One of the major themes of the early part of this now not-so-new millennium has been the transformative power of digital innovation. Ever fewer aspects of the way we live, work, play and communicate today, just over a decade-and-a-half into the 21st century, remain unaffected by technology. Nine-tenths of the world’s population will soon be covered by a mobile broadband network, while 70 per cent are expected to have access to a smartphone by 2020. Reviewing the phenomenal speed of transformation since Tim Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web on an unsuspecting public towards the end of the last millennium, it’s intriguing (and perhaps important) to consider where we might be in another decade-and-a-half or so.
This is the premise of our cover feature. Those quoted are the technology experts who can recall the first domain name cases, the lawyers who remember having been all at sea in the new world, attempting to use the reference points of property law or construction law to guide them and their clients through these exciting developments, often, by their own admission, blissfully unaware of the impact they would have. Projecting forward to 2030, the expectation is that robots will become as commonplace as smartphones are today and will not only carry out simple tasks but will have opinions. The legal and regulatory implications of this and similar developments are likely to be manifold, though tough, now, to fully comprehend.
The disruptive impact of mobile payments technology that has been developing for years is likely to change the face of finance, certainly by 2030. Such methods of transferring money, without traditional banks as intermediaries, are already widespread across Africa. Cars driven by people are predicted by our interviewees to become the exception rather than the rule, with the hope that this will change the nature of car ownership, in turn assisting in arresting climate change, such a key area of focus for the IBA. The IBA itself continues to harness technology with the aim of improving the rule of law and international justice, and the latest developments of the eyeWitness to Atrocities app – which seeks to capture images and video with a level of authentication allowing their use in court – are covered in this edition.