What do Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Barack Obama and now possibly the Internet all have in common? The Nobel Peace Prize.
The Associated Press has reported that amongst other nominations the inanimate object that is the Internet has been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Famous for the secrecy of it's selection process, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, adhering to Alfred Nobel's last will and testament, awards this prestigious accolade "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".
Last year's controversial laureate was the current American President Barack Obama. The committee's choice drew criticism as commentators felt that Obama had not achieved enough in his short tenure to be awarded the prize, joining a prestigious group.
While it is not unprecedented for the prize to be awarded to organisations, such as the United Nations and the Red Cross, it is arguable whether the Internet, as an infrastructure, could ever fulfill the requirements expressed by Nobel. Few doubt that the Internet has played a major impact in the development of the late 20th and early 21st century. Most poignant was its role during the 2009 Iranian elections protest when citizens bypassed a media blackout by tweeting updates. However, the Internet is merely a facilitator. It is a tool that can be utilised by anyone with a computer and a connection. Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations have been known to use the internet for recruitment and propaganda.
On the one hand the Internet has provided the opportunity to consume and disseminate information to all, while the flip side is that this information can be anything.
Should an infrastructure and not a legal person be suitable for this award? Who would get the million dollar award? Last year's laureate surprised us all, perhaps the Committee has another shock in store for us.