Strengthening communication is conducive to settling disputes - EJ Insight



Strengthening communication is conducive to settling disputes

In March 1989, the World Wide Web (or www) was created, and its developer, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, in his open letter Marking the Web's 35th Birthday published in March this year reviewed the development of the Internet, pointing out its existing problems, and proposing solutions. It's worth our attention.

While working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, Berners-Lee developed an online workspace to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas between colleagues, which later became one of the three basic technologies of the Internet. They are http (HyperText Transfer Protocol, is used to load web pages using hypertext links), html (HyperText Markup Language, which is the standard markup language for creating web pages), and URLs (Uniform Resource Locator which is web addresses. The world's first URL is info.cern.ch).

Today, many people and businesses have made their fortunes on the Internet, including tech giants, but not the inventor Berners-Lee, because he did not apply for a patent and made www freely available to everyone.

In his open letter, the scientist pointed out that his original intention in establishing the World Wide Web was the 3Cs, encouraging collaboration, fostering compassion and generating creativity aiming to serve as "a tool to empower humanity". Today, however, two distinctly connected issues emerge from the network. One is the centralisation of power, which is contrary to the original intention of enabling everyone to communicate and promote development in their own small communities, but now many platforms are trying to lure users to indulge in it just to extract the most profit. Another more complex issue is that giant companies dig deep into personal data to drive targeted advertising and ultimately control over the information that users receive.

Berners-Lee believed in the need to build a new system that truly serves humanity and seeks the greatest benefit for the whole world. To achieve this, data silos must be broken down to encourage collaboration, market conditions must be created to stimulate creativity, and an environment that actively fosters empathy rather than polarisation should be developed.

I agree with the idea of breaking down data silos to encourage collaboration, creativity, and to identify solutions to problems. For the same reason, I started to promote geographic information systems (GIS) more than 20 years ago.

GIS fosters collaboration by enabling people from different backgrounds to understand and work together by integrating all types of information, whether from real-time remote sensing, artificial intelligence (AI), building information modelling (BIM), surveying or satellites, and presenting them in a visual way, giving policymakers, citizens, governments and academics a common language to evaluate proposals and exchange ideas.

For example, one of the GIS features called StoryMap, which combines text, interactive maps, diagrams, and more, enables people to compare different solutions and the effects before and after development, improving the efficiency of communication and facilitating dispute resolution. In an era of ageing populations and increasing global warming, it is a powerful tool for balancing the needs of environmental conservation and urban development.




Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong