Greetings from the founder

Jun Murai, Ph.D.
Jun Murai, Ph.D. Founder

WIDE Project: Toward a New Mission from 2024

Society, it seems, has managed to recover from the historic global pandemic and is now regaining its former momentum. Yet the impact of Covid-19 over the past three years has resulted in significant changes to the situation surrounding the digital infrastructure environment on which we are working.

One is that people’s views on the value and meaning of digital technology services have changed substantially. As I have often said, we have spent a great deal of time on broadening understanding and expectations of digital technology and the Internet. Given that this time has accelerated 10- and 20-fold and certainly will not slow down in the future, the tailwinds behind research and development may start to look more like a raging gale ahead.

In yacht sailing, which I used to teach, there is a dangerous navigation technique called “wing and wing,” where you extend the mainsail (the large aft sail) and the jib (the smaller fore sail) outwards on opposite sides of the yacht to take full advantage of wind directly at your back and thrill in the speed that results. This is fun but also hazardous! If the wind is too strong, the bow can dig into the water as if the yacht were a submarine making a dive. This is one way I imagined the situation over the year that was.

Coincidentally, Japan moved ahead forcefully on its new national digital policy designed to give it its first new look in this regard in 20 years, something that had been in preparation since before Covid, and this led to the formulation of a new basic law and the creation of the requisite government body, which is to say, the advent of Japan’s Digital Agency. In addition, we saw the rollout of Japan’s Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation offering digital solutions for all policy issues, as well as, on a more serious note, the Digital Administrative Reform Council. The Japanese government is moving full steam ahead on the premise of using digital technology to solve all kinds of issues.

2023 was a fast-paced year for WIDE too. In March, we hosted the IETF meeting in Yokohama. The discussion here covered much new ground, beyond the pandemic. We had a huge discussion on the technologies in our purview, as well as the various digital society considerations surrounding them, involving not only engineers but policymakers as well.

In November 2023, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) took place in Kyoto. WIDE had a booth at the venue, and many WIDE members, including some younger members, participated in the meeting. Although the IGF is convened by the United Nations, it is an open affair and allows discussion on any and all topics, but it does not produce negotiated conclusions or declarations. It is a unique, multi-stakeholder meeting, and in 2023, welcomed an astonishing total of over 6,000 onsite participants.

Also in 2023, Japan held the G7 presidency. Since the presiding country not only hosts G7 meetings and summits but presides over the G7 throughout the year, it has a strong voice. Dialogue with the world centered on Japan as the presiding country, covering topics such as how to deal with generative AI, which rose to prominence in 2023.

Generative AI is something that involves computer-based processing of digital data, with data centers and the Internet being the principal battlegrounds. The general populace and all policymakers were focused on this in 2023, and it is evident that expectations for the technology represented a raging tailwind.

Quite separate from all of this, I also have the impression that WIDE Project research and development efforts have become even more vigorous with the addition of new elements. In terms of the discussion about infrastructure itself, the uptake of optical technology in networks and computer equipment has opened up a new world of routing control technology on the operations technology front, and new initiatives in the area of Internet operations have commenced. There is, in some aspects, an art to properly understanding how optical technology impacts Internet operations in relation to the lower operational layers and opening the way for new operational systems. The WIDE Project brings together experts from all sorts of fields, and its power continues to lie in its ability to provide feedback on new technologies to vendors’ development teams. The fact that it brings together new, young talent, including an increasing number of students, is also significant. Speaking of youth, participation by those of high-school age was recognized in 2023, with such individuals actively participating in research. And we also have news that they will be successfully admitted to WIDE-affiliated universities in 2024.

This relationship between optical technology and networks has also seen new moves in submarine cable technology. We were able to work on the design of the Arterial Research and Educational Network in the Asia Pacific, which launched in 2020, and on the design of the branching and landing systems, including Layer 1 operations in the submarine cables, and this marked the beginning of a historic new era for us.

Non-terrestrial networks, such as those via satellites and HAPS, are also advancing and being deployed in real-world applications, and in this new era of the Internet offering 100% coverage of the Earth’s surface, an era in which the Internet not only connects people but also “things” in the form of IoT devices, and provides the infrastructure for autonomous robots like drones, WIDE Project has a special role to play in technical dialog that comprehensively considers this infrastructure as a whole as an architecture.

In 2023, we also embarked on joint research with JAXA to look at rebuilding the protocols for communications between the Earth and off-planet locations such as the Moon and Mars. This is a new challenge for WIDE, which has been directing its efforts toward autonomous distributed processing at large scales.

The large-scale, wide-area distributed environment of the future, which really began to take shape in 2023, has been part of WIDE Project’s mission since its inception, and taking a broad perspective, I believe we must continue to develop and evaluate the individual technologies and push ahead with research and development for the future.

Once again, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your understanding, enthusiastic participation, and immense support over the past 30 years or more. I hope that by properly fulfilling the new mission and roles that bear down on us like a raging gale, we can encourage all of our members to engage in fun and meaningful research, development, and operational activities. We look forward to your continued support in 2024.

March 2024