3.4 Internet

The Internet is the backbone of many modern developments in technology. As such, this page contains a huge range of resources covering all areas in Strand 2 of the ITGS syllabus - from cloud computing in business to government surveillance of the Internet.

Textbook exercise

Exercise 1.8

ITGS Guide: "On what basis can we trust "knowledge" acquired from a range of sources?"
ITGS Links: 1.1 Reliability and Integrity, 1.12 Digital Citizenship, 3.5 Internet

The BBC article Are we trapped in our own web bubbles? and Eli Pariser's TED talk 'Beware online filter bubbles' are two resources that discuss how personalised search results could limit our access to new information.

Search engines play a major role in providing access to knowledge and information. The order of the links appearing in search results therefore has a significant impact on the types of information that will be accessed by the majority of people (witness how many people only ever use the first page - or even half page - of search results). Additionally, some search engines and social media sites have started to use personalised search results, which can prioritise results that are similar to pages we have previously viewed - thus forming a so-called 'search bubble' or 'filter bubble' that might limit our exposure to new views.

Despite this, there is still some debate over just how significant the filter bubble effect is. A 2015 study of Facebook data suggested the effect was minimal or non-existent - but the study itself was quickly criticised. Filter bubbles returned to the media spotlight after political events including the election of Donald Trump and the UK Brexit vote. The Guardian attempted to examine the effect in 2018, while the University of Illinois has an interesting page examining the effect and presenting an experiment you can try for yourself.

This can be a useful starting point for exercise 1.8, and also links closely to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.

Updated: 2018-08-17
Cloud computing

Cloud computing

Where are the savings in using GoogleApps? gives examples of the quite significant cost savings that can be made when a large school switches to a cloud computing system such as Google Apps. This BBC Webscape video focuses on cloud computing backup solutions.

However, with Google being notorious for scrapping applications and projects mercilessly, this Guardian article notes that Google's projects have an average life-expectancy of 4 years and asks whether it is a good idea to rely on free cloud infrastructure for business or personal use.

Even Google won't be around for ever, let alone Facebook. What happens to our data then? is an interesting article exploring this concept in more detail and pointing out that many of the services to which we now entrust large amounts of our data are still relatively young companies.

You can also download the cloud computing diagram from page 59 of the book.
Updated: 2014-10-02
Internet backbone

Internet backbone structure and data routing

Greg's Cable Map is a fantastic site with an up to date, interactive map of Internet backbone cables. Current and planned backbone cables can be displayed, and additional information such as landing sites is shown.

TeleGeography's submarine cable maps are simply amazing. Not only do they have a world map (left), but their map gallery contains interactive Internet backbone maps of Latin America, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region. Each features Internet connectivity statistics about the region's countries. The maps are available in high resolution versions which would look great on a classroom wall.

Finally, Many Possibilities has a regularly updated map of the submarine cables surrounding Africa.

These resources are great for helping students understand the nature of the Internet and how data is routed, which has implications for privacy, security, and reliability. They can be used to supplement the information on page 80 of the book, and with articles such as:

The video The Internet Explained is also useful.

Updated: 2016-11-20
Development of Internet

Development of the Internet

A useful networking resource is the BBC's The Growth of Broadband (top left) which shows the development of Internet backbone structure over the years - from 4 million broadband subscribers in 2009 to over 400  million in 2011.

Another interactive BBC map (bottom left) shows the global spread of Internet access, from relatively low rates of access in 1998 to much higher rates today.

Both maps make a great starting point for discussions about the spread of Internet technology and its effects on our lives. Equality of access issues are also clear here, and it is notable that even today there are large areas of the world few people have access. Internet World Stats is another site with up to date Internet use and penetration statistics.
Updated: 2014-10-02
Interactive Internet map

Interactive cable map

Interactive map showing land and sea based fibre optic Internet cables in and around Africa. You can view this data in Google Earth using the KML data from the UbuntuNet Alliance.
Updated: 2014-10-02
Internet visualisations

Internet Visualisations

Chris Harrison's Internet Maps site contains some stunning visualisations of the Internet, including the Internet's population density and city to city connections.

These resources would look great printed out large in the ITGS classroom and make great starting points for conversations about the global spread of technology and equality of access (the map to the left shows Internet connection density - North America and Europe can be clearly seen, while the coasts of South America and Africa are barely visible).
Updated: 2014-10-02
Internet infographics

How the Internet works infographic

Diagram showing how the Internet works, covering protocols, IP addresses, Internet Service Providers, and many Internet-related statistics. Very useful as an overview of the processes that occur when you use the Internet. Would make a nice ITGS classroom poster. Download.
Updated: 2014-10-02
Keyword bingo

Lesson resources: Keyword Bingo

Give students one or two cards containing ITGS key words, then read out the definitions. The first student to get all key words wins. This set of cards covers only key terms related to chapter 4 of the book, Networks. Download: Student cards, teacher clues.
Updated: 2014-10-02
Networking flashcards

Lesson resources: Revision Flashcards

Networks revision flashcards to test students on the key terms. The 'Learn' and 'Test' modes of Quizlet work best.
Updated: 2014-10-02
Banned words game

Lesson resources: Banned words game

Banned words game - This game is similar to 'Taboo' or 'Forbidden Words'. Each card contains an ITGS key networks term which students must explain to the class without mentioning the 'taboo' words listed on the card. The aim is to improve students' ability to explain key ITGS language and have a little bit of fun. Works well as a starter with the class split into two teams. I find printing the cards on coloured paper and laminating them works best.

Download Networks cards or the blank cards to make your own.
Updated: 2014-10-02

Tele-working, Tele-commuting, and Work-Shifting

TeachICT is a good resource which covers the positive and negative impacts of tele-working on various stakeholders, including employers, employees, and their families.

Is teleworking driving us crazy? (BBC) primarily examines the negative social impacts of teleworking.

When going to the office makes you a better dad than working from home (The Atlantic) and The myth of working from home (BBC) both discuss a recent policy changed at Yahoo! that prevents its workers from tele-working.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Internet, Extranet, and Intranet

The Internet, Intranet, and Extranets

"The Global Information Technology Report 2013, the 12th in the series, analyses the impact and influence of ICTs on economic growth and jobs in a hyperconnected world.", and raises ITGS social and ethical issues relating to the Digital Divide and Globalisation.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Textbook exercise

Exercise 9.22

The web design section of the internal assessment page has useful resources and software for this assignment.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Running an online business

E-Commerce: Running an online business

The Australian government produces the Australian Data Tourism Warehouse (ATDW) for the local tourism industry. The site contains a great deal of useful and practical information about setting up an online business, including hardware and software requirements, costs, and related aspects such as digital marketing. As such, ITGS students may find it a very useful resource to study as part of a Business & Employment or Home & Leisure related case study.
Updated: 2014-10-03

E-Commerce: Customer-to-Customer (C2C)

Customer to Customer (also known as Consumer-to-Consumer or C2C) e-commerce involves buyers and sellers doing direct business with each other. Although a 'middle-man' company may be present, their task is simply to match the client with the buyer (and perhaps take a cut of the transaction) rather than buy stock and sell it at a mark-up.

The BBC Click video The tech that lets you rent out your bike or car demonstrates one example of a successful C2C system in San Francisco which allows bike and car owners to find people who want to rent them. Airbnb is another example which allows home owners to rent out their rooms - though the New York Times reports that the system may be illegal as it brings local laws on permits and taxation.
Updated: 2014-10-03
How search engines work

How Search Engines Work

Inside Knowledge Graph is an interactive insight into how Google collates information and forms relationships between items to produce better search results.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Targeted advertising

Targeted advertising and consumer data

The collection of customer data and its use for targeted advertising raise a lot of privacy issues. The following news articles give examples of the information companies know about you, and how they acquire it. Data mining also opens the door for less salubrious technologies, such as offering special deals only to certain users (WSJ), and even providing personalised pricing (BBC). How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did (Forbes) is a particularly worrying example of data mining being used to make decisions about a customer.

Other advances - if that is the right word - have enabled companies to match online data with offline activities. Facebook will peer into your grocery bag, for example, explains how supermarket loyalty card data (which is often tied to an email address) can be bought and matched against social network email addresses.

The Wall Street Journal offers these tips to reduce online identity tracking.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Online health advice

Online health advice

Examples of online health advice created by official or professional groups include NHS Direct (advice from the UK's National Health Service), NetDoctor, and WebMD.

Online advice is naturally accompanied by concerns regarding the authenticity of the creators and the reliability of the information itself:
Updated: 2014-11-07
Telemedicine and Telehealth

Telemedicine and Telehealth

Telemedicine can take many forms. Traditional hospitals can perform  consultations with patients in remote hospitals or at home:  Texting the Teenage Patient (NY Times) and Teenagers to take embarrassing ailments to Second Life doctors (Guardian) describe one particular scenario where telemedicine may have a significant advantage over face-to-face consultations.

However, research has also cast doubt on the cost-effectiveness of telehealth (Computer Weekly), while some doctors are wary about online house calls (The Age).
Updated: 2014-11-07

Published and broadcast information: Social media and news

This multi-award-winning short film makes a great lesson starter. It imagines how the classic tale The Three Little Pigs might be told in today's modern news and social media. Really smart and fun, it is an excellent resource for generating discussions.

Updated: 2014-11-07
Citizen journalism

Published and broadcast information: Citizen Journalism

One of the most notable examples of citizen journalism is the famous image of US Airways flight 1549 moments after it landed in the Hudson river in January 2009. The image was taken by a Janis Krums, a passenger on a nearby ferry, and quickly spread around the world. Other famous examples include citizen reports on the 2005 terrorist attacks on London transportation systems, with major news organisations featuring eye witness submissions and even video clips from the Underground trains (which professional journalists could not access). The most famous image from these events - that of a number 30 bus moments after a bomb ripped it apart - won the first prize in awards set up by Nokia and the UK Press Gazette.

Citizen journalism also played a major role in the 2011 'Arab spring' uprisings in Syria and Egypt.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Internet censorship

Exercise 14.1: Internet filtering, censorship, and surveillance

Internet censorship is a huge topic, and one that truly highlights the global nature of the ITGS course. It is also closely related to the IB TOK course.

As an introduction to this topic, asking students to discuss or research a little about censorship in their own countries (and their opinions of this) is often very englightening. The news articles below have been divided into general categories simply to facilitate navigation.

General articles about Internet censorship

Reporters without Borders and the Open Network Initiative (ONI) both maintain up to date information about global Internet surveillance and censorship. In addition, the following articles are useful for stimulating conversation about types of appropriate and inappropriate content, and whether government control of the internet is appropriate.

Internet censorship in Europe

Internet censorship in Asia

Internet censorship in Australia

Filtering by search engines and online services

Increasingly search engines, social networks, and other web sites may also be asked to block access to certain content - either locally or globally. This is particularly significant because millions of users rely on these services to access information: the absence of a piece of content may well be taken as an indication that the content simply does not exist. The news articles below provide examples of this type of filtering:

The digital citizenship page covers some of the potential legal impacts of online behaviour.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Online election campaigning

Election campaigning resources

Most political parties and politicians have an online presence now, and the use of information technology - especially social media - has featured heavily in the 2008 and 2012 US presidential election campaigns. Some of the better articles to cover this topic include The New York Times' How Obama's Internet Campaign Changed Politics, and HowStuffWorks' How Campaign Communication Technology Works.

Looking Ahead to Obama's 2012 Social Media Campaign, and the Internet's Broader Role in Campaign 2008 are also good reads. For a more international view, On the social media campaign trail in Brazil covers social media use by politicians in Brazil. Campaigns Use Social Media to Lure Younger Voters focuses on the younger electorate, who some credit for helping Obama take his first election victory.

Rick Santorum and his Google problem: Are digital dirty tricks here to stay? looks at some of the downsides of online politics.

The political candidates in the 2012 US election all have social media sites, including Barack Obama (web site, Twitter feed, YouTube channel, Facebook page) and Mitt Romney (web site, Facebook page, Twitter feed).
Updated: 2014-11-07
Online voting

Electronic Voting software and lesson plan

Electronic voting is a controversial topic. This E-Voting lesson plan uses a simple Java application I wrote to simulate the e-voting process. Students get to vote and then are presented with three sets of results - two of which are falsified. This is a useful practise exercise to stimulate discussions about e-voting and the potential problems that may arise.

The New York Times article Voting Test Falls Victim to Hackers and the video Why Internet-Based Voting Is a Bad Idea are also useful for this task, as are the articles below.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Internet surveillance

Internet surveillance

With ever-increasing use of the Internet by criminals and terrorists, many governments are pushing for greater surveillance and monitoring powers. However, the issues of surveillance and privacy are fundamentally linked.

In the US, Wired's Attorney General Secretly Granted Gov. Ability to Develop and Store Dossiers on Innocent Americans makes interesting reading, while (somewhat ironically), a Freedom of Information request forced the Department of Homeland Security to Release List of Keywords Used to Monitor Social Networking Sites (Forbes).

In the UK, the controversial Communications Data Bill is one example of the types of power governments are pushing for globally. Do we need the Snooper's Charter to save lives? (PC Pro) discusses the bill, which was proposed in 2012 as a method of combating terrorism and organised crime.

Governments may also request data about users from search engines, social networks, and other organisations. In the US, National Security Letters sent by the government require the recipient to hand over data on specified individuals, and come with a 'gag-order' that prevents the receipient from discussing the letter. Google is one such recipient who has challenged these National Security Letters in court on grounds of privacy and freedom of speech.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Crime map

Police use of IT: Crime mapping tools

Several sites provide online crime mapping data. The UK police run Local Crime and Policing information - just type in the name of any UK town or village. Website plots area Crime-by-Crime (BBC) explains the site in more detail.

CrimeReports.co.uk is another site that maps crimes in the UK, US, and Canada. Trulia Crime Maps covers the US, creating 'heatmaps' of different crime types.

Online crime mapping clearly raises several ITGS social and ethical issues: the article Will crime maps work? (BBC) discusses some of the potential impacts. Online offender databases, which go one step further and include the personal details of offenders on their sites, are covered below.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Online crime reporting

Police use of IT: Crime reporting sites

The Internet and social media has opened the doors for improved police-citizen communication. Whotube is a site that displays CCTV footage of crimes and invites the public to identify suspects.
Updated: 2014-11-07
The Net DVD cover

The Net

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Instant Video

An old film (it features floppy disks!), but a good one for ITGS discussions. Sandra Bullock finds herself "wiped from existence" and given a false criminal record after stumbling into a criminal gang. This is a good film for discussing databases, ITGS issues such as data integrity, privacy, and security, and the increased trust that many in society place in computer systems.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Search engine privacy activity

Search engines and privacy

This lesson examines some of the privacy issues related to the data collection performed by most major search engines. Students will examine the infamous AOL data release and analyse their own web histories. This is a useful lesson for studying databases and the Internet, but I have also used it as a standalone lesson when introducing the ITGS course to pre-IB students. The slides for the lesson can be downloaded from SlideShare.

Updated: 2014-11-11
Malware visualization

Global malware visualization

The map to the left was created in an unconventional way - by an anonymous researcher who hacked into nearly 500,000 computers in order to plot their location and produce the map data. The web site contains an animated version where Internet connection density can be clearly seen moving across the globe as the day progresses.
Updated: 2014-10-10
Internet Statistics

Internet Statistics

Internet World Stats is a good site for interesting and often surprising statistics about Internet access and use across the world. It includes pages on penetration rates, languages, and much more, which provide a useful background for study the digital divide and cultural diversity.

Other sites include statistics about the language of websites which also make interesting reading.

It is easy to assume that many or most people have Internet access. However, this is far from the truth. According to a recent report in the Telegraph, more than half the world (57%) still do not have Internet access.

How Much of the World Has Regular Internet Access? is a UN report which reveals some interesting trends - including significant gaps between the percentage of women who have Internet access globally and the percentage of men. In some areas the difference is as high as 50%.

Even in more developed countries, there can still be a digital divide: the Pew Research Center claims 15% of Americans do not have Internet access - with age and lack of finance tending to be a barrier to uptake.

Of course, as with any statistics we should be careful to understand how, when, and by whom the measurements were made, as the Internet can evolve very quickly.

Updated: 2018-06-11
Internet Languages

Languages and the Internet

The cultural diversity that the Internet enables can have both positive and negative social and cultural impacts. The dominance of the English language can lead to equality of access issues for users who only speak other languages. Similarly, some organisations such as UNESCO fear that as English and Western culture in general dominate the Internet, older, less common languages and cultures may be pushed to the sidelines and eventually become extinct. Linguistic diversity and multilingualism on Internet discusses this possibility with clear examples.

A report by the UN, How Much of the World Has Regular Internet Access?, found that only 5% of the world's languages were represented online.

On the other hand, the Internet itself can also being used to protect and preserve languages. The Endangered Languages project is one example- its goal is to record samples of these languages for future generations.

Updated: 2016-08-28
Who Controls the Internet?

Who Controls the Internet?

by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: Who Controls the Internet? is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World discusses the challenges that arise with the rapid spread of the Internet and the benefits and drawbacks for citizens, corporations, and governments. The book covers the technical details essential to understand the nature of information on the Internet, and then discusses specific examples of government or corporate attempts at control. The examples include the rise of file sharing in the late 1990s and the Chinese government's ongoing crackdown on online dissidents. Each case study is presented with clear examples, and throughout the book ITGS social and ethical issues are raised, including globalization, equality of access, and surveillance.

Updated: 2017-11-10
Internet trends

State of the Internet: Internet visualisations

State of the Internet is an excellent page from Akamai features interactive charts to help students visualise Internet trends. Students can view a global map of Internet speeds (which holds a few surprises) and customize the graphs to show data and changes from which countries and time periods they want. The page also contains information about threats and security trends.

This is a great way of examining potential digital divides. A good ITGS lesson idea might be to have students discuss which areas of the world might have the fastest and slowest (or non-existent) Internet access, justify their assertions, and then use this tool to check their accuracy.

Updated: 2016-07-07