The first Software Institute Summit: focus on software, society and democracy

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The first Software Institute Summit was held on 17 February. With the contribution of leading professionals and experts in the international research scene, topics ranging from software development and engineering to the impact of software on society between privacy, democracy and transparency were addressed.

The event organised by USI Software Institute was held online and articulated around the presentations of four guests.

Carmela Troncoso , assistant professor at EPFL, addressed the complexity of engineering privacy into systems and products when the software development cycle is agile, and the products have to rely on services. To this end, she revisited challenges and lessons learned in her work on privacy engineering for contact tracing apps in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mira Mezini, full professor at TU Darmstadt, discussed innovative programming models for the development of all those applications - such as instant messaging apps, multiplayer games, tools for supporting collaborative work such as Google Docs - that, unlike traditional applications, run on globally distributed computing infrastructures, consistently interact with the outside world and are data-driven.

Erich Gamma , Microsoft Technical Fellow in Zurich, presented the fascinating 10-year history of the evolution of Visual Studio Code, the newest of the many software development tools his team has produced, and which has quickly reached popularity engaging millions of users and has become one of the most highly regarded projects in the open-source community.

Bryan Ford, associate professor at EPFL, discussed the problems related to the actual "democratic nature" of tools such as social media focusing on the need for an approach that allows technology to distinguish between real people and fake accounts, bots, deep fakes on the basis not of digital identity (with related privacy issues), but based on the innovative concept of "digital personhood".


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