Abhaya Induruwa: It all start­ed in the 1984, 85 peri­od. And very inter­est­ing, I vis­it­ed Hong Kong in 1984 to study their aca­d­e­m­ic and research net­work­ing. I also vis­it­ed three oth­er coun­tries: Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. When I went back, I was deter­mined to set up a net­work for the ben­e­fit of aca­d­e­mics and the research com­mu­ni­ty in the coun­try. And that’s how it all started. 

Intertitle: Describe one of the break­through moments of the Internet in which you have been a key participant?

Indurawa: It was not until 1989 I pro­posed set­ting up a country-wide net­work for the aca­d­e­m­ic and research com­mu­ni­ty. I called it LEARN, the Lanka Experimental Academic and Research Network. Again, the fund­ing was not straight away avail­able, and one of the chal­lenges was con­vinc­ing the pol­i­cy­mak­ers to pro­vide fund­ing. You’ve got to remem­ber that this was a time that peo­ple were not car­ry­ing smart­phones, not hav­ing web access and Facebook and tweet­ing. So it was quite a chal­lenge to con­vince them to pro­vide fund­ing. So it was around 1992 we were able to get enough funds to set up the net­work with IP connectivity. 

Having got the mon­ey, the next chal­lenge was to some­how get the only tele­com provider at the time in the coun­try, Sri Lanka Telecom, to set up the net­work com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels. So with a kind of per­sua­sion I was able to get three 64 kilo­bits per sec­ond wire­less links to con­nect my uni­ver­si­ty, University of Moratuwa, to two oth­er uni­ver­si­ties, one in Colombo, University of Colombo, and Open University. And in 1994 we set up the first IP ran in the country. 

Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weath­er anal­o­gy and explain why.

Indurawa: I would like it to be sun­ny. But I can see it quite cloudy. I expect the Internet to be for the ben­e­fit of humankind, for the com­mon good. But there are cer­tain nefar­i­ous actions car­ried out on the Internet threat­en­ing the free flow of infor­ma­tion, the open access to infor­ma­tion, and so on and so forth. So secu­ri­ty is my major con­cern. So no mat­ter what peo­ple do, we’ve go secure the Internet. 

Intertitle: What are your great­est hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?

Indurawa: As Vinton once said, we have been using the exper­i­men­tal Internet, IPv4, for the last three decades so it is time to move on to the real pro­duc­tion net­work, which is IPv6. So I expect the intro­duc­tion of IPv6 right across the globe to pro­vide the nec­es­sary con­nec­tiv­i­ty to the devices that we want to con­nect. Already we are pre­dict­ing sev­er­al bil­lions of devices to be con­nect­ed, what we call the Internet of Things, which will gen­er­ate enor­mous vol­umes of data. And also pro­vide ser­vices to ordi­nary peo­ple. So again, my con­cern is secu­ri­ty of the Internet of Things. So no mat­ter we do, we’ve got to make sure that humankind is not harmed. 

I hope peo­ple will do it. But of course, when it comes to busi­ness some­times peo­ple cut cor­ners. As an edu­ca­tor, I feel that we should edu­cate both the young and the elder­ly who’ll be using the Internet. We should edu­ca­tor soft­ware engi­neers to gen­er­ate and devel­op trust­wor­thy soft­ware. We have to make sure that secu­ri­ty’s embed­ded in the soft­ware devel­op­ment cycle from the very begin­ning, not an add-on, an after­thought at the end. 

Intertitle: What action should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

Indurawa: In terms of action, I like to think, being an edu­ca­tor, that the users should be edu­cat­ed about the poten­tial of the Internet in the first place, and also the threats and oth­er issues that are there when you use the Internet. So I would expect much more empha­sis on edu­cat­ing the young, edu­cat­ing the old, at the same time. I would like to see the Internet being used for the com­mon good rather than harm­ing the peo­ple. I would also like to see more empha­sis placed on secure soft­ware devel­op­ment, or soft­ware devel­op­ment for secure appli­ca­tions rather than loose type of appli­ca­tions. And there’s this trust­wor­thy soft­ware ini­tia­tive which is actu­al­ly look­ing into that aspect right now.