Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2010 Vilnius, Lithuania
Opening session address
Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO, Internet Society
Chairman, your Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,
It is a real pleasure to be here in Vilnius for the 5th IGF meeting. I would like to thank the Government of Lithuania, the IGF Secretariat, and the Multi- stakeholder Advisory Group for their efforts in once again organizing an interesting and challenging program.
The theme for this Internet Governance Forum - Developing the Future Together - is a very important one. It embraces many of the key principles that the Internet itself was built on, and on which it continues to thrive. This collection of principles has a name - the “Internet Model”. And, this “togetherness” or “collaborative model” lives in an even bigger context called the “Internet Ecosystem”, which encompasses the diverse set of organizations and communities that work together, guided by the shared principles of the Internet Model, to develop, manage and operate the Internet. The Internet Model, the Internet Ecosystem, and the Internet itself depend on collaboration, openness, transparency, inclusiveness, and on broad uncensored input and, often, robust debate.
So, clearly there is a lot in common between the Internet’s development and the IGF; and one could legitimately say the Internet Model was the forerunner for what is now referred to as multi-stakeholderism.
Since the last IGF, the Internet Society, its global community of members and Chapters, as well as all the other Internet organizations have undertaken many impressive and enabling activities with the aim of expanding access to and participation in the Internet, and in the organizations and communities that make up the Internet Ecosystem. I invite everyone to stop by our booth and the booths of the other Internet organizations at IGF to find out more about these rich and varied developmental activities we all so actively engage in.
As we meet this week, the challenge remains to extend the Internet to the billions more who should also be benefitting from it. With almost two billion people online, the Internet Model’s decentralized approach - enabling permission-less innovation, and promoting shared responsibility for development, operation, and management of the Internet - has been the catalyst for boundless innovation and creativity. It is the key to reaching those next billions, as well as to addressing the new challenges the Internet is facing - just as it has always done. The Internet is a platform that intrinsically enables new developments and hence is eminently suited to addressing current and emerging challenges. I would like to speak briefly about one of these challenges.
The Internet Society firmly believes that in order to preserve the long-term health of the global, open Internet, we must remain true to the principles of the open, transparent, and inclusive Internet Model. It seems extremely unlikely that closed processes will lead to policies that support a truly Open Internet.
Again, there is a lot of commonality between the IGF and the Internet itself. Some stakeholders approached this novel forum with trepidation, expressing some fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The same could be said of the early days of the Internet’s development. But along the way, we have seen the value of an open, global Internet, just as we have seen the value of healthy, open debate embodied in the IGF today. The issues we face are complex and have many dimensions, making it all the more important that we work together in open, multi-stakeholder, easily accessible, and mission-appropriate venues.
The Forum’s leadership and the willingness of all stakeholders to sit and work together with the aim of contributing to making Internet governance work have been key enablers of this fascinating and rewarding journey.
Yet, while the road we are on has perhaps become more clear, our final destination has not. We find ourselves in a curious place - where it is possible that key Internet policies may be decided by small groups of people or companies.
For example, some national Net Neutrality policy processes, while initially quite open, are increasingly being held as closed sessions with small numbers of participants. Yet it is we, Internet users, who have to live with the outcome of these closed discussions.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), while affecting individuals across the world, was initially negotiated behind closed doors with little to no transparency or active multi-stakeholder engagement. Steps were taken earlier this year to address this shortcoming, and we hope to see continued progress in this direction.
Similarly, many current discussions about cyber-security, which often masquerade as protection for citizens, are more about hardening or locking down the Internet than about finding the right balance between openness and “protection”. Rather than focusing on a single solution, innovative approaches such as trust, privacy, and identity management being considered in venues such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), as well as other communities, to address these very real challenges should also be considered.
To truly realize the benefits the Internet promises us - all of us - requires that we all support the Internet Model of development and work even more collaboratively to develop the Internet together. This will ensure we have an Internet that should be all it can be - for each and everyone on this planet. The IGF is one venue, and a very important venue, that embodies this approach.
Clearly, the Internet Society supports the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum. We believe that the IGF has more to offer going forward; we believe for it to founder now would be a serious blow to advancing Internet governance. And we urge that the future of the IGF be decided in ways true to its multi-stakeholder foundation.
The Internet Society and the other organisations that make up the Internet community take their responsibilities for the overall health of the Internet, for the benefit of end-users, very seriously. As such, we do not make calls like this lightly.
We urge all stakeholders - governments, the private sector, civil society, the Internet community, and intergovernmental organizations - to come together to protect and preserve the open Internet and its collaborative development model, for the undeniable benefits it provides to all of us.
The new opportunities and challenges created by the Internet bring technology and policy together in ways not previously experienced; we believe it is vital that all stakeholders actively strive to make their policy and decision-making activities open and inclusive.
Where this has been done, it has shown its worth.
Let us build on the success of the Internet Model, the Internet Ecosystem and the IGF, and not squander a once in a lifetime opportunity to let the Internet be all it can be - for all of us.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak.