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Is Internet Part of the Curriculum of Universities?

Recently I joined my son, who is in his final high school year, to visit the open day of the newly founded Leiden University College in The Hague. The school focuses on Liberal Arts & Science and offers a broad education on (international) politics, philosophy and economy. The idea is to prepare the next generation internationally oriented public servants and leaders of the future. Among others they have former Dutch Minister of Foreign affairs and Secretary General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as a college professor. He gave a lecture in which he presented a few very well put moral dilemma’s one can encounter when working in a hostile environment and that as a diplomat you cannot afford not to meet with people who think very adversely then you on moral and ethical issues. More to the point he gave a few examples of how the world is changing fast. He mentioned stuxnet and the Estonian cyber riot and how these two cyber interventions cause governments to look differently at the world. Dangers come from totally unsuspected angles. The result is, I’d like to add, that, as you undoubtedly are aware of, cyber security projects jump up every where you look, creating almost limitless opportunities for specialists. The lecture was a pleasure to listen to and I would not mind hearing a few more I have to admit.

Internet and LUC The Hague curriculum

But to come back to LUC presentation itself. Listening to the presented curriculum, which took place before professor De Hoop Scheffers’ lecture, I noticed that the Internet did not seem to have any role in it. All that was presented on was on traditional politics and diplomacy. E.g., ethical questions on war. Can a war be just? If the Internet’s workings really are not a part of the curriculum, the students (to be) are withheld vital information on how the world works nowadays. It is quite evident that the world has become totally dependent on an efficiently working Internet. Within a few years there may not be a lot left that is not connected to and thus receives instructions through the Internet.

Internet is privately managed

However, governments do not have a say in large parts of the Internet, how it is operated, the protocols that make it work and the rules around it. Organisations like ICANN, IANA, the Regional Internet Registries, the ccTLDs, etc. all set their own rules on the distribution of critical Internet Resources. ISPs make access to the Internet possible and have terms of contract for that. The IETF sets technical standards. The major routers of the Internet are in public hands and Domain Name Servers also. If future leaders are to be knowledgeable on what makes the world turn, lectures on the Internet world are a must to have, as, and let´s face it, LUCs students may later well lead from one of these Internet institutions. And all that is without mentioning the immense challenge of cyber crime and the problems with cross jurisdictional investigations law enforcement agencies face. For governments, dealing with a safer and more secure Internet is one of the major challenges of the 2010s and probably beyond. Can any relevant education ignore all this? (After some checking I know that this is not unique for LUC The Hague in the Netherlands. It is clear that awareness needs to be raised at the academical level.)


So far I have only heard of the 2Centre project, but whether this has taken off by now, I’m not aware of, nor whether it will have topics like I mentioned on the curriculum or only looks at digital forensics.

By Wout de Natris, Consultant internet governance

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A personal addition Wout de Natris  –  Jun 16, 2011 10:32 PM

My son graduated today from high school and will enter the college of his choice, see this blog post, in August. (A proud dad.)

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