Professor Dame Wendy Hall delivers Athena Swan lecture for the School of Science and Technology on the topic of Data, Geopolitics and the Governance of Cyberspace.

By Eve Lacroix (Communications Officer), Published

723447The School of Science and Technology was delighted to welcome noted computer scientist, Professor Dame Wendy Hall DBE, to deliver the Athena Swan lecture on February 8th 2023.

The Executive Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton, Professor Hall developed the microcosm hypermedia system in the mid-1980s, the forerunner to the World Wide Web; she is one of the first computer scientists to carry out research on the Internet.

Her work has been significant in many areas, including digital libraries, the development of the Semantic Web, and the emerging research discipline of web science. Her research into multimedia and hypermedia has shaped science and engineering policy and education.

She was the co-chair of the UK Government’s Artificial Intelligence Review, published in October 2017; is the Government’s first Skills Champion for AI; and is a member of the newly formed AI Council.

Dame Wendy is a City alumna of City and gained an MSc in Computing in 1986 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from City in 2013.

Recognising extraordinary women

Professor Hall delivered her lecture, Data, Geopolitics and the Governance of Cyberspace, as part of the Athena Swan lecture series for the School of Science and Technology.

The Athena Swan Charter is a framework used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. In November 2022, City’s Athena Swan Charter Bronze Award was renewed, recognising the University’s continued commitment to gender equality. Professor Hall was recognised as one of City’s Extraordinary Women for her remarkable achievements, and for having pushed the boundaries of what can be accomplished.

Discussing her journey into computer science, Professor Hall described being one of only three women in a cohort of around 100 students. She sat on the committee of the body setting up the Athena Swan awards in 2005. She said:

“I would like to pay tribute to Karoline Spark Jones who once said: ‘Computing is too important to be left to men.’

“What she meant by that is that we’re all in this world developing it, not just using it.

“My addition to that statement is: AI is too important to be left to just computer scientists. If it’s not diverse, it’s not ethical.”

City’s Deputy President Professor Elisabeth Hill welcomed the speaker and said:

“Professor Dame Wendy Hall is a role model for our students, and particularly for women who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

“She has done so much in her career to promote the role of women in engineering, science and computing and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for women like Wendy.”

Internet architecture and governance

In 2021, Professor Hall co-authored a book with Keiron O’Hara, titled Four Internets: Data Geopolitics and the Governance of Cyberspace.

Her lecture, built around the content of the book, argues that for the internet to remain global and accessible, it needs a global standard with global protocols.


Professor Hall discussed the geopolitics of distinct internet ideals. Without a global standard, she argued the internet risked splintering off into four distinct and separate internets that were inaccessible to each other:

1. The Silicon Valley Open Internet

This is a form of internet governance which values openness and shared sources. It was designed as such to help people innovate and build faster and to be interoperable between countries. This form of the internet is primarily interested in innovation.

2. The Brussels Bourgeois Internet

This response to the internet attempts to anticipate harms. For example, the European Union intervened to protects users’ right to be forgotten through regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These regulations may, at times, slow down innovation to protect human rights.

3. The Beijing Paternal Internet

Also referred to as the ‘Surveillance Internet’, this governance ideology encourages a top-down approach in which all tech companies will need to abide by specific rules set by the government.

4. The DC Commercial Internet

This mode of governing the ‘DC commercial Internet’ is similar to the ‘Silicon Valley Open Internet’, but prioritises commercial gain above innovation. This approach is market-led and has allowed monopolies to appear on the internet – such as Facebook – in which businesses and corporations lobby governments for regulations to be published that suit their commercial goals.


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