BY TOM COOPER
On January 18-22, 2014, more than 1,650 professional communicators, regulators, academics, and others from more than 35 countries gathered for PTC 2014, the 36th annual conference of the Pacific Telecommunication Council, held in Honolulu, to consider the conference theme, “New World; New Strategies.”
As at all PTC conferences, important current issues and trends regarding information technologies in the Pacific were considered—including ethics. Significant ethical themes considered were security, privacy (including what is sometimes called “the security/privacy trade-off”), spectrum allocation, net neutrality, censorship disguised as regulation, intellectual property, and comparative national ethical protocols.
Hossein Eslambolchi, CEO of 2020 Venture Partners, predicted that privacy applications/technologies will be among the top ten “cloud” services of the future. He demonstrated how hacking strategy has become so sophisticated that security systems must increase within informational systems and not—as with firewalls—just at their boundaries.
Some interesting new ethical territory was revealed in papers such as:
- “Cybersex as Affective Labor: An Exploratory Study of Cybersex in One Study Site in the Phillippines” by Elinor May Cruz, Research Associate at the University of the Philippines.
- “The Smartphone Divide and Information Gaps: Multidimensionality of the Future Divide” by Eun A. Park, Professor at the University of New Haven.
- “Policy Instruments for Green Telecommunications” by Rishabh Dara, Doctoral Student at the Indian Institute of Management.
- “The Centrality of Electricity for Internet Uptake in Low-Income Countries” by Laura Hosman, Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Papers such as the above considered issues less frequently discussed at PTC. Elinor May Cruz’ paper considered ethics in a double sense—the ethics of illegal sexual content and also the ethics of economic exploitation of sex workers. Professor Hosman rightly observed that when considering digital divide issues, one must first consider which countries have access to electricity. Fairness and equity were over-arching concerns within these questions about access to electricity, the spectrum, bandwidth, and other technology.
Important ethical issues also surfaced within the field of emergency communications. Pacific (and other) media professionals must sometimes make rapid decisions about which emergency areas and messages to prioritize. Their choices may strongly impact life and death outcomes. Again, questions of fairness and discrimination were central to the discussion.