Responding To Wannacrypt: The Road Toward A More Reliable Digital Environment

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We’ve never reposted an email before, but upon receiving the below from Brandt Dainow, we decided that because of its simplicity and clarity, it should be passed on uncut.

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From:] On Behalf Of Brandt Dainow
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 13:20
To:
Subject: Re: Wannacrypt and Digital Geneva Convention: should ISOC take a position?

Perhaps the comment wasn’t meant to be insulting, but it is, in my opinion, outrageous to call the average computer user “clueless.”  I have observed such a contemptuous attitude amongst IT professionals towards the non-technical since I began working in IT in the 1970’s.  It is unreasonable to expect the average consumer, or even company, to be technically competent in IT.  We do not expect every company, no matter how small, to be able to maintain their own electricity supply, their cars, their plumbing, etc.  Why should IT professionals expect computing to be different?  If it was just an internal attitude, it would do no harm.  But the reality is this expectation of expertise permeates IT design.  Interfaces are hard for the average user because they come with many expectations from IT professionals, even basic skills like how to visually divide up the screen and identify commonalities in icons are not natural.  There’s nothing “natural” about a mouse, it also takes practice and skill.  The result of this expectation coupled with contempt is that computer systems are needlessly complicated, technical documentation is poor or completely lacking, and IT support costs are too high.  No effort is made to simplify maintenance or use, all effort is focused on building new features, adding complexity, and trying to lock users into proprietary systems, against their own interest.  We build the systems, we design the standards.  If IT systems are too complicated for the average user, it’s not their fault, it’s ours.

The market structure then reinforces this.  Why was Microsoft allowed to cease support for WinXP?  Where do they get the right to dictate to the world what we do with products we have purchased and now own?  Did Microsoft drop XP because it was trying to improve consumer conditions?  No – they did it to force people to buy more products.  If Microsoft desired to cease XP support, why did they prevent an industry of XP support developing by restricting access to the necessary code?  If significant numbers of hospitals and government agencies depend on XP, Microsoft’s commercial selfishness endangered lives.  Why does Microsoft prevent other companies issuing security patches for any version of Windows?  They don’t restrict for the common good of society, they do it to make money, and the rest of society can rot as far as they are concerned.  I completely understand Microsoft’s decision to cease XP support – I used to work in Microsoft support and know what it costs.  But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have licenced it out to others, and there certainly would have been an opportunity to make money doing so.  IP and any other issues could have been easily handled – it happens all the time.  If I had been given the opportunity to start a business running XP patching, with the existing user base out there, I could have obtained millions in start-up funding overnight – such a business is a no-brainer.

We have to stop treating OS’s and other software like optional consumer products and recognise that they are now essential services.  We cannot allow software vendors to do whatever they like – force upgrades, withdraw support, etc.  Free market ideas do NOT have any place here – there is no free market – who is my alternative supplier for Windows?  A free market would have meant people could have shifted to another patch supplier when Microsoft dropped support for XP.  When we will wake up and recognise that we are living under monopoly domination by selfish mega-corps who will act against our interests in order to make more profit?  Companies like Microsoft are simply anti-capitalist.  This pattern has been seen over and over in every new tech industry of the modern ear, going back at least to rail.  The problem is always the same – consolidation into abusive monopolies, and the solution is always the same – government intervention, licencing and regulation.

Regards,

Brandt Dainow

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Global Internet Governance: The Road Ahead

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United Nations General Assembly 2015

United Nations, New York, December 17, 2015 – Yesterday our esteemed colleague, Parminder Jeet Singh of ICT for Change, presented a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on global Internet governance. He began by asking,

The Internet is fundamentally transforming our world. These changes will be no less far-reaching than those of the industrial revolution.

The question then is: is the world today politically more mature, than it was in that distant past, to be able to better guide this transformation towards our common goals?

He then presented a three pronged path for answering this question.

First of all, we must give up the idea of Internet exceptionalism…

Next; the fully justified fear of possible statist abuse of the Internet has to be addressed by putting robust checks and balances into its governance mechanisms…

And thirdly, Madam President, a so-called tension between multilateralism and multistakeholderism must be resolved – through the test of democracy.

See the 5 minute video at http://www.itforchange.net/UNGA_WSIS10 and the full text http://justnetcoalition.org/2015/to_UN_GA.pdf.

Our thanks and congratulations go to Mr. Singh.

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On Becoming An NGO

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New York, September 10, 2015 – In early 2014 we applied to the United Nations requesting that we be granted Special Consultative Status. A tad over a year later, on April 20, 2015, we received a message from the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations saying “your organization’s application for consultative status by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will take place during its 2015 Resumed Session in New York, scheduled for 26 May – 3 June 2015.”

UN Resumed Session May 2015The email went on to say “Your presence is not mandatory and will not in any way affect the consideration of your application” and that “given the large volume of new and deferred applications for the Committee’s consideration, it is not possible to determine the exact date at which your application will be reviewed during the session.”

Despite the indefinite review date, we thought that, being located in New York, I’d attend the meeting in the hope that I might be available to contribute to the review process. Minimally I’d get to spend a day at the UN which always inspires me. So I wrote the NGO Committee that I’d be there for the afternoon session on May 28.

Everything worked out well that day and we’re now an NGO. But a friend thought the story of my experience on the 28th was amusing and suggested I share it. Here goes.

At about noon on the 28th, as I was preparing to depart for the UN, an email arrived from the NGO Committee inquiring about the response we’d submitted to question #11, which asked if Connecting.nyc Inc. was an international organization. I responded with some clarifying detail and headed out to the UN.

At the UN I found the Committee meeting in Conference Room 4, a very impressive room (pictured above). Near the entrance I found an official and explained my situation. She checked her computer and noted that my response to question #11 had already made its way through the review process and was available for the members for consideration. I asked if there was  anything further I could do to aide my application. She asked if I would be available for the Q&A which began at 5 PM. Not clear what that was, but eager to please, I said sure. She concluded with “5 PM no earlier.”

There was another meeting nearby that interested me and I left Conference Room 4 for about 1/2 an hour. Returning at 20 of 5, I took a seat at the rear. Seconds after settling into my seat the chair, speaking Spanish, said something that seemed to conclude with “Connecting.nyc.” Startled, I slowly stood, tried to imagine what he might have said, and listened intently a few seconds later when he repeated the statement that clearly included “Connecting.nyc.”

Unclear as to what to do, I looked around for guidance. The woman at the entry desk motioned to say “Yes it is related to you” and urged me to move toward a desk closer to the front. As I approached that desk the fellow there waved me on, to continue toward the front. Looking ahead I saw yet another desk just to the right of the dais, and felt sure my answer would be found there. But as I reached it the two occupants waved me forward. With no desks ahead I stood motionless. Then a woman just on the dais whispered that I was to “sit there” and motioned to the rightmost chair near her.

So within 30 seconds of hearing “Connecting.nyc” I found myself seated on the dais and wondering what was next.

Shortly the chair stated, in English, that I had 10 minutes to address the Committee’s 19 members. With nothing prepared I conjured an impromptu brief about our history and goals, and clarified our botched response to question #11. Q&A followed with the representative form Nicaragua asking how we expected to deliver our services to the member states. I indicated that our web presence would be primary, but that we hoped to reach nation states and their cities through our special consultative status. I then awaited another question. A few seconds passed and the chair said “Any more questions?” Receiving no response he nodded for me to leave.

As I rose and turned to depart the woman who had directed me to my seat said “Congratulations”. I must have looked perplexed, and she followed with “You’ve been approved.” And indeed, the Committee had recommended granting special consultative status to the organization. (Several weeks later Economic and Social Council formalized the approval.)

As I walked back to my seat in the rear I was stopped by two others who offered their congratulations and I began to realize what a remarkable few minutes I’d spent in good old Conference Room 4.

A few months later we received official confirmation of our acceptance as an NGO with special consultative status.

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