Section 5



In Section 4 we examined five challenges presented by the introduction of mobility and the advanced features of the smart device, in terms of the resulting evolution of the Internet and the impact on development.

These challenges are summarized below. Here we provide recommendations to overcome these challenges in order to protect and promote the benefits of the mobile Internet for current and future users.


Smart devices enable services such as location awareness and include features such as cameras; the flip side of the coin is increased privacy issues

Usage of the mobile Internet depends on a number of wireless interfaces and access to apps; these lead to heightened security issues

Apps provide convenient access to the advanced features of the phone such as the GPS or camera; but app stores create costs for developers and customers and may limit competition


More users are doing more with the mobile Internet; is there enough spectrum available?

Mobile Internet is the way the next billion are going to get online; will this close the digital divide?



As we put our smart devices to more uses, in the house, on the move, and at work, the amount of information about us, and the number of companies that have access to at least some of that information, is multiplying. Many, if not most of us, are not fully aware of what is collected, unless confronted directly with the results. For example, many are unaware, and thus surprised, at seeing their own activity mapped in detail with the frequent location features of at least the Apple and Android platforms, as discussed in Section 4.

In order to address these issues, it is important that users are given the option to provide consent to access features of smart devices in a fashion that is simple and granular, enabling control over relevant permissions given to each app. At the same time, app developers should provide sufficient privacy choices and refrain from attempting to access information not directly needed by their app. Regulatory intervention is a possibility, to impose guidelines if needed and enforce compliance.

One way to address the complexity of managing many apps and their frequent updates is an agency model. In this model, an intermediary or trusted agent would be given the users’ overriding preferences on access to each feature – such as location or contacts – and then implement those permissions for each individual app. According to one prominent academic, after individuals answer a few privacy-related questions it is possible to predict their app privacy preferences with over 90 percent accuracy, showing how such an agent could provide simple and effective guidance. Find out more

Carnegie-Mellon Study

In relation to the location-based example we used to highlight privacy concerns, researchers at Carnegie-Mellon recently released an interesting study. During this study, they chose 23 subjects and tracked which apps had access to their location and how often the apps accessed their location. They then provided a privacy agent enabling the subjects to control access to location data, and provided the subjects with a ‘privacy nudge’ alerting them each time an app asked for location.

The results were startling. One user learned that his or her location had been shared with apps 5,398 times over two weeks. When presented with data about the frequency of sharing of their location, many of the study’s subjects expressed shock, and having access to a privacy agent, most quickly reset their permissions to limit the use of location. As other research shows, not all apps even have an obvious direct need for location data, which can further compound users’ surprise. For instance, one free app that enables a smartphone to be used as a flashlight, appears to also use location data to deliver targeted advertising. Find out more

This highlights two aspects of addressing privacy concerns – first, having a simple agent or manager for controlling privacy with sufficient choices offered, and second, having information on which apps access which information, and how often. Together, this enables consumers to realise the benefit of the mobile Internet while providing informed consent about how their private and sensitive data, such as their location, is used.


The Internet Society promotes a Collaborative Security approach, which includes the principle that security solutions should be fully integrated with the important objectives of preserving the fundamental properties of the Internet, or the Internet invariants as we call them, and fundamental human rights, values and expectations. Our approach stresses that everyone has a collective responsibility for the security of the Internet:

People are what ultimately hold the Internet together. The Internet’s development has been based on voluntary cooperation and collaboration. Cooperation and collaboration remain the essential factors for its prosperity and potential.

In the case of the mobile Internet in particular, no one actor can solve security for the mobile Internet – all have a role to play. Find out more Among the key players, operators and vendors can act to secure mobile transmissions; mobile platforms and app stores can continue to control apps for malware and provide privacy tools for users; and Wi-Fi hotspot operators can use WPA2 security to protect users. Everyone can work together to implement usable encryption tools on mobile devices, and to develop uniform easy to understand security indicators designed for the small screen environment.

While providers and developers have an important role to play, users also play a key role in safeguarding their private data and interactions with the mobile Internet. This starts with the recognition that their smart devices are powerful computers, and like traditional computers connected to the Internet, subject to a variety of attacks, many of which can spread from their smart device to others indirectly through Wi-Fi or directly by accessing contact data. As a result, users should apply appropriate security tools and caution regarding access to their devices, downloading unfamiliar apps, and in using unknown Wi-Fi hotspots and providing Bluetooth permissions.

App challenges


As described in Section 4, each mobile platform can act as a gatekeeper, resulting in a native app environment that raises the cost of creating apps for each platform, the cost for users switching between platforms, and thereby limits platform competition. The Internet Society notes the remarkable benefits for users and opportunities of the app economy, resulting from existing mobile platforms. However, we also wish to highlight an alternative platform that is emerging, one based on the OpenStand principles that we endorse.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which develops open standards for the Web, has defined an Open Web Platform in order to “enable developers to build rich interactive experiences, powered by vast data stores, that are available on any device.” Find out more The cornerstone of the Open Web Platform is HTML5, the latest version of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) that is used to write web pages, which was recommended as a standard in October 2014. Find out more Part of the W3C work in this space is funded by the European Union project HTML5Apps.

The vision for this work is to enable developers to create websites with advanced features that can be installed on a mobile device with an icon, similar to the way that a native app is installed today. The result brings the advantages of the Web to the app environment, based on non-proprietary open standards.

In particular, as web apps in the Open Web Platform are websites with advanced features, deep linking is possible as it is on the Web today, the apps update automatically when the website updates, rather than requiring an update to be downloaded, and the web app can automatically resize for any screen size, unlike native apps that may need to be modified.

Furthermore, as with the Web, the web app environment is intrinsically open to any developer, with lower overall costs as the app does not need to be customized for different platforms. Consumers also benefit, as it is just as easy to switch platforms as it is today to switch between browsers; web apps would not need to be re-purchased and re-downloaded. These advantages, which can increase platform competition, are highlighted in the diagram below in comparison with the challenges identified in Section 4.

Open Web Platform

a. App search and linking
Users cannot easily search or link across apps

b. Openness
The web app environment is intrinsically open to any developer

c. Development costs
Web apps do not need to be customized for eachplatform

d. Switching costs
It is easy for users to switch between platforms

Examples of this new platform are already emerging. The Financial Times has already made available a web app, which can be installed directly from their website ( on any mobile device, as with the mobile version of this report. Mozilla has gone further and developed the Firefox OS platform with a Marketplace based on web apps, which a number of mobile operators including Telefonica are already supporting.

The aim of the Open Web Platform is to match or surpass the native app environment in a number of ways, including security and privacy, the ability for apps to work offline, allow for payments, and offer a full multimedia experience. However, these capabilities are not yet uniform across all browsers and platforms, which also limits interoperability for developers and users wishing to switch browser or platform. Find out more

In recognition of remaining challenges, W3C has initiated a project called Application Foundations, to build on HTML5 and enable the Open Web Platform to meet the needs of developers seeking to create web apps that offer at least as good a user experience as native apps. This approach – while not guaranteed with work still underway – would be consistent with our OpenStand principles, and provide new choices for users and developers.

The OpenStand principles encompass the work of the Open Web Platform and highlight its promise, as described in the statement below. As with the other standards covered by these principles, development and adoption is a multi-stakeholder effort, an effort we endorse. In particular, we encourage content and service providers to input to the Open Web Platform development to incorporate their needs; mobile OS vendors can ensure their browsers are able to fully use web apps; entrepreneurs can leverage the new opportunity, for instance to help users find relevant web apps, which users can then download and try for themselves.

Over the past several decades, the global economy has realized a huge bounty due to the Internet and the World Wide Web. These could not have been possible without the innovations and standardization of many underlying technologies. This standardization occurred with great speed and effectiveness only because of key characteristics of a modern global standards paradigm. The affirmation below characterizes the principles that have led to this success as a means to ensure acceptance of standards activities that adhere to the principles.

We embrace a modern paradigm for standards where the economics of global markets, fueled by technological advancements, drive global deployment of standards regardless of their formal status.

In this paradigm, standards support interoperability, foster global competition, are developed through an open participatory process, and are voluntarily adopted globally. These voluntary standards serve as building blocks for products and services targeted at meeting the needs of the market and consumer, thereby driving innovation. Innovation in turn contributes to the creation of new markets and the growth and expansion of existing markets.

OpenStand Joint Statement of Affirmation, with Inaugral Signatories Internet Society, Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), W3C, and the IEEE Standards Association.

In the meantime, websites can be made more accessible, in order to enable user access on platforms where no app may be available. For instance, governments should not just support one or two platforms with native apps, but enable users to access relevant websites from any platform. For instance, the UK government has developed guidelines for developing universally accessible services regardless of browser or device. Likewise, private content and service providers can make their offerings available through web apps as well as native app stores.

In addition, regardless of the platform, in order for people with disability to gain the most benefit from the mobile Internet, governments and the private sector should design for inclusion, for instance following the recommendations of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), which developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) now in their second version. A number of national regulators have introduced accessibility requirements on service providers, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (with 159 signatory UN Member States including the European Union) includes obligations to implement measures to design, develop, produce and distribute accessible ICT. Find out more

More details on the WAI can be found at, and the WCAG 2.0 recommendations at The WAI also includes the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines, aimed at helping people with disabilities create their own web content and making sure it also complies with the WCAG recommendations.

More details on the UN Convention can be found at, and EU policy at See also the ETSI accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe at. For an example of the differences in the accessibility of smart devices and apps, see the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative at


Spectrum issues

In order to ensure sufficient bandwidth, and avoid operators having to raise prices to lower demand and usage, policymakers need to ensure that adequate spectrum will be available for mobile Internet access, at both the international and national levels.

International level
The upcoming ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC15) is important for identifying the spectrum bands that will help to meet both capacity and coverage needs for meeting increasing demand for mobile Internet services. Ensuring that these new bands are harmonized by regions, if not globally, will help to create the biggest market and hence the greatest economies of scale for new equipment and services, while also promoting innovation, creating allocations both for licensed and unlicensed uses.

National level
At the national level, spectrum management is critical to increase availability and affordability of mobile Internet services. Where capacity is needed, efforts to re-assign existing bands, such as are already underway with the digital switchover from broadcasting, along with efforts to rationalize public usage of spectrum will be important to ensure an adequate allocation of spectrum for mobile Internet uses. At the same time, regulators should ensure that assignment of the spectrum does not merely favour incumbent operators or uses, prevents anti-competitive hoarding of spectrum, encourages efficient use by existing holders, and enables innovation. In order to accomplish this, assignments should use a mix of licensed, unlicensed, and shared access.

The Digital Divide

According to the mobile Internet forecasts we have used from Analysys Mason, another billion mobile Internet subscriptions will be taken by September 2016. Not all of these new subscriptions will be in the developing world, and some of them will represent multiple subscriptions for the same user. However, based on current trends a significant number of these will not just be new subscriptions, but they will be taken by new Internet users, helping to close the digital divide.

As discussed above, there are three challenges to the mobile Internet helping close the digital divide: availability of access, affordability, and relevance of the Internet to potential users. We address these in turn.


With cellular coverage reaching 100% of the population soon, the challenge to increase availability is upgrading the network to offer mobile Internet access, which increasingly means at least 3G technology, possibly in conjunction with Wi-Fi to increase capacity and coverage. In addition, the sufficient national and international capacity will need to be available to be able to meet the increasing usage of the increasing number of users.

Part of the shortfall in mobile Internet availability is likely demand-driven – the operators will upgrade when the demand for services is clear, and this will be addressed by making access more affordable and service more relevant.

In addition, governments can help to lower costs by removing any barriers to connectivity, such as high costs for deploying infrastructure and encouraging sharing of infrastructure. In the last mile, management of spectrum that makes it available when needed, and which allows innovative uses, particularly in reaching un- or under-served rural areas, will increase deployment.


The actions outlined above to increase availability will also act to lower costs, even where mobile Internet services are already offered. Additional actions can include removing taxes on equipment, devices, and services that could act to depress demand. Policies to increase competition at the international gateway, over domestic connectivity, and in the last mile, will also serve to lower prices.

Finally, as shown below, actions to increase the amount of local hosting of content will avoid the use of relatively expensive international capacity to access content, lowering the cost of usage accordingly.


Enabling an Internet environment where content is free of unreasonable legal challenges will help to promote the creation of relevant content. Countries should also create an enabling environment for companies to deploy caches or servers to hold local or international content when it makes sense – this will lower the cost and latency of accessing the content, thereby increasing usage. At the same time, governments can help to promote content creation and usage by developing their own mobile-accessible websites, hosting them locally, and promoting the capacity building to support these activities.



Bill Gates

Nowhere can this quote be more true than with respect to the rise of the mobile Internet. Ten years ago, fixed broadband had just surpassed dial-up as the main form of Internet access; one billion users accessed the Internet, the majority from developed countries; and it would be another two years before the iPhone was launched and four years before the first 4G network.

Today, mobile broadband has long surpassed fixed as the main form of Internet access; there are three billion users of whom the majority are in developing countries; and smartphone sales have surpassed the sale of feature phones in developed and developing regions. There are millions of apps available, which have been downloaded billions of times, and apps are the increasingly main way that mobile users interact with the Internet.

These apps, taking advantage of the advanced features of smart devices and the full mobility of users, have provided benefits in every part of our lives – underpinning an app economy creating opportunities for entrepreneurs everywhere; changing the way we interact with our governments, businesses, and each other; and helping to provide us with accessibility, personal security, and entertainment.

Many of us rely on our phones to help us navigate an unfamiliar city, suggest restaurants in the area, summon a taxi, or find constellations in the night sky. However, many of us also are surprised when confronted with the resulting data on our location and movements that is stored and shared among a variety of companies involved in providing location-based services. The same is true for other types of personal, and possibly sensitive data available through our smart devices.

In turn, many of us increasingly rely on apps to access the Internet, and may not realise how the app economy limits our choices of platforms until we contemplate switching platforms. At that point, we may realize that today the leading platform commands a market share of 84% of all smartphones sold, and new platforms have difficulty building up the base of native apps needed to make switching attractive.

Nonetheless, there is no question that bringing the next billion Internet users online will be driven by the mobile Internet, and our collective challenge is to help bridge the digital divide. As these users come online, and all users continue to increase their usage, the necessary spectrum must be made available, under policies that encourage efficient spectrum use, competition, and innovation.

As we look forward on the challenges that must be met to increase the benefits of the mobile Internet for all, we should be mindful of both parts of Bill Gates’ quote; not just that we would have underestimated the change that took place in the past ten years, but that we may overestimate the change that can take place in the next two.

As a result, as we collectively celebrate the changes that have taken place over the past ten years, we should also work hard, together, to make sure that the challenges we have identified are met in order that existing and new users enjoy a mobile Internet that is private and secure, with easy choice between platforms new and old, and that it is available, afordable, and relevant to all users everywhere.


Smart devices enable services such as location awareness and include features such as cameras; the flip side of the coin is increased privacy issues

Usage of the mobile Internet depends on a number of wireless interfaces and access to apps; these lead to heightened security issues

Apps provide convenient access to the advanced features of the phone such as the GPS or camera; but app stores create costs for developers and customers and may limit competition


More users are doing more with the mobile Internet; is there enough spectrum available?

Mobile Internet is the way the next billion are going to get online; will this close the digital divide?






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