IGF 2018 WS #244 Empowering Society through Internet Innovation


Panel - 90 Min

Organizer 1: Anna Carbone, Politecnico di Torino
Organizer 2: Alessandro Casacchia, Agenzia per l'Italia Digitale
Organizer 3: Elena Baralis, Politecnico di Torino

Speaker 1: Barbara Alicino, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Dirk Helbing , Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Pentland Alex, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Afonso Ferreira, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


The main issues to be discussed at the workshop will be but not limited to:

- Future of Work and the Welfare Society. What policies of Innovation to address complex societal challenges, with a focus on innovative approaches for assessing social impact and financing social investment in the digital era.

- Digital Empowerment. How to develop digital skills and expertise. How our education system should be enabled to provide new curricula in Science (information theory, complexity science, network science, data science, maths,…) and Technology (Internet of Things, Blockchain Technology) to allow the youth generation to tackle the SDG goals

- Society 4.0 (Education 4.0, Finance 4.0, Economy 4.0, Governance 4.0, Labour 4.0, Innovation 4.0, Energy 4.0). How to undertake and put in place a multidimensional set of actions for the sustainable development of our Society

The panel will build upon the results of the previous editions of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the recommendations of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG). It will gather the perspective from discussions ongoing at the National and Regional level.

The above issue is cross-sectorial and intersects many aspects of human life. The discussed themes are relevant to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals overall. However, in particular the organizers and panelists (also thanks to their professionall activities and engagements) will target:

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives and sustainable development. Major progress has been made towards increasing access to education at all levels and increasing enrolment rates in schools particularly for women and girls. Basic literacy skills have improved tremendously, yet bolder efforts are needed to make even greater strides for achieving universal education goals. For example, the world has achieved equality in primary education between girls and boys, but few countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.

Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
Roughly half the world’s population still lives on the equivalent of about US$2 a day. And in too many places, having a job doesn’t guarantee the ability to escape from poverty. This slow and uneven progress requires us to rethink and retool our economic and social policies aimed at eradicating poverty.
A continued lack of decent work opportunities, insufficient investments and under-consumption lead to an erosion of the basic social contract underlying democratic societies: that all must share in progress. . The creation of quality jobs will remain a major challenge for almost all economies well beyond 2015.
Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs that stimulate the economy while not harming the environment. Job opportunities and decent working conditions are also required for the whole working age population.

Session Content: 

Within the framework of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the panel aims to discuss how a multidimensional social innovation is coupled with future internet development, and identify common actions that can contribute addressing current and future societal challenges in the field of human capital development, labour market transformations and natural resources management.
Exponential growth has made the Internet a major economic driver and enabled digital transformation in most sectors of the economy, thus challenging the business models of many traditional sectors. Further innovation will come from the increasingly Bigger Data environments powered by Internet of Things (IOT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The growing importance of the Internet implies that it is no longer just an IT network of connected devices: it is rapidly shaping the economy and our daily lives. This raises fundamental questions. Is the current Internet responding to the needs of the citizens? What transformation the Internet will produce in ten-twenty years from now? What is the role of policy-making in driving the evolution of the Internet? What ground-breaking research we need? Can we leave the innovation in the hands of few or there should be a bottom-up democratic participation to shape the future?
The potential is enormous to assist people, improve their lives and also for the society at large, healthcare and safe transport but also better education, more sustainable food production, security of our society, more resilient financial systems. Both the volume and the complexity of available data increase by leaps and bounds, creating great potential and demand for scientific and technological innovations. In addition to “traditional” data, new forms include unverified spatial data from volunteers, dynamic data from moving sources, streams of remote sensing images, and distributed data from various types of sensors including gadgets monitoring the function of human bodies, high-tech engine monitors, and low-cost, distributed environmental sensors. Of particular interest are spatially referenced data with temporal dependence. The increasing volume, complexity, heterogeneity, uncertainty and interdependence of spatial data are already outrunning current methods of analysis.
Collaboration and openness will be key to achieve the SDG goals, and stakeholder should make sure that these principles are deeply embedded in our work on Internet innovation. Artificial intelligence has to be made available as widely as possible to reap the full benefits of internet. This can be achieved through open access platform, i.e. open ecosystem where AI technologies and applications can develop and spread. But with the increasing level of autonomy of systems and algorithms, there are also increasing concerns. It is essential to make the necessary efforts to understand the Artificial Intelligence revolution, to ensure that it will be respectful of and driven by the core ethical values for the individuals and society.
The ultimate goal of the Digital Transformation will be to contribute to the economic growth, to protect people from poverty and act as economic stabilizer from inequalities. The social investment approach relies on the assumption that social and economic policies are mutually reinforcing and that the former, when framed in a social investment perspective, does represent a precondition for future economic and employment growth.


Barbara Alicino (IBM, Italy) is responsible for Business Development at IBM. She will bring and discuss the perspective of a big firm to the panel. In particular Barbara will bring expertise concerned with the use of citizen platforms, present the WATSON Platform, an IBM supercomputer that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated analytical software for optimal performance as a “question answering” machine. The supercomputer is named for IBM’s founder, Thomas J. Watson.

Afonso Ferreira (IRIT, France) is in charge of European Affairs - Toulouse Institute of Computer Sciences - IRIT and CNRS- France. Afonso Ferreira has held European leadership roles in institutional policy and research. He will bring expertise in the areas of Cybersecurity, Futures, and Policy Making to the panel discussions.

Dirk Helbing (ETHZ, Switzerland) is a Professor of Computational Social Science at, will help to discuss and shed light on digital modeling and simulation of social processes and phenomena; combining perspectives of different scientific disciplines (e.g. socio-physics, social, computer and complexity science). Being engaged in the study of systemic crowd risks, Dirk Helbing will also argue on possible measures of risk reduction related to the panel topics.

Waweru Mwangi, (Kenia, Africa) is the Director of Institute of Computer Science and Information Technology, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya. His contribution will highlight how Kenia education system operates in the creation of the skills needed.

Sandy Pentland (MIT, USA) directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives, and is a founding member of the Advisory Boards for Nissan, Motorola Mobility, Telefonica, and a variety of start-up firms. He has previously helped create and direct MIT’s Media Laboratory, the Media Lab Asia laboratories at the Indian Institutes of Technology, and Strong Hospital’s Center for Future Health. In 2012 Forbes named Sandy one of the `seven most powerful data scientists in the world’, along with Google founders and the CTO of the United States, and in 2013 he won the McKinsey Award from Harvard Business Review. Sandy's research group and entrepreneurship program have spun off more than 30 companies to date, three of which are publicly listed and several that serve millions of poor in Africa and South Asia. Sandy Pentland will contribute to the panel his broad experience of digital innovator and advisor.


Young generation involvement is one of the main targets of the organizers. Elena Baralis and Anna Carbone teach at the Information and Communication Engineering School of the Politecnico di Torino, thus all the potentially interested students will be involved at every stage of the panel preparation. PhD students and young researchers will be involved as well. Diversity is ensured from the viewpoint of gender as both males and females are in charge of the panel organizations, moderation and discussions. From the point of view of the geographical diversity, the panellist belong to different countries (Africa, Europe, USA). Other regions will be covered by involving discussants through the online meeting platforms that we will make available during the different phases of the discussions.

Online Participation: 

Online participation to the panel is a central part of the workshop organization in order to allow all the potentially interested people to participate in the discussion.
Online meeting platforms (e.g. the ones owned by the Politecnico di Torino) and instruments such as "GOTOMeeting" or "SLI.DO" will be put in place to quickly and easily get answers to key questions.

The organizers will advertise the main issues of the panel programme, provide documentation and profiles about each panellist in advance, to enables more targeted and personalized questions from all remotely connected participants.

One of the organizers (Elena Baralis) will act as moderator of the online discussion.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The organizers will work during the months preceding the event at the preparation of the interventions and collect all possible question through preliminary survey. As the organizers are involved in large academic structure, the involvement of the youth will be fostered by initiating discussions and seminars to stimulate the interest towards the event. Publicity will be ensured through our institutional social channel media (Twitter, Facebook). All the preliminary instruction process will lead to the publication of a pamphlet to be distributed through the official IGF website, Twitter channels and during the panel to the purpose of further facilitating the discussions. One of the organizers (Alessandro Casacchia) will act in particular as onsite moderator and facilitate the discussion.

Onsite Moderator: 

Alessandro Casacchia

Online Moderator: 

Elena Baralis


Anna Carbone

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678