air, whether friend or foe. By using this feedback loop repeatedly, multiple participants could coordinate to get closer to goal.

Within a network where information is routed at the speed of light, where more information than one human brain can process arrives, where effective decisions with long-term implications must consider hundreds or even thousands of factors, only technology can handle the processing and relevant and timely presentation to people, so they can decide and act in service to higher goals.

A key outcome of the Federal Health Futures initiative is a strategic, operational and tactical feedback loop that coordinates action and information together in a network. The Triple Feedback Loop offers a compass by aligning the information flows in a framework for operating a network of disparate players with different goals who work together on an overarching goal. Dr. Douglas Engelbart is known for inventing the computer mouse. His greater insight was the concept of Networked Improvement Communities, where coordination and collaboration do not require knowledge by everyone of everything all the time. Overlapping interoperating actions, processes and strategies can be coordinated where multiple independently operating players are involved concurrently. This network sets up the best conditions for human insight and judgment to be developed, asserted, tested and validated.












The design and ongoing oversight of complex systems requires human judgment to assure that the technology serves the humans and is not hijacked by players with aims which would sacrifice the whole of humanity to achieve shorter term, individual or tribal objectives like power, influence and wealth.

Q.  How are you approaching this problem? What are your key strategies and top priorities?

A.  We must learn to get better at getting better together. Our institutions have grown in a “top down” world that has developed over millennia. When things go wrong, we instinctively look to an authority figure to tell us what to do. When we try to collaborate, someone often steps up and says, “let’s do it my way.” Network capability exists now but in general, we do not yet know how to take advantage of it. After reading and writing were invented it took centuries before universal education became a priority. Breakthroughs can emerge from the most unlikely places. Internet inclusion can unleash new frontiers of innovation by teams of unlikely people.

PCI’s strategy is for people to work in learning networks of communities where people learn from others to improve their own communities. Breakthroughs by any one community or team or person can spread rapidly across the network and be adapted to the local situation, by local people who then contribute back their learnings.

It is a very different way to work and interact – we leap off the 2-dimensional hierarchy and take advantage of the power of a network to track, to learn and build capability. We must develop trust and learn to listen and think adaptively. We can set goals as a network and work together as a network to realize them. We can learn faster.

In the Federal Health Futures initiative, we realized that the power of networks was the most effective for getting better health at lower costs. Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Undersecretary for Heath Affairs at the US Dept. of Defense, convened a multi-stakeholder summit over two days with federal health leaders, jointly with his counterpart Dr. Howard Koh at the Dept. of Health and Human Services in September, 2012. We examined what was stopping progress and where breakthroughs had occurred. Both Dr. Woodson and Dr. Koh said that this came down to leadership.

Interagency Leadership Competency Inventory

We needed new competencies for leaders operating in a networked world. Our discussions surfaced 163 leadership behaviors that were not currently recognized as needed, and were not being learned or actively practiced amongst federal health leaders. These were distilled into the diagram of 13 competencies above.

Our priority at PCI is to connect digital inclusion projects within networks of improvement communities so we can achieve our overarching goals together, and to use our technological tools to augment our human capabilities to work together better.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide the set of overarching goals approved by over 190 countries. Coordinating and collaborating to achieve these provides clear direction to technology companies, digital inclusion proponents, actors and change agents to look for shared Sustainable Development Goals in common.

Q.  What can readers can do now to help solve the problem of digital inclusion in a people-centered way?

A.  The original Olympics in Greece brought the best athletes together for the few months of training and preparation before the finals were run. For many it was the first time that they had been out of their village or met others from far away. It was intended as a move towards a more peaceful Greece to offer other competitions that did not involve war to be a winner.

When they returned the Olympians became the leaders in their community – the first who had experience interaction with those far away, that had travelled further than any other in the village.

We are now at the digital frontier.  Marconi Society Fellows, Young Scholars and supporters, like members of other science and technology associations, are leaders in a position to help the communities they are part of to improve the lives of others in their communities and to inspire the young people to take advantage of the opportunities in the digital frontier. We must also help protect our communities from the dangers and risks of being on this new frontier.

  • Consider digital inclusion in your own life. Look at what you are doing today and consider whether the human systems you are part of – at work, at home and at play – are operating in a networked way that can take advantage of digital tools to improve our lives and the lives of the vulnerable and underserved. Use the insights you, as leaders in our networked world, gain to steward your community as the people you care about move into the digital frontier. Look for ways to expand opportunities for your community by connecting networks who could discover synergy from joint activities.
  • Push for more people-centered approaches. Think about the risks and dangers of digital technology and the Internet and, in your own sphere of influence. drive for more resilient communities and organizations that operate in a people-centered manner.

The power of digital technologies can be used for good and for bad. We can harness technology to benefit humanity, or passively watch technology spreading like wildfire. It will take all of us to work to assure digital inclusion provides opportunity for all, and to minimize the risks to all by setting up the new institutions and oversights that will be needed. To do this, we have to get better at working with each other.

Learn more about people-centric concepts and the People Centered Internet:

New York Times – How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It

Devex – Vint Cerf: Google’s internet evangelist on the next steps in connectivity

The Economist – The Dawn of Artificial Intelligence

Stanford Engineering and Computer Science – The Internet: Bringing people together virtually or pushing them away physically?