The influence of governments, their departments, and various services on the developments, at least in the foreseeable future, may be expected to be of a rather indirect nature in most cases (as will be seen in this section). In some cases, e.g. where juridical aspects of agents need to be addressed, this influence will have to be more than just superficial. Besides, there are quite some important Internet-related governmental issues, that can greatly benefit from the functionality offered by agents: the three layer model we saw in chapter four, is an example of such a thing that can very well be used in government policies or plans regarding "The Information Super-Highway".

We will step through the list of important governmental Internet-issues, and indicate in which way(s) agents and/or the three layer model can contribute to solving these.

1. The government, maybe through one of its departments, should ensure that developments regarding agents and the Internet go in the right direction. What that right direction should be, is not very easy to determine. In fact, in the United States the government is more and more delegating this kind of decision making to third parties (e.g. groups of large IT-companies) as they think these are better up to the task and/or because this saves the government lots of money. However, it can be said for sure that the right developments are not very likely to emerge from the action of market forces alone as the largest en most powerful companies would dominate the others:

"The key issue for the emergence of new markets is the need for a new regulatory environment allowing full competition. This will be a prerequisite for mobilising the private capital necessary for innovation, growth and development.
In order to function properly, the new market requires that all actors are equipped to participate successfully, or at least that they do not start with significant handicaps. All should be able to operate according to clear rules, within a single, fair and competitive framework.
from [BANG94]

Issues, such as the development of open standards for agents (or for Internet services), are of such great importance, that governments should (at least) supervise the whole process:

"In an efficient and expanding information infrastructure, [...] components should work together.
Assembling the various pieces of this complex system to meet the challenge of interoperability would be impossible without clear conventions. Standards are such conventions.
from [BANG94]

Thus, it should not be a supervision on the specific ins and outs of a standard. The government should engage in a steering role to ensure that standards are and remain really open, and not become a standard that is exacted or enforced by one party (leading to a stifling monopoly):

"Most people can agree that an ideal information infrastructure should have such qualities as extended interoperability, broad accessibility, and support for broad participation. [...] Progress toward that ideal is more likely if the government can set an example with its own services and help enable a consensus on a vision of the future by removing barriers to its realisation.
[...] However, the government's role is as a partner and participant with the private sector, exercising its regulatory authority with restraint."
from [NRC94]

2. The previous quote mentions another reason why the government should be actively using the Internet, related services and techniques: governments can set an example towards others and encourage them (other parties or even to complete sectors) to follow it:

"Initiatives taking the form of experimental applications are the most effective means of addressing the slow take-off of demand and supply. They have a demonstration function which would help to promote their wider use; they provide an early test bed for suppliers to fine-tune applications to customer requirements, and they can stimulate advanced users [...]"
from [BANG94]

In fact (as we saw in section 6.4.3) agents can be of general use to (the) government(s).
Governments can set an example by offering useful and convenient services on the Internet. They can do this by employing agents (we have seen many of such possibilities in the previous sections) and by adopting, actively using and maybe even promoting some form of the three layer model. After all, governments are active in all three layers/roles: as suppliers (of many services and all kinds of information), as intermediaries and as a user of services and information (e.g. reports) of others.

3. Governments are already addressing various juridical aspects of the Internet in general (such as copyright), but specific ones related to agents will need to be addressed as well. For instance, who is responsible for the actions of an agent? The user, one might say, but it is almost impossible for the average user to follow the actions of an agent all the time that it is active on his behalf. If it isn't the user, who is?
These matters will become pressing in about five years. And as it always takes quite a while before laws/rules are passed and ready to be used in legal practise, it may be a good idea for governments to address this problem as soon as possible. For instance by asking advice from all sorts of experts and institutions that operate in this field.
Issues related to this, and that of point 1, are the need for security and encryption techniques to make sure that agents and the Internet can be used without endangering the secrecy of data or endangering people's privacy.
4. Not only , as seen in point 2, can agents & the Internet be of great use for the government, it is (not surprisingly) of great use to many others too. This makes agents & the Internet in general, something the government should be interested in.
The Internet "industry", already, is a growing economic sector, providing work to many. It may be expected that the agent industry (although on a smaller scale compared to the Internet) will too be a sector with many (economic) opportunities:

"nothing will happen automatically. We have to act to ensure that these jobs are created [...], and soon."
from [BANG94]

5. Agents and the three layer model can be introduced as a logical continuation of current Internet policies. The first aim of the government was to get people, companies and organisations to discover, make use of and perform research on the Internet. A second aim now should be to make use of the Internet easier, more efficient, more user-friendly, more profitable, etcetera:

"[...] Once people are comfortable finding information on the Internet, they will discover that they want much more: they will want help in locating reliable, useful information; they will want to discuss it with others, [...] generate it, and so on."
from [NRC94]

These are all things software agents (preferably combined with a three layer structure) can help to offer.

6. The Internet can be used for educational purposes (in a broad sense): "It is no longer a question of "whether" it will happen - it is a question of 'how soon'". In chapter five it has been described why education will play in increasingly important role with regard to the aim that everyone (i.e. every civilian) should be able to use the Internet/NII/"Information Super-Highway".
The exact future applications of agents in education are not easy to foresee at this moment. But the functionality that can be offered at this moment, already looks very promising. For instance, agents can be used in education to gather all sorts of information, and to offer customised teaching programmes to scholars and students. They also can reduce costs, save time and improve the learning process:

"The Hudson Institute, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, reviewed 20 years of research on computer-based instruction and found that students learn 30 percent more in 40 percent less time and at 30 percent less cost when using computer-aided instruction. Who says automated delivery isn't as good as delivery in the flesh?"
from "Living in real time" in [LEWI95]

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"Intelligent Software Agents on the Internet" - by Björn Hermans