GEOG 479
Cyber-Geography in Geospatial Intelligence

Summary and Final Tasks


Summary and Final Tasks


This week, we’ve looked at and attempted to bound where the rest of the course is going to go. The worldview on information and access to it has changed in the last decade. Any purposeful activity today requires access to and exchanging of information. If we conceptualize information objectively, then we think of it as something which informs. If we conceptualize it subjectively, then we think of it as who is being informed and how. This presents us with a choice of our focus on reality – is cyberspace a place at all? If it is, then one aspect of this reality is the technology that provides connectivity between different physical places, i.e., the "geo" of geoint.

Within the last 20 years, cyberspace emerged from the pages of sci-fi to be ubiquitous for a great deal of humanity. By the end of this second decade of the 21st century, the pace of technological change -- driven by advances in cheap ICT infrastructure and affordable mobile devices -- should make being unconnected rarer and rarer.

Cyberspace emerged as if nation-states didn't matter. It's grown to fill institutional vacuums that resulted in its governance and growth in the hands of institutions outside the traditional international telecommunications regulatory environment. Cyberspace’s informal and diverse governance has propelled its growth and has established its norms of openness, freedom of choice, and collegiality - largely being Western values. These private governance institutions are being challenged from coping with growth well beyond the design originally envisioned. The old system is in a state of increasing entropy, and the norms of the new system have yet to be completely defined.

Some nations have become concerned by the strategic importance of cyberspace. Globalization is dependent on networks that were designed for robustness rather than security. Criminality is increasing in cyberspace and presents increasing challenges to law enforcement. Malware threatens to erode trust and compromises the National Information Infrastructure (NII). Cyberwar has now been established as a legitimate use of force with the creation of Cyber Command in the DoD. As the younger, digitally savvy generation comes into its own, cyberspace has become their medium where demands for social and political justice are mobilized. Accommodating new forms of cyber-mediated movements is proving difficult. Social upheavals such as the Arab Spring have created international debate as states seek to reassert norms in domestic cyberspace.

Cyberspace has been a defacto global commons. Should it remain so? Who gets to decide on what are the acceptable rules and behaviors in cyberspace? How will they be enforced? The ideological lines have been drawn, and the possible outcomes - decided in international forums such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - will play defining roles in the look and feel cyberspace for generations to come. Securing cyberspace as an open global commons defines economic prosperity, democracy, and fundamental civil rights. Security is important but security is only one piece. Will cyberspace remain an open global domain or will it (should it) be partitioned into national gated communities controlled by national bodies within national borders?

Technology and its relationships to our geostrategic view varies depending on the frame of reference we've adopted before we even look. Many would say that freedom of expression cannot be complete without freedom of access. Freedom of access almost sounds like a nautical term – “Freedom of the Seas”.

As defined in international law at The Free Dictionary, freedom of the seas is:

  1. (Law) the right of ships of all nations to sail the high seas in peacetime
  2. (Law) (in wartime) the immunity accorded to neutral ships from attack
  3. (Law) the exclusive jurisdiction possessed by a state over its own ships sailing the high seas in peacetime

If indeed cyberspace is a “place,” then there should be correlating statutes that correspond to its places and cargoes. “Cargo” in this sense is information. Freedom of passage and access to this resource should be protected much the same way merchant vessels are protected in the maritime domain. The navies of the world guarantee freedom of trade in the maritime environment. As more and more business is done on the web, e-commerce needs to be protected as well. This idea may be the basis for both prosperity and conflict in the future. This future will be populated by an ever increasing "youth bulge" that is the predominant demographic in this environment. While the physical world may change slowly, the cyber "global commons" will not remain stagnant. Understanding of the aspects of technology, information science, and geography are all critical to seeing the total picture with respect to both the dangers and the opportunities. This understanding requires we realize that cyberspace has a physical layer that consists of a geographically diverse set of cables, towers, wires satellites and other pieces of hardware, an operational layer that is comprised of ever changing operational protocols and codes that allow for the multidirectional flow of content over the physical layer, and finally a content layer itself consisting of the knowledge, ideas, services, and products that flow over and through cyberspace.

Some Numbers at a Glance - The Population of the Cyber Global Commons
Population Numbers
Internet users worldwide 3.2 billion or 50% penetration (per ITU)
Internet users from Europe and North America 25% of global online population (per Internet World Stats 2017)
Internet users from Africa 9.4% of global online population (per Internet World Stats 2017)
Internet users from Asia 50% of global online population (per Internet World Stats 2017)
Internet access rate in North America 88.1% (per Internet World Stats 2017)
Internet access rate in developing world 26%
Global internet users under the age of 25 > 45%
Fastest growing user base Youth in states at risk of failure or fragility
Youth users using social media 80% (demographicall different based on platform)
Potential access to mobile networks 90% (world population); 80% (rural)
Global e-commerce spending US $708 billion
Projected global e-commerce spending in 2015 US $1,285 billion
Estimated cost of corporate data leaks in 2010 US $1 trillion

Reminder - Complete all of the Lesson 1 tasks!

You have reached the end of Lesson 1! Double-check the to-do list on the Lesson 1 Overview page to make sure you have completed all of the activities listed there before you begin Lesson 2.