The history of the Internet is a debated subject, but what we do know for sure is that the US National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the establishment for national supercomputing centers at several universities and provided interconnectivity in 1986 with the NSFNET project. This was the beginning of the Internet as we know it today.
That said, why, then, is 1993 an even more important year in the history of the Internet?
On April 30, the directors at the CERN laboratories in Switzerland, one of Europe’s largest research facilities, made a statement that would change the world. They declared that the WWW technology created by Tim Berners Lee three years earlier would be made freely available to everyone; no fees or licences required. It was a stunning and visionary announcement, very much in line with the decisions of other Internet pioneers.
As the worldwide web grew from those early days, we started to understand the implications of access to, or lack of access to, the net. Even back in mid to late 90s, there were significant forums arguing the case for universal access. Some even went as far as suggesting access to the powerful information and communication features of the Internet should be a basic human right: the right to communicate.
That gave birth to the term Information Superhighway, coined by Vice President Al Gore in a 1994 speech describing the future of computers accessing and communicating over a worldwide network.
Today, that superhighway is alive, thriving and flowing faster than ever.
According to some findings, in 1998 there were 50 million Internet users; eleven years later that figure had climbed to 1 billion worldwide. Today, more than 3 billion people – a little over 40 percent of the world’s population – have an Internet connection.
Furthermore, in a 2014 BBC report quoting IBM, 2.5 exabytes (2.5 billion gigabytes) of data were generated every day in 2012.
Staggering numbers, but who owns these data? As we’ve written in the past, ownership can be a legal minefield because much depends on who hosts the data and the jurisdiction where they are stored. Unfortunately, digital property laws have not kept pace with technological change so, inevitably, much of the data traveling along the Information Highway will be lost.
This can be prevented, however, if people realise the value of their data – be it financial or sentimental – and take a proactive approach to ensure it is well protected.