Shaping a Better Future with Breakthrough Technologies





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Apr 11, 2019
by Lucy Browett
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Shaping a Better Future with Breakthrough Technologies

Tereza Bartoníčková, founder and president of the Internet Institute of the Czech Republic, speaks with Salzburg Global about her work Tereza Bartoníčková in the Max Reinhardt Library at Schloss Leopoldskron

In today’s society, it can seem that the internet is ubiquitous and unavoidable.

“[The internet] changes the lives - even of people that are just living in the society where internet is available...” This is the view of Tereza Bartoníčková, founder and president of the Internet Institute of the Czech Republic (Internetový Institut).

Bartoníčková founded the organization while studying at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII). She said, “The possibilities and the areas and fields that OII let me see were just unexpected and unexpectedly wide.”

However, she recognized the importance of bringing her knowledge and expertise to her home country of the Czech Republic.

Bartoníčková said, “I wanted to go back to [the] Czech Republic. I wanted to bring something back. I think if all of the people studying abroad… just remain abroad, we won't move into the future. We won't have a place at the table when these conversations are taking place internationally.

“I am very much inspired by the agendas that I came across during my time at the OII, but I am very much, and the whole institute is very much, customizing to the Czech environment.”

Bartoníčková attended the program Privacy, Security, and Ethics in an Asymmetric World, the inaugural program of the Salzburg Global Law and Technology Forum, which was held at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, from April 7 to 9 2019.

Bartoníčková’s organization serves as a platform to connect academics, government bodies, and the private sector when it comes to the internet and society. She said, “We are aiming to support the people and connect the people that are already making an effort in this area and are very enthusiastic but, because of the lack of awareness and because of the very dynamic political situation we have, it's hard for them to lead a meaningful change.”

Part of this work of facilitating conversations between different actors is to instigate a change in public perception of the internet, although Bartoníčková would not want the Internet Institute to prescribe that perception.

She said, “In the general terms, we want to stay agenda-less, and we want to give a platform to people that have agendas because then you have the balance right because people are different.

“I would just like to stress how much these new technologies, once again the phenomenon that they bring with them, influence… each one of the people in our republic.

“Even if somebody says to me, ‘But my grandma doesn't even have internet,’ I say, yes, but that town and… the benches of the park, they were founded by Kickstarter. Your grandma is sitting on a very good initiative, basically from the online environment, and you are visiting her… more frequently because you are part of the gig economy, so you are not bound by place.”

Bartoníčková’s work at the OII focuses in part on privacy and the internet. Data profiles lead to targeted advertising through the use of algorithms, something which leads to a question of whether content customization is worth our data being processed.

She said, “We go on these platforms, and we immediately see content that is very engaging for us or that interests us. If we tried to search for other content, we are offered the most relevant post for us, once again, not facing us with realities.

“I have a connecting debate going on in my head. Should it really be their responsibility to face or to present us with how to define reality?”

As a young person in this field, Bartoníčková approaches the work from the perspective of someone who has always had the internet in their lives, compared to someone for whom the technology came into their lives as adults.

She said, “Once again, it's about the dialogue…. raising the questions that maybe the generation that just adopted these things doesn't really think about because they may be using it for different purposes, or just are not seeing it in such a scope.”

However, she believes that it is for the younger generation to convince the generations before them, saying, “What I would hope that the role of young people would be is to not only start those initiatives but go hard on the people that do not understand them. Kind, but hard.”

What advice would Bartoníčková give to a young person wanting to work in this field?

She said, “Just don't give up. Just stand your ground. Sometimes it feels like you're waking up and you're saying to yourself, ‘Why?’ But you know why, and you see the future. Go after the future that you want in the place you want to be in. Cooperate and talk with anyone. Everyone has something to say, and you can learn something from anyone.”

The Salzburg Global Seminar program, Privacy, Security, and Ethics in an Asymmetric World, is the inaugural program of the Salzburg Global Law and Technology Forum. More information on this multi-year series is available at the following link:

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