Guest writer
Estimated reading time 4 min

Creating an internet of humans

Year of the world wide web’s 30th birthday also marks a turning point for the internet, writes the head of the Next Generation Internet Outreach Office Monique Calisti.


Monique Calisti

CEO, Martel Innovate


It’s a momentous year for the web, which just celebrated its 30th birthday. The anniversary of Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposing a unifying structure for linking information across different computers at CERN in Switzerland, has been widely celebrated. And this celebration marks a moment to take stock and reflect on what we want the next 30 years of the internet to look like.

Back in 1998 when Berners-Lee changed history, I was also at CERN. Although I was only a visiting high-school student at the time, it was an inspiring and memorable event for a rather nerdish teenager and a turning point in my life. That trip to Geneva set me on a path for my professional future: one where I’d go on to become an electrical engineer first, then a researcher who gained two PhDs. First at work to discover how transmission of data could be optimised across this intriguing internet world, at the University of Bologna, Italy. Then trying to find a way to decentralise the logic for governing allocation of resources in the interconnected digital world through artificial intelligence, at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Fast forward some 20 years and I’m still fully immersed in a fascinating research and technology-driven journey, at work with my team at Martel Innovate all committed to an important mission: making innovation happen. Innovation that aims at restructuring and transforming what the internet has become in these 30 years into a better place, a place that is open, secure and inclusive.

This is the reason why I feel privileged that an important part of my work as CEO of Martel involves heading up the Next Generation Internet (NGI) Outreach Office, in charge of strengthening the growth of the community of researchers and innovators at work to shape and build the internet of tomorrow. Martel has helped the European Commission bootstrapping the whole NGI initiative, which was launched in 2016 with the ambition to create an Internet of Humans. The vision is of an ecosystem where advanced ideas, technologies and solutions, but most of all people can coordinate, network and liaise to maximise the impact of digital transformation for the good of our society.

“We need committed players working in innovative internet technologies and research.”

We cannot build it alone, though. There is collective intelligence in Europe around a new civic way of looking at the internet. This is what the NGI wants to exploit: gathering committed players working in innovative internet technologies and research as well as getting concerned citizens, public authorities and policymakers on board to grow this initiative. In this spirit, about two years ago we started the NGI Forum, conceived as an event providing opportunities to share knowledge with leading experts from a variety of disciplines, including privacy and trust, decentralised data governance, discovery and identification, blockchains, artificial intelligence, and more.

In 2019, the NGI Forum goes to Finland, where will gather the community in Helsinki on the 25th of September. The programme (not yet finalised) will include a mix of specialist talks, open discussions and interactive working groups. The emphasis is on stimulating discussion and the free exchange of ideas between researchers, SMEs and Start-ups, industry players, policy makers, and civil society.

This year is also Finland’s turn to host the EU Council Presidency from July, making it the ideal opportunity to present the NGI in a country with a strong tradition of technology and innovation at the service of the good of society. The NGI Forum will be co-located with the MyData conference, where Sitra is a partner. Both MyData and Sitra have obvious synergies with the NGI initiative: focusing on the human-centred data economy and fostering technology innovation that benefits citizens.

Therefore, we at the Next Generation Internet (NGI) urge you join the initiative, and also to come and meet us in Helsinki. We are a growing movement of European and global innovators building the internet of tomorrow with humans at the centre. Join us by signing up to our mailing list, participating in our open calls, adding your organisation to the NGI Map and following us on social media. And, save the date! 25 September, Helsinki at Wanha Satama. Registration is free and will open in May 2019.


Sitra’s guest blogs give a voice to the players of the future in different fields. They do not (necessarily) directly link to Sitra’s work or agenda, but are the authors’ thoughts on current issues that relate to the themes Sitra is passioned about.

This blog connects to Sitra’s IHAN project that aims to build the foundation for a fair and functioning data economy. 


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