Each of our subtopic guidelines below contains a few questions. Applicants may refer to those questions when composing the essay. Yet complete responses to those questions will not be required. Different perspectives concerning to the subtopic theme is welcomed.
What is the Catch Catching at Web?
The Internet has dramatically changed human lifestyles and societies, greatly altering the transmission of information in the past two decades. The term “Information Revolution” highlights not only the importance of information but also the Internet through which the information may efficiently spread. In the 21st century, Internet-based software and hardware such as cloud computing, tablet PCs, and smart phones have evolved and progressed more rapidly than ever before, altering society in various dimensions and influencing the lives of all individuals.
New Internet applications are constantly invented and developed, which expands the dimensions and influence of the Internet while making its future development unpredictable. iPad, the wireless tablet computer designed by Apple, for example, boasts various media applications. It is welcomed by many individuals as well as the business world, and three millions of iPads were sold within 80 days upon its release in April 2010. In addition, the Internet is often considered an important factor influencing the dynamics of both corporate strategies and government policies. In many undeniable ways, the Internet has made life more convenient, and the use of Internet-based technologies and approaches offers hope for solving many existing problems. Nevertheless, in addition to its advantages and benefits, the development of the Internet and the changes it has wrought on the world create many controversial issues. We invite you to analyze the current issues emerged due to the development of the Internet. We also encourage you to propose your own ideas for potential government policy and try to project your own ways of how the Internet could promote individual, societal, and national development by considering the following subtopics.
Subtopic 1: Killer Apps and the Soft Power of Nations
According to Gartner, one of the world’s leading information technology research and advisory companies, "Cloud computing is predicted to be one of the most important strategic techniques in 2010 and its overall market value will reach 1,500 billion dollars in 2013." Moreover, Fortune 1000 also reports that "The number of corporations using cloud computing services in 2012 will reach 80%." Internet users can dispose of hardware-intensive equipment and easily handle all their files wherever they go by using the Internet. This trend will not only transform the existing industrial patterns and business models but also gradually shift the focus of companies from hardware to software development, affecting every country and company while posing various challenges and opportunities.
With cloud service companies such as Google, Amazon, IBM, HP, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, the United States is the world's leading country in cloud computing. Not until 2009 did other countries, such as Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and European countries, start to consider the future benefits of cloud computing and draw up their policies. For instance, the trend in cloud computing could threaten the electronics industry of Taiwan, which has dominated the hardware manufacturing industry since the 1990s but is less prominent in software industry. This trend also creates, however, many opportunities for firms in the software industry and related business such as design and innovation. To promote the development in these industries and encourage other industries to adapt to the cloud computing trend, the Taiwanese government has adopted some strategic policies, like the Executive Yuan (the Cabinet of Taiwan) launched the “Cloud Computing Industrial Development Program” in April, 2010.
Facing the imminent revolution of the software industry, some companies are full of potential, while others are not that well-positioned. From the perspective of a nation or an industry, how would you analyze the impact of the cloud computing trend on the software industry? What opportunities or problems does it pose? What types of policies should governments create to address recent changes in the software industry? Please explain your ideas and suggestions regarding this issue.
Subtopic 2: Who Controls the Internet?
Through the rapid development of the Internet, a variety of information often circulates widely beyond personal, institutional and national boundaries. The openness of the Internet makes it problematic to some national authorities, and the sovereignty of nations in the “cyber world” is sometimes hard to identify. The issues whether or not one should govern Internet transmission as well as the protection and restriction of emerging rights of Internet users have gradually become highly debatable worldwide. Recent actions taken by governments to restrict or not to restrict the use of the Internet reflect a diversity of political values in the international community. These decisions will also have an influence on the future development of the Internet.
In 2003, the United Nations proposed that Internet access should be a human right. So far, in some countries such as Estonia, France, Finland, and Greece, the proposal has already been carried out in practice. Nevertheless, the freedom of utilizing the Internet is not always treated with such openness in other countries. For instance, countries like Germany, South Korea, Italy and the United States have set up some restrictions on Google’s Street View Service out of privacy concerns. How can authorities define the freedom of the Internet while striking a balance between openness and privacy protection are problems that have yet to be solved.
Moreover, specific concerns about intellectual property, privacy, and national security have been raised as more people join social networking sites. Regarding privacy issue, for example, the way Blackberry transmits its data displeases countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and India because its data is encrypted and is hardly obtainable by national governments. Private information, however, is meanwhile constantly posted online and voluntarily shared by people. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, believes this is an indicator of a more open society, and that privacy can be a flexible social norm.
The Internet has stimulated social evolution, yet no consensus has been achieved as to how people should handle these changes. People have concerns that current regulations within countries might not conform to the rapid development of the Internet. Even now, laws still lag far behind the Internet-based technology development. However, if governments intervene in the Internet too much, it may become an obstacle to the Internet’s development or even undermine the contribution provided by some Internet technology. Please discuss and provide arguments with the above issues with exact and specific suggestions. Feel free to comment on other relative significant issues of the Internet and its regulation.
Subtopic 3: Individual Agents on the Internet
The Internet has created a worldwide platform for people to communicate and exchange ideas. In the space built by the Internet, creativity and innovation are stimulated, personal influences are enlarged, and the voices from different segments of society are heard. Everyone has the right to comment and speak up for their beliefs. The Internet has become a popular means for exchange of information, cooperation, and synthesis of different ideas to bring about greater changes. In addition, the freedom, convenience, equality and extensiveness of the Internet are influential factors giving individuals greater power over the world.
Disaster management, for example, can collect information from the individuals far and wide through Internet to react more efficiently. Each individual’s contribution of information is thus important since it helps the national governments to react effectively. The software, Sahana, launched in 2009, offers one such gathering-help system, and the destruction areas such as Heidi, Indonesia, and Taiwan have all been assisted. Meanwhile, common networking websites are prominent in shaping the individual’s power. Han Han, the most popular blogger in China, was ranked as the 48th most influential figure in September 2010 by British magazine New Statesman. Besides Blog, Han Han also has other Internet platforms through which many of his critical opinions on the society are disclosed. The large quantity of online visitors he possesses has certainly made his opinions even more influential.
In the paragraphs above, we explored some ways in which the individual can utilize the Internet to expand his or her agency in individual, societal, commercial, and political endeavors in ways that can influence his or her own life, community, or even the society. Please choose one or two of the ideas you are interested in and explain exactly how these ideas be turned into a force and further influence your community, society or country. What are the potential concerns and opportunities? You can analyze an existing or future situation where the Internet increased individual agency in your own community or a familiar one. Please be clear and specific in your response and use evidence to support your argument.