Socioeconomic Implications of Converging Digital and Physical Worlds

Feb 22 2018

Countries need to enhance their industrial policies and consumer protection frameworks to prepare for IoT … National IoT frameworks will also need to incorporate cultural considerations that will impact IoT development.”
                                                                                                   -Internet Society Member, Africa

Internet of Things is putting more and more things on the Internet empowered by ubiquitous connectivity, increasing bandwidth and sensor technology. IoT is not just limited to this extended Internet infrastructure, but as well includes applications and services deriving some useful functions from the connected devices, with future promising AI enabled advanced interaction with connected objects through voice and gesture, and virtual and augmented reality experiences through data generated by IoT.

With this development, we are approaching a state where Internet will be integrated into every walk of our life. This convergence of the physical and digital worlds, as Internet will be used to control much of our objects and environment, will bring many opportunities but would also profoundly impact all sectors of our society and economy, as addressed by The Internet Society 2017 report- Paths to our Digital Future.

  • It may reduce mundane tasks, freeing workers to focus on creative, non-routine aspects of their jobs. But, as convergence gains momentum, every industry faces disruption that may change or even destroy jobs.
  • IoT brings a convergence of ICT and traditional analogue industries such as manufacturing firms, increasing the competition between two, and also evolving the current dynamics of Internet economy.
  • Current landscape of industry-specific regulatory frameworks is not well suited in a changing world in where connectivity blurs the lines between sectors of the economy. The challenge for policymakers and government will be twofold: one, to avoid falling further behind technological change; and two, to avoid disproportionate and potentially harmful regulations in response to evolving security threats.
  • With IoT, there will be risk of mass surveillance, potentially harmful insights by curating and analysing user data, thus profoundly impacting privacy as a result.

While lives may be improved by smart homes and smart cities, IoT is such a disruptive technology that it can impact many walks of human life. Therefore, its effects should be foreseen, and safeguards put in place to check any profound negative impact on economy, privacy, and society.

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