Fostering access in Austria to the internet and thus to all the possibilities it opens up—including the social development this will entail—is IPA’s aim. The private foundation’s netidee initiative is now soliciting proposals (deadline: July 15, 2015) that have the potential to qualitatively and quantitatively advance the internet and utilization of it in Austria. A million euros in subsidies are available for innovative open source projects, and up to €50,000 for concrete projects.
Plus, grant recipients will have the opportunity to present their ideas and projects at the 2015 Ars Electronica Festival, (September 3-7 in Linz) and to elaborate on them together with festivalgoers from all over the world: experts, entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists, activists and artists. In this interview, Ernst Langmantel, chairman of IPA’s board of directors, elaborates on netidee’s mission and frankly discusses the challenges the internet is facing in Austria in 2015.
A million euros for innovative open-source projects that advance the internet in Austria—who can submit proposals and what should they pay attention to in doing so?
Ernst Langmantel: We encourage anyone who’d like to implement an exciting internet innovation to submit a proposal: individuals, working groups, associations and organizations, companies, universities and technical colleges. The project content could be a so-called proof of concept or a product/service in development. A detailed business plan is NOT necessary! The “open source” precondition means that the project results will be made available to third parties for them to use and develop further.
What the advisory council—the netidee jury—is especially keen on are projects that appear to have the potential to trigger a so-called snowball effect, which is to say viral proliferation and further development.
Formal requirements are that the Republic of Austria must be the individual’s place or residence or the site of the headquarters of an organization or company, all must have a bank account here, and individuals must have reached adulthood. And keep in mind that the deadline for submissions this year is July 15, 2015. Applications for a netidee scholarship must be in by October 21, 2015. All details are available online at www.netidee.at.
Internet & Environment and Open Science are netidee’s two focal-point themes this year. What’s this all about and why are they so important for us?
Ernst Langmantel: netidee supports openness, transparency and sharing, for which the internet in conjunction with open source provides a superb basis. These two special prize themes of the netidee’s 2015 project subsidy program were selected by an idea competition that ran from November to March. This was our first experience with crowdsourcing, and the outcome was interesting indeed.
With respect to open science, the idea competition not only addressed more effectively conveying scientific findings to the general public; it also went into involving the general public in the selection of research topics, as well as public participation in certain areas. Regarding the environment, there are numerous ecological issues of extremely pressing concern. Among the things the internet can do in this area are to provide fast, easy access to all kinds of data and to link up civic initiatives and other stakeholders. Generally speaking, though, our hope is that these special prize themes bring forth new approaches and forms of impetus. A project proposal’s degree of innovation is always a key parameter in the decision on whether or not to grant it a netidee subsidy.
netidee has existed for 10 years. Give us a few examples of the projects you’ve subsidized since 2005?
Ernst Langmantel: The netidee homepage provides a brief description of all subsidized projects and links to detailed information. The spectrum of topics is very broad: educational games, learning platforms, practical services such as cancelling contracts online, an Internet Openness Index for municipalities, an NFC framework for convenient use of NFC technology in mobile apps, high-security encryption of chats on the basis of state-of-the-art peer-to-peer technology, a cloud service for location-based content, the Data Dealer privacy game, reference implementation for the MPEG-DASH video streaming standard, the Smart Home platform, gathering sensitive data for scientific evaluations by means of online games, open data platforms, open educational resources and open hardware projects.
netidee is conducted under the auspices of Internet Privatstiftung Austria. One of the organizations involved in IPA is nic.at, which administers .at domains. What challenges is the internet facing in Austria in 2015?
Ernst Langmantel: Lots of them! The matter of internet user security remains at the top of my own personal priority list—on one hand, protecting users from scammers and their attacks and weapons like malware and viruses; on the other hand, reliable privacy, which means the confidential treatment of personal information. In the near future, user security and data protection will be made even more critical by the powerfully emerging trend towards more and increasingly pervasive networks in connection with the so-called Internet of Things. For instance, the automobile is going to be just such a thing.
But security is by no means strictly a technical matter. It’s enormously important to promote media competence in general and to subsidize initiatives—including individual initiative—towards this end!
For the domain administration and the international structure on which it rests, a fundamental decision on the direction of future development has to be made. Simply put, this is a matter of whether it will be possible to eliminate the formal suzerainty of the U.S. in administering fundamental internet data and replace it with a multi-stakeholder solution that has sufficient worldwide acceptance.
With the advent of this internet of things, will we someday have to register our refrigerator, toothbrush and bicycle speedometer with you?
Ernst Langmantel: As a rule, domain name registrations for individual internet things will be required only in exceptional cases. For technical communication, so-called internet addresses (IP addresses) will be used and not domain names. But the internet of things could well make it increasingly sensible to register at least a personal .at domain. Then, for example, if you were away from home, you could communicate with your refrigerator via the sub-domain “refrigerator.<personaldomain>.at” in your browser and survey its contents.
Ernst Langmantel received his degree in communications engineering from Vienna University of Technology in 1983 and then went to work as a software developer at Siemens in Vienna. In the field of communications technology, the leading edge at the time was Germany’s analog mobile phone network C, and engineers were rejoicing that the decision had been made to expand the system to accommodate a then-sensational 100,000 subscribers. Langmantel subsequently made the move to private communications systems where, as a project director with mobile phone network experience and a few patents to his credit, he played a key role in multicell wireless expansions for telephone systems on the basis of the DECT digital wireless standard. In 1998 at the outset of the deregulation of public telephone networks throughout the EU, Langmantel was appointed director of the technical department of Austria’s regulatory agency for telecommunications, and later also for broadcasting. In this capacity, he worked in an exciting interdisciplinary field at the nexus of technology, business and law, and was the man with chief responsibility for the Austrian telephone number system during this period. In search of new challenges in 2011, Langmantel became a self-employed consultant in the field of telecommunications technology with projects in the Near East. Since early 2013, he has also been chairman of the board of directors of Internet Privatstiftung Austria, where his responsibilities include development of the netidee subsidy program.