2016: Confronting the Promise and the Challenge of a Global, Open Internet: Connection AND Security Thumbnail
Building Trust 5 January 2016

2016: Confronting the Promise and the Challenge of a Global, Open Internet: Connection AND Security

Jason Owen
By Jason OwenGuest Author

Happy New Year to all!

2015 was a big year for the Internet Society. The graphic we published earlier this week provides only a glimpse of the hours, effort and impact of our collective work. ISOC has worked tirelessly to strengthen its community and organize itself through the power and reach of the Internet. We have advanced Internet technology around the world while upholding the principles we cherish; and we have advocated–and won–at least for an Internet minute– the argument that a multistakeholder, distributed model of Internet governance is the right means of achieving the global and local benefits of the Internet. Through our focused messaging, we made significant progress in highlighting the Internet of Opportunity, the 21st Century door to possibility.

Connection. Community. Sustainability. Access. Trust.

These gains are crucial to the challenges that lie ahead. Well done! to the staff, Chapters, Organizational members and friends of the Internet Society around the world who worked together to make 2015 a resounding success.

And now, as we turn to a new year, we must recommit ourselves, ever more urgently, to our core mission: to ensure that the door to opportunity is unlocked everywhere, for everyone and to make sure it stays both OPEN and SECURE. The stability and future of the Internet depends on what we do now, in 2016.

The agreement at the 10-year Review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was a victory for the power of the multistakeholder consensus building effort, resulting in international agreement that the way in which we meet these goals is through the transnational, distributed, bottom-up model that has worked to bring the Internet to fruition in so much of the world.

But the challenge before us is to make that model work for the people who live in more than half of the world who do not yet have access to the Internet and, frankly, to address the most potent threat to its advancement–erosion of trust. That erosion has been brought about by the very growth of the power of connection and by the accumulation of massive amounts of data. Actions on the part of some governments, commercial enterprises and nefarious individuals have exploited weaknesses in security technology, in the unbounded collection of personal data and in public policies that, on the one hand, are intended to protect citizens and, on the other, to control them. And, despite the gains at WSIS, the tension among governments over “who controls the Internet” continues.

We believe our 2016 Action Plan gives focus to the work ahead. We have prioritized the need to connect the unconnected and to building and restoring trust in the Internet as a medium for personal and community identity, freedom and innovation. Behind the broad initiatives published in our plan at the end of 2015, there are specific, actionable, measurable projects and activities that, we believe, will have an impact on the future direction of Internet innovation, deployment, use and governance.

On Wednesday, January 27 (15:00 – 16:30 UTC) we will hold our first Community Forum of 2016 (details to follow). We have come a long way in the past year to grow our membership, our influence and our energy. We must continue that momentum. If we mean what we say, that innovation, progress and governance on the Internet are distributed and local to its users and communities, we must organize our efforts in the same way. Our Chapters and members are crucial to achieving our goals. I look forward to talking with you.

I sincerely believe that the future of the Internet as we know it is at stake at this important crossroads in its growth. We face regulatory action of dubious purpose, fragmentation, and, worse, the opposite of what we intend for users–an Internet of Apprehension–and control–rather than an Internet of Opportunity where doors are opened and user expression, creativity and autonomy is respected and advanced.

Welcome to 2016.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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