IVA’s Gold Medal 2022: Peter Löthberg – the online rebel who connected the world
Peter Löthberg is a technology entrepreneur who, back in the mid 1980s, set out on a mission ‘to network the planet’. As an unstoppable force, he played a key role in the early emergence of the internet for many years, not least in the process of making Sweden one of the first countries in the world to become widely connected.
Peter Löthberg’s interest in computers was sparked long before the technology began appearing in people’s homes. By the late 1970s, he had already collected several examples. At only 20 years old, he started a company focusing on the development of telecommunications, and he began to make contact with like-minded people in other countries.
Inspired by the architects of the internet’s precursor
Among the people that Peter Löthberg came into contact with in the early years were some of the key figures involved in creating the ARPANET in the USA, what is usually described as the precursor to the internet, and what quickly became a test bed for US universities who wanted to find new ways of sharing information with each other. It was these encounters that prompted Peter Löthberg and the people around him to begin considering how the technology could be developed into something that extended far beyond the academic world.
– “What spurred me on was that I had seen it in action. I had been to MIT quite a few times to see friends, and I had seen what it could do.”
Contributed to the great interconnection
During the 1980s and 90s, Peter Löthberg established himself as one of the driving forces in finding solutions to connect the various local networks that had begun to spring up around the world.
– “I think my most important contribution was the overall architecture and the insight into how it would work. We realised that it would be necessary to produce these protocols to build a kind of ‘spaghetti’.”
Paved the way for Sweden as an internet nation
In the late 80s, it was Peter Löthberg who managed to convince the Swedish university network SUNET to join the TCP/IP protocol, the standard that today forms the basis for the entire internet. He also played an important role in the creation of Swipnet, which became the world’s first commercial internet service provider. While he faced widespread scepticism at the time, these two achievements are now often cited as key reasons why Sweden and the Nordic region gained the advantage as IT nations, which in many respects we still retain to this day.
Jury citation for IVA’s Gold Medal
Peter Löthberg is awarded the Gold Medal for his outstanding work on the global development of the internet and on its early establishment in Sweden.