Information Today
Volume17, Number 2 • February 2000
Internet Policy Institute Launched as Independent Think Tank

A group of Internet visionaries and scholars announced the creation of the Internet Policy Institute, the nation’s first independent, nonpartisan think tank devoted exclusively to providing research and hard data on the Internet and society. The group also announced its first research project and an initiative aimed at educating the presidential contenders.

The creation of the new think tank was announced by Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape; Vint Cerf, senior vice president of Internet architecture at MCI Worldcom; Esther Dyson, author and chair of Edventure Holdings, Inc.; Mario Morino, chair of The Morino Institute; and Kimberly Jenkins, president of the Internet Policy Institute.

According to the announcement, the new, nonprofit think tank will employ well-known experts and scholars to research subjects ranging from the role of the Internet in privacy to the Internet’s impact on taxation and healthcare.

“The Internet is surrounded by noise, hype, rumors, marketing, IPOs, and the hopes of starry-eyed start-ups, but there is little hard data on which policymakers can base critical decisions that will determine the future of the new medium and how it affects society,” said Barksdale, co-chairman of the Internet Policy Institute’s board of directors. Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Tech, is his co-chairman.

“The speed at which society has adopted the Internet is unprecedented,” said Cerf, who was chairman and founding president of the Internet Society, as well as one of the designers of the TCP/IP protocol. “If, as we expect, half the world will be online within the next 4 years, we must make sure that the policy decisions we make now are based on solid, well-researched data.”

The Institute announced its first research project, to be undertaken in collaboration with The Brookings Institution, on “The Economic Payoff from the Internet Revolution.” The research will be led by Alice Rivlin—former vice chair of the Federal Reserve System’s board of directors, former Office of Management and Budget director, and now with the Brookings Institution, and Robert E. Litan—vice president and director of economic studies at The Brookings Institution and former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget. The research will produce the first comprehensive, systematic economic study by an independent research group of the subject.

The Internet Policy Institute also announced its first publications project, “Briefing the President: What the Next President of the United States Needs to Know About the Internet and Its Transformative Impact on Society.” The Institute also released the introduction to the project by Barksdale, while Cerf outlined the contents of the next paper, “What Is the Internet (and What Makes It Work)?” Over the course of the coming months, the Institute will release 13 papers to be presented in briefings to all the leading presidential contenders and later compiled into a book.

“We didn’t know 5 years ago the direction that the Internet would take,” Barksdale said. “I’ll bet that 5 years from now, we’ll be surprised by its new directions. We need to assure that an honest, objective approach is taken on Internet issues, to prevent decision making that hinders the potential of this amazing medium,” he said.

Source: Internet Policy Institute, Washington, DC, 202/628-3900; Fax: 202/628-3922;

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