Imagine an Internet ecosystem designed to spur innovation

 

It used to be that in business, bigger was better. Large-scale production required vast resources and a large organization to back it up and make it run. "Over the last 150 years, the primary way to organize economic activity has been through a bureaucratic hierarchy," said Brad Burnham, (PopTech 2012) a managing partner at Union Square Ventures.

As a result, big companies amassed a lot of power. Record companies ruled music. Newspapers had huge control over information. Brick and mortar universities largely monopolized education. That's how it has been for decades.

The Internet changed all that. Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey didn't need much more than a laptop to launch Facebook and Twitter, which are now business behemoths. The power of their products comes from the network of individuals who use those social media tools. "Within that model, you can have a creator and a consumer collaborating together to create economic value," Burnham said. 

Many large companies are threatened by that trend. They attempt to "slow the threat," as Burnham puts it. They sue the upstarts or exercise their significant influence to lobby for regulations to protect their turf. Think about the record industry's response to Napster, for example. While that kind of reaction is understandable, it creates an atmosphere that inevitably stifles some innovation that would otherwise blossom. Those innovations might help solve some of the world's most pressing challenges. 

That's why Burnham is collaborating with Ari Jónsson, (PopTech 2012) rector of Reykjavik University, Iceland’s leading university in technology, business and law. They want to create a laboratory for Internet freedom and innovation in Iceland.

Why Iceland? Iceland is an independent democracy. The economy has grown mostly on the basis of natural resources like geothermal energy and fisheries. Industry based on information technology, however, is relatively new. "What that also means is that there is not a lot of regulation in the way in terms of information technology," Jónsson said. 

In Iceland, universities, industries and political parties are coming together through the Internet Policy Institute. That group will be analyzing issues as diverse as intellectual property and cybersecurity in an effort to establish a Internet business ecosystem that fosters innovation. The idea is to create the ideal policy framework for innovation on the Internet. "We believe that it is one of a number of tools that are critically important to ensuring that the network and the economy that is crated on the Internet has an opportunity to solve these really, really difficult problems," Burnam said.  

 


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