Dominique Lazanski speaks with Ayden Férdeline about the impact of market consolidation on the Internet's architecture and how China is influencing Standards processes at the ITU and beyond.
Dominique Lazanski is a globally-recognised telecommunications policy expert.
INTRO [00:00:07] You're listening to POWER PLAYS, the podcast hosting conversations between policymakers, engineers, business leaders and others who are influencing the Internet's infrastructure and institutions in ways that impact all of us today. Here's your host, Ayden Férdeline.
Ayden Férdeline [00:00:28] Welcome to POWER PLAYS, presented by Grant for the Web. I'm Ayden Férdeline. Today on the show, we have Dominique Lazanski. I have been so excited for this interview. We are going to discuss China, the G7, Standards, the ITU. But before I welcome her to the program, if you don't know Dominique, she helped launch the first iTunes store in the US when she was at Apple. She was the director of public policy at the GSMA. She was a member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum. And now she's completing her doctorate in the history of architecture among many other hats that she was. Dominique Lazanski, a very warm welcome today to POWER PLAYS. Now, a question I always ask guests on POWER PLAYS is an icebreaker, and that is what is a contrarian thought that you have about business or culture that others might disagree with you on?
Dominique Lazanski [00:01:20] Well, where do we begin? I think my thought is only contrarian because it's not popular, but I think it's right. And that is I do actually believe that less regulation and free trade promote and enable more innovation, including with competition, but also make people freer in the long run because they have choice and they can create their own businesses and spend money and do things that they want to do. So I don't know how controversial that is, but I certainly think it's not very popular these days.
Ayden Férdeline [00:02:00] Maybe not in Europe, maybe there's a trans-Atlantic divide. I don't know. Just a note for our listeners. We're recording this conversation in mid-June 2021. So, Dominique, last week, Fastly, which operates a large content distribution network, suffered an outage for several hours. Other content distribution networks like CloudFlare last year, AWS last November they've had similar outages, bringing down large swaths of the web with them. In your view, do these outages reveal any weaknesses in the Internet's architecture?
Dominique Lazanski [00:02:31] So thanks for that question. And as you probably know, this is something I'm thinking a lot about. The Fastly outage last week actually was caused by a problem in, I think, an update. So I think it was literally a line of code that was incorrect, that caused the problem. But we didn't know that at the time until Fastly made a statement. And one of the things that the Internet community has been concerned about and discussing a lot is the idea of either concentration or consolidation of who runs, quote unquote, the Internet, meaning where the infrastructure is or who has it. Predominantly, the Internet has been developed in a decentralized way, meaning there's lots of people developing it, lots of people using it, obviously. Lots of infrastructure, backend stuff like network and data centers, all the things that we don't think about day to day. But because of the economies of scale, fewer and fewer companies are entering in to actually invest and build out the Internet. So Fastly is something called a CDN. Right. And it's one of the ways to make content more, as you know, make content more easier to access and quicker right on the edge of the network without going into too much detail. Then there's only predominantly six companies. There's many companies out there, but only six that take most of the traffic of the Internet. And as we saw, websites like uk.gov and many others went down quite quickly and were restored within an hour, which I think is a good thing. But it really speaks to should there be some way to sort of get more entrants, more decentralization, more people competing for running the back end of the Internet. And basically, not only would that be to stop issues like this, but you would have more ideas and more innovation around security, for example, and more competition with privacy, et cetera, et cetera. So I think there's a big question going on right now around this. I hope that wasn't too technical.
Ayden Férdeline [00:04:56] Not at all. And the outage certainly had a significant economic impact on some of the websites that went down. Amazon's operations in the US were only offline for several minutes before its traffic could be rerouted and they apparently still lost thirty million dollars in sales. I didn't realize Amazon used Fastly, but the fact that they and so many others did really amplified the impact of what might have otherwise been a little-noticed glitch. I want to turn now to an Internet draft that you've been working on. Internet drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the IETF, that are works in progress. And to quote from your document, you write, it aims to discuss recent areas of Internet consolidation that are technical, economic and engineering focused and provide some suggestions for advancing the discussion. Can you walk us through that, Dominique, from the perspective of the underlying architecture of the public Internet, what are the implications of consolidation on Internet architecture?
Dominique Lazanski [00:05:57] Thank you for pointing to my draft. And I think one thing we should mention is in discussing consolidation that we just discussed about Fastly, standards matter because that's how things interoperate, whether it's networks or data centers or content. So that's why the IETF is important and it's important to discuss this there. So the implications are, there have been a small number of very vocal attendees at the IETF. It's changed over time. So in the '90s, you saw different companies than you do now. But what's important about that is, and I mean Facebook and Google and companies like that, Mozilla as well, because that they are attending and able to afford to attend, which is a key point in such a great number. Right. They can sort of introduce and change different types of standards and which would mean different types of Internet architecture. So we've seen a lot of post-Snowden as well. We've also seen a lot of Internet drafts and technologies that remove the decision, some decisions at the network level and push them to the end at the content level. Now, why is that important? If you're Facebook or Google, you want to be able to see who your users are, track that data, have the information, where they're coming from. And if you completely encrypt the network over which the Internet runs, which is what's been a big push through some of the drafts, all that information goes to that company rather than to companies running the network, for example, AT&T or, I don't know, Vodafone, any of those companies that have network equipment. So this is really interesting because it means a few companies are really pushing for that sort of model end to end encryption on the network. Initially, there was the reason for that was obviously Snowden and privacy and snooping and surveillance. But we're 10 years out from that now. Snowden is happily married and has children in Russia, which I would not wish on anybody. So basically we've moved past that. Our technology and our interest in a stable Internet, especially after Covid, right, has really moved beyond that. So our draft basically, and it's not just me who wrote it, I want to point that out. And we're editing it for the next meeting coming up in a month and a half, I think. So basically, our draft really wants to look at a couple of things. So there's obviously a social, economic and political aspect to what's going on. Right. Meaning economies of scale. Right. So Facebook and Google, many people have Gmail or mapped their domains to Gmail. It's easy, right? It's all on the phone. If you have the Android phone, if you have an iPhone, everything's together. It's easy to use. Most of us use something like that. And we're only using either an Android flavored phone or an iPhone iOS in the West predominantly. I'll point that out. So basically, I wanted to point that out and look at the economy of it. And there's been a few others as well who've done this recently. Geoff Huston just had a blog on CircleID about sort of the history of antitrust and economies of scale and too big to fail, that kind of thing. But also, I think it's really important, as I was just describing with the encryption and the reason I was describing with it is it's really important to kind of look at how the Internet is changing from a technical point of view. And that's the other half of the draft. And really, we look at DNS over HTTPS, which is really nothing we're going to get into detail here. But basically looking at, again, how the domain name servers, how you have a website, it's called when you type it in. How that process is being moved from the network once again to the end points to be servers sitting in and, you know, like Google, for example. So we wanted to really highlight this, articulate the problem, right, the problem, why is this a problem? So 30 years ago and the Internet and this is different than the Web, by the way. We have to remember the Internet is the technical sort of aspect of it. The Web is more the content. Right. It drives me crazy on Twitter when people conflate the two who should know better. But, you know, the Internet wasn't designed to be the main way we all worked in Covid for the last year and a half, or indeed take banking details that needed to be private and encrypted and secure. But it was designed to be resilient, as you pointed out. It was designed to oh, if there's traffic, Internet traffic going one way and it can't get there this way, it's going to go another way. And we're not going to really figure it out. Like you said, you really didn't even realize Amazon.com was down. And probably the rest of us were just like, what's going on? I bet it's my own home Internet. I'll just refresh. And eventually it came back up and it was designed that way. But now, as the design gets more mature, we want to highlight the fact that, again, there's fewer companies participating. They're setting a direction that's very specific. And we need to look at the problem and we need to kind of find some solutions. So I'm going to, if you don't mind, just move to some of the suggestions that we made in the first draft. And really, some of them have already started to happen, which is great. So we really call on there to be protocol considerations. So protocol is part of a way of developing bits of technical Internet backend, that's a really bad description but I'll leave it at that. So people to be more aware of consolidation in the process of protocol development. So have that discussion during the process rather than at the end point. But also there needs to be more discussion within the IETF and the IAB, the Internet Architecture Board, who I always classed as the grandfathers and grandmothers of the Internet. Right. People that are basically just trying to take a longer view. They're appointed for about three years, I think, and trying to take a longer view on the future of the architecture of the Internet. And there's been a lot of interest. We've had a lot of emails and discussions. We just had a consolidation workshop, which will be the first of a few, hopefully, and there's been a lot of interest. I've received a lot of emails about people wanting to contribute to this draft. But there are other drafts out there as well. So that's sort of where we are. It's fascinating and really interesting and also amazing. Like if you think about the amount of traffic over the Internet in the last 18 months from home, it's all worked really, really well. You know, there's been some glitches, lots of upgrades, by the way, lots of new equipment and things that, you know, companies are just getting on doing. But that's where we are right now. And that's something I'm interested in.
Ayden Férdeline [00:13:21] You said before that there had been a lot of interest in having this conversation. I'm curious from whom has there been this interest? Is it interest from those who are associated with these large tech companies that we've all heard of? Or is the interest coming from other players altogether? Because I'm wondering what incentives are there for these larger players to willingly secede some of their influence to be able to - and I'm being a little flippant here - ram through whatever protocol is in their own interests?
Dominique Lazanski [00:13:51] Yeah, no, it's a really great question. What I'm finding. People that I'm talking to are all over the map, like they don't necessarily work for Google and Facebook or Mozilla, but they're not just network operators. Right. Or some are independent long-term attendees and participants, engineers, a couple of academics. So that kind of thing. There's actually a really interesting academic in Germany. He's actually looking at how to measure consolidation, which I think is very key to have data backing up the claims. Right. He has a few papers on showing the measurement of consolidation and how it's happening. And I'm, me, I'm particularly interested in and hopefully doing more with that because that's really, really cool. But anyway, there's a lot of people and we're very, very lucky that at the IETF being online, there's a lot more people participating at the moment, which is great, less expensive to travel. So incentives. So that's again for the companies that I've mentioned before, creating a network that allows for, I don't want to call it harvesting, but allows for the use of data as they want to use it at that level is really important. That also means they can build out interoperable data centers and different technical things that will work in a way that they're interested. Right. Because it's all about for them. It's all about data. Right. And driving data. And obviously for networks, it's about metadata and being able to manage your networks. And so there's a lot of pushback from network operators all over, not just the US ones, but other ones as well, who really are trying to push back on this. But network operators attend in much fewer numbers because they want to be able to, you know, if there's a problem with their traffic or if there's traffic that is overloaded, they want to be able to manage their traffic. And it's becoming increasingly hard as the data, the information gets put pushed towards Google and Facebook, who really keen on having it. So I hope that's not too technical as well. But I think that kind of gives you a place of two different types of views.
Ayden Férdeline [00:16:12] Can you hone in on one thing, please? Maybe our listeners are not familiar with what the end to end principle is and why it's important. I know in your draft it talks about this transition from end to end to edge to edge, why should people care about this?
Dominique Lazanski [00:16:28] Yeah, sure, so I'm just going to quote my draft, because it's easier to do that. So the end to end principle, I believe, if I remember correctly, shows up. It was a draft document, an RFC about twenty to twenty five years ago. It probably needs relooking at. And that's something we've thought about. So it says in my draft, the end to end principle is the idea that reliability and trustworthiness reside at the end nodes of networks rather than in the networks itself. In other words, the idea was that the network itself was dumb and intelligence is at the edge or the end. However, the Internet architecture is evolving in such a way that this principle is changing. So if you think let's actually take a couple of real world examples. Right. So if you think about all the cyberattacks we've had recently that have been in the news, OK, those cyber attacks basically happen at the edge of the network at that point between the network and the consumer, customer, the ransomware ones. Right. I think there's a lot of social engineering, security issues where it's an email with a malicious link. I mean, that's at the edge of the network, literally. Right. Because it's already come through the network. So the idea is that's where it needs to be most secure and that's where it needs to be able to develop protocols that allow for it to be resilient. If you start doing things that change that end point. Again, so servers at the endpoint that can only be hosted by certain companies or are only hosted by certain companies, things like that, you reduce. I'm worried about security, you reduce security, but other sort of reliability of network edges and endpoints. So basically the end to end principle, you know, twenty five years ago was like, don't mess up the endpoint. Think about that. And right now, I mean, it's good to raise awareness of all this stuff and really discuss this, because at the end of the day, a lot of these security problems we're having and a lot of the attacks that are going on like literally every second of every day that thankfully we don't know about because they're unsuccessful, really can be resolved by baking in security principles as well into protocols. And that's sort of that's something that's that goes along with consolidation, because we want to make sure that that that resilience is still there.
Ayden Férdeline [00:19:04] It sounded like there was some kind of police chase past your window just then.
Dominique Lazanski [00:19:08] Actually it's really bad. I live near a major hospital about a mile away, one and a half kilometers away. And it was kind of like the epicenter of, like, Covid stuff here. But it's only when I'm on call,
Ayden Férdeline [00:19:20] it was kind of relevant to what you were discussing too. At least someone's on the case anyway. The Internet draft. There is a lot that I like about it. It talks about protocol design and how larger organizations have staff who can advance their proposals through standards bodies and thus push through the adoption of the protocols they consider important. The draft says, and I'm quoting from it now, there is no coincidence that these companies are the ones that have facilitated consolidation of the commercial level and are facilitating consolidation of protocol level. End quote. Dominique, can you share an example of when this has happened? You mentioned very briefly before DNS over HTTPS, which I think could be an example.
Dominique Lazanski [00:20:01] Yeah, yeah. That's a really good example. And again, I'll try to be very top level. I mean, the devil's in the detail, but being top level is kind of a bit easier. And I know you know a lot about the DNS in particular through other reasons, through other work. But so DNS is the domain name server. Right. So basically domain name servers translate your destination where you're going, your website, whatever, from a number into a name. Right. So that we don't have to have one dot three dot two that kind of thing. And we can have Dominique.com or again, Amazon.com. Obviously much better for a variety of reasons, including just memory. But so how that happens is the servers have to sit in the Internet somewhere, right? If they sit in the network right near the edge, the resolution is quite quick. And it happens quickly, but the other thing is it's also and with that, again, without going into detail, it's also open. Like the process of doing that transition is not necessarily encrypted. It's quite open as a handshake. And at least it's changing. But at least that's what it is, which is actually a positive thing, because if there is a man in the middle kind of attack, you can see who it's from and what's going on. And even if it's masked there, there are there's a lot of information, thankfully, that doesn't happen that often. And also the Internet, again, is resilient enough to deal with that the way the DNS is set up. So DNS over HTTPS is effectively two things: encrypted DNS, meaning you can't see that handshake when that happens. And also the servers move from the network trusted client, whoever that is, to the endpoint trusted client. And that is that's going to be a handful of companies like Google and Cloudflare and other companies like that. So the question really is, if one of the arguments that was made is do you really trust your network operator? I mean, I do. Quite honestly, I do. Having worked for a number of them, knowing what they do and knowing how difficult it is to do anything nefarious, even though people think they do, it's almost impossible. And also, I trust them to resolve things quickly in the way the resilience has worked with the servers today. Now, if you move, if you A, encrypt and B, move the servers that are encrypted to somebody like Google, even though it's encrypted through that process and you and I can't see it, they have to validate the handshake and that whole process. So it becomes a black box. And again, they get the information right. The thing is, though, in my personal opinion, and I will say this on any day, there is almost no reason to have the DNS encrypted. I mean, it's just like why? Right. OK, there are reasons to have HTTPS. Banking, shopping. These are absolutely, extremely important reasons. And yes, privacy is of the utmost. But we all know that you send an email and anyone can see it. Right, for the most part, unless you use encrypted email and all of that. But, you know, on a day to day basis, it doesn't matter. At least to me. I'm not I don't really care. Most people don't really care. So I think the question is why, right? Like you start to think, why make this process happen? And without going into the historical detail of it, I was working with network operators when this whole thing came down and they were taken aback because most of them didn't attend the IETF and it was also developed in-house at Google, I think, if I remember correctly. And so basically they just kind of presented it as a fait accompli, almost like, here, it's done. We have a working protocol, all that kind of stuff. It's done. And it was a lot of interesting discussion around governance and process. And I will say this, this is something that's really, really important. So I'm talking about big companies really sort of gaming the system almost. Right. But here's the thing. And this is this is really, really important when we move on to talk a little bit more about China and stuff. All of this stuff is transparent. All of these discussions are happening over emails that are publicly accessible. There's lots of arguments, lots of things, you know, lots of really bad arguments. But it's all happening, you know, at a point where we can trace it and track the history and find that people that we want to enter in discussions with and have discussions with them and things like that. And it's fairly transparent. We might not agree. Obviously, I don't agree with the process in terms of consolidation happening, but we're having an amazing conversation about it. And I just hope there's more awareness around it, too.
Ayden Férdeline [00:25:20] I want to turn now to China and in particular to a paper you coauthored with Stacie Hoffman and Emily Taylor last year that was published in the Journal of Cyber Policy. It was titled "Standardizing the Splinternet: How China's Technical Standards Could Fragment the Internet". And it speaks about the decentralized Internet infrastructure, DII, that is being developed or advocated for within international standards development organizations. Can you walk us through the DII model and perhaps how it differs from the OSI and TCP/IP models? Some of our listeners might remember that we recently had Richard Hill on the show discussing the protocol wars. But we might need a little refresher, Dominique, on OSI and TCP/IP.
Dominique Lazanski [00:26:09] He probably did a very good job. So but yeah. So the one thing in spite of consolidation, I should say, the Internet is interoperable globally. We are obviously and I don't know who you've had on, but we are there's lots of discussion about national Internets in the sense of national regulation and filtering and, you know, from all countries and all different flavors and all different sizes. But despite all of this going on, the Internet is actually global. Right. You can send an email from Singapore and it will arrive in New York quite quickly. That means it uses the same back end. It uses the same protocols. It uses the same network systems and they be built and designed by different people in different places. But it works. It's global, it's interoperable. And it's again, there are challenges. But just just remember, from a technical point of view, it works, right? So when you think about TCP/IP. There are different layers of the Internet, and hopefully Richard Hill has gone into that, where you have the content layer and the network layer and all of those different types of layers on which different protocols are built to, to kind of stack up to basically how the Internet works, the different layers. OSI kind of combines those and makes it a little more efficient. These are theoretical models more than anything else, but they're a good way to describe when you're working on actual protocols and what you're trying to achieve. And it's sort of like using a common language. OK, so that's the Internet. That's my super brief non-technical overview. But so what China is doing generally on standards, as we've all seen and actually now in the last week and a half, we've had the G7 and we've had NATO have communiques that either directly or indirectly discuss cyber. NATO in particular mentioned the quality of networks, 5G, security, belt and road initiative. So did G7. So you have this sort of, it's a difference of ideology, right. Top down from a dictator and non human rights country and bottom up and, with all its flaws, in democracy with and I would say rights respecting kind of country. And this is kind of important. So that ideology. In the paper we talk about that transferring over to technical developments into networks. So what's been happening? And the paper came out a bit ago and so things have moved on a little bit, but not a whole lot. But what's been happening is China has been developing and standardizing block chain type DLT distributed ledger technologies, I'll say more than block chain type technologies, along with other bits and pieces of network technologies that will create a network to try to deliver content that is not best effort, but guaranteed. Si the current Internet as best effort. And that's important, too, because that means in being best effort, the resilience can be distributed. So you have the China model, which is guaranteed delivery point to point. So there's no distributed or decentralized network. And it also is using block chain or distributed ledger technology to identify either a website or a thing like piece of content that being delivered. At least this is the model. This is what we've discovered so far by piecing things together. Why is this important? Well, it's important. First of all, they're using an international organization like the ITU, which does do important things like spectrum management and spectrum alignment and satellite orbitals and things like that that are on a global level, really important. But China is using the ITU to standardize bits and pieces of this technology because, there are three standards organizations that are UN-related or UN accepted, I guess. And basically they come under WTO agreements, meaning they can be freely traded. Once the standard is the standard, it goes into the WTO agreements, which means you can go to another country, pay for something, setting up something like a network or a data center and invest in that, but also require certain standards to be straight because there's no blocks on the trade. And that's different than, again, what the IETF and other standards organizations may do, which is focus on usability and interoperability rather than top down mandating. But the other thing I think that's really important about this is, first of all, it's there's no guarantee it's going to work. Second of all, this further sort of facilitates the Splinternet idea. But third of all, their flavor of distributed ledger technology includes third party access, which means, you know, it's not fully encrypted and anonymized like like Bitcoin or block chain versions. And block chain to me is really all about really good for like contracts, buying and selling or transfer of contracts. That's what I'm most excited about. But basically, you know, there has to be government access. Right. And that means that if people are if people are identified, if people have identities in order to get onto this network, certain ethnic types for example. They can be monitored and managed in a third party governmental way, and that third party access aligns with their regulations, with their cyber security bills and various things. So that's not very good, obviously, for human rights reasons. But also we just don't want the Internet to develop in a very different way. And the technology is vague enough in the proposals that the assessment is that it may or may not work. That's my assessment. And the technology itself is quite poor from what we know so far. So there's been quite a lot of talk about it. And thankfully, the situation with the Uyghurs has become more and more visible because there is also quite a few articles about standardizing A.I. and facial recognition again through the ITU as well so that they could bypass trade barriers. A lot of those companies that had participated in that standardization are on the sanctions list in the US. And there's an FT article on it I can point to. So I think if you take a global look at this. Yeah, it's technology. Right. But also this is where it starts to get political. There's another whole standards debate. A lot of engineers don't want to enter into the political debates or don't even want to be aware of it, because that's just not what they do. Right. But to me, this is fascinating because it plays into exactly what we've seen with NATO and the G7 in the last week and a half. Exactly. It's another layer. It's part of the belt and road process and an initiative. And it's clever because they have so many more people to throw at these things rather than being what we do in the UK and US and Germany and Europe, Western Europe and Australia and Japan and whatever, which is rely on industry and user takeup for these things, which is why the Internet's very successful already.
Ayden Férdeline [00:34:18] Well, Dominique, there are just so many strands that I want to pull apart and follow up on, so thank you for the outstanding overview. Firstly, you said that there are no guarantees that DII works and that it's your assessment that it might not work. So is this purely a theoretical proposal? Does Huawei have a lab somewhere running a prototype or we just don't know because there's just not a whole lot of transparency?
Dominique Lazanski [00:34:49] Yeah, that's a great question. So it definitely is coming out of Huawei research. But I think in China and the US as well. But basically - we think, we think, we think - that there is a network running in China, like a test network, a test bed. There may be some version of it in Russia as well. But no one's sure about that. But I mean, I'm pretty sure because, for example, we've been at meetings where somebody from Huawei and by the way, yeah, it's Huawei doing a lot of the technical assessment of this. But to understand this is a bit of a side tangent. But I'm just going to point this out. To understand, like the processes, that Huawei can't just randomly show up. They will say, yeah, we're a private company, we're going to randomly show up to standards. You know, they have to go through so many steps internally in China through their ministry process to have the standards they put into these bodies approved from the Communist Party, literally. And as you've seen, the consolidation of power in China that very top downness, this really becoming even more and more consolidated. The process goes as far as the President. Right. It does. It really does. On every level, but on standards as well. So that's important to say when U.S. companies in the US and UK probably talk to the governments a lot, especially around information sharing on security issues through their Computer Emergency Response Teams at a very basic level, you know, but in China, they have to be approved. And this is really important. I think people don't really understand. There's a really great paper that came out a couple of weeks ago that talks about how everything's set up because it's changed in the last couple of years. So I wanted to highlight that. That's really important. That relationship is very different than in the West. I would almost say there's a committee. I think there's a committee that approves these things, literally reviews them and approves them. Anyway, so the Huawei stuff, the Huawei technology in it's bits and pieces that have all obviously been approved, we do think that there is some sort of implementation of it. Yeah, sorry, that was a tangent, but I think it's an important one.
Ayden Férdeline [00:37:12] I think that's really important, too, but is this necessarily problematic? I'm being very provocative with this question. However, is it okay if China has its own conception of what the Internet could be? China, after all, has its own style of government. Is it legitimate for China to try to share its own values with other countries that may share or dream of having the same style of government? There's an interesting piece in the Financial Times three years ago, I think, about Tanzania being confused as to how it ended up with this undesirable Western Internet rather than a Chinese-style firewall. And it compared the Western Internet to colonialism, forcing undesirable values on to their nation. I guess I'm asking, is it legitimate for China to create technologies and to advocate for standards that promote their own values?
Dominique Lazanski [00:38:08] So that's the million dollar question, right? So why does it matter effectively? Yeah, of course. They can do whatever they want in that country. And obviously it will be used for attracting and saving and consolidating individual pieces of information. And this is nothing new in terms of, I mean, we're seeing it now with Covid, right, in different ways. This is absolutely nothing new. I think it comes back to a bigger philosophical issue, which is more ideological, like how do you see humans surviving and being economically, physically, everything being healthy. Right. Healthy and happy and thriving. I genuinely, personally believe that there is no interest in human life in China from the Communist Party. I genuinely believe that from the Communist Party, everybody is a means to an end that's a longer game of multigenerational ends, right. Which is really sad because individually a number of people from China I know are just just amazing, lovely, interesting people. And that's just that's how people are. Right. But I think that's what it comes down to. I mean, again, we've heard it at the G7 this week. The idea that if you want to have a world that values human life and tries to lift people out of poverty and create a sustainable environment globally and works on very many issues. Climate change being one of them, for example. You need people that can do that, right? Rule of law is super important. Respect for human rights is super important. And I think, unfortunately, in a lot of countries like Tanzania and Zimbabwe is another great example, they don't have that. Right. So, I mean, if you believe in that, as messy as everything is in democracy, then I think you really have to think about well, a global and interconnected Internet is part of that process for communication, for education. For everything, keeping in touch with their families, shopping, yeah, granted, you and I are not going to buy, well, at least I'm not going to buy anything from China at the moment. But I probably do and don't know it. Right. But like direct from China. Probably not. And I'm probably never going to China because of the publication of that paper. But on a serious note, you just have to think about what sort of system works best. It just can't be top down. And, you know, that that's sort of what we've seen over the last couple of weeks of being talked about. So if you don't have an interoperable Internet, then you start to then you really start to have these very big factions. Right. And it doesn't help with trying to come together, trying to solve problems, trying to find areas of cooperation with China and Russia and other countries like that, and also lifting people out of poverty in a lot of not just developing countries, but all over the world. So I think Africa is an interesting problem, too, because I remember that article really well. But also it's an issue because they've been given so many loans through the belt and road initiative, not just with the Internet technology, but with other things like mining. And it goes on and on. But I think there's now you're seeing there are a lot of issues and push back on the sort of investments and paying everything back and the quality of all of that. And so I think you start to think it's like, did that really work well? Was that colonization almost really effective? It's better if maybe have what Rwanda is doing really and building out quite a lot of stuff and trying to have tech hubs, centers and things like that, though a lot of their technology is also a Chinese backend. But you know what I mean. We could probably talk about this, you and I could probably talk about this for the rest of the day, if not until tomorrow, right, about that. But I think we really have to take a bigger view on it. And I tend to see things in a bigger picture anyway.
Ayden Férdeline [00:42:20] I'm curious, on a more pragmatic level, what is the likelihood of the standards that China is advocating for in various standards bodies, I mean, is anything going to come out of this? Who are China's allies? How much power and influence does China have, say, at the ITU?
Dominique Lazanski [00:42:39] Yeah, it's a great question. I think a lot of countries. So just starting with the last bit of that, I think a lot of countries are learning from China and their influence within the UN. Right. In the sense that they have certain people at high levels. So the Secretary General of the ITU is Chinese, as one example, they're on the Security Council, I think human rights, et cetera. And so that means that there's always very polarized opposition to different things going on. And so there's no coherency. Right. So I think until recently, the Uyghurs weren't even anywhere near the Human Rights Council. And this has been going on quite a long time. The Uyghurs are just one of many examples, but it's something I worry a bit more about because of the A.I. and surveillance that's been standardized and used in that part of the world that we've seen recently. A little bit. There was like a Wall Street Journal report a couple of years ago, and then we've seen others come through as well, I think. But I think the other question is, so this is where it gets interesting. So the whole issue around 5G and Huawei in Europe and the UK and the US again speaks to exactly what you asked. So who's going to be building the networks? Well, Huawei's definitely building networks in certain countries, definitely building a component or part of the network in Russia for 5G, definitely. And also in other countries, they tend to be the cheapest. They tend to be rolled out a lot, et cetera, that we can go into IP theft if you want. But that's not my area. But basically, there's a lot of reasons why a country who wants to at least have a baseline domestic 5G network etc will turn to Huawei. So allies unsuspectingly. And I don't want to say this is the Cold War because I don't actually believe we're going back to that point. But I think that the allies are, you've got everyone from Hungary, which is kind of scary, all the way through to different countries with belt and road initiatives that tend to be like Myanmar, another example, and increasingly so based on what they were liberalizing until the coup. And now they're kind of reversing as well. And then you have interesting you have countries that are. Sort of on this edge of like still trying to transition out of, like different parts of their development, right. That might have bought bits and pieces from China, but don't know how to coherently put it together because they just, the government's like changed frequently, and things like that. So that's just sort of accidental. That's not even like nefarious if you want to say anything like that. But I think you have to look at it from that way. If you look at it from a cost point of view and an ideological point of view. Right. So obviously, Russia is going to align, but other countries are just doing it because it's more effective and cheaper. Right. And the standards help with, again, the access to trade. And that's true for other companies as well. But just yeah, it's something that facilitates that trade to be able to build new networks.
Ayden Férdeline [00:45:53] It's almost time for us to wrap up. But one last question. You mentioned the G7. The G7 communique has some very interesting language around technical standards and standard setting. It advocates for an industry-led multistakeholder approach while acknowledging that standards impact norms and values. Did this stick out to you? Was there anything else in the communique that you found interesting, Dominique?
Dominique Lazanski [00:46:21] Yeah. So it would be worth looking at the digital statement, I think it's called. So it was a couple of weeks ago or a couple of weeks prior, maybe a month prior. I'm losing all sense of time working from home permanently. Don't you feel that? I have to create more structure so I know what day of the week it is. So I think it was they had digital ministers meet not in Cornwall, but they met or they might have. I don't think they did. And if you look at that, there's even more specific approaches that the agreements that they make, which include agreeing to share information on standards, agreeing to participate in standards organizations, et cetera, et cetera. So, yeah, I think it's really, really interesting because the standards is the base component of any technology, whether - it's not just Internet technology, right, or 5G - it goes beyond that. Everything really. So I think it's been really interesting because in a lot of standards organizations, like-minded countries just don't have as many people. And I think now you'll see a lot more cooperation and discussion on it, too. So it's kind of cool. But yeah, definitely you and the listeners have a look at the digital statement that came out from those ministers, because I think that's where, if you're interested in more detail on it, that's where it is. It talks about safety online as well as data protection too.
Ayden Férdeline [00:47:44] I have to check that out then. Dominique Lazanski, thank you very much.
Dominique Lazanski [00:47:49] Thank you. It's really good to talk to you again.
Ayden Férdeline [00:47:52] I'm Ayden Férdeline and this has been POWER PLAYS. Thanks for joining us today. Next time on POWER PLAYS, we're speaking with Richard Whitt, an 11-year veteran of Google's policy team, about the future of data protection, ad tech, and human autonomy online.
INTRO [00:48:08] This has been POWER PLAYS. POWER PLAYS is a production of ETUNU. The guests on this program speak only for themselves, and the views expressed do not necessarily align with those of ETUNU. Copyright 2021, ETUNU Corporation. All rights reserved.