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Speeches 4 December 2012

Preserving the Internet for Future Generations

Good afternoon – it’s a pleasure to join you today and to be part of this wonderful event celebrating the 10-year anniversary of LACNIC.  And, I would like to congratulate LACNIC for a very impressive set of achievements and impacts over its first decade.
 
The Regional Internet Registries (RIR’s) play a central role in the Internet Ecosystem, as do of course many others. The Internet Ecosystem is a term we use to describe the organizations and communities that guide the operation and development of the technologies and infrastructure that make up the global Internet.  These organizations share common values for the open development of the Internet.
 
Importantly, the term Internet Ecosystem also recognizes that the rapid and continued development of the Internet is attributed, as in any healthy ecosystem to:
 
 
  1. The involvement of a broad range of players;
  2. Processes that are open, transparent and collaborative, thereby facilitating participation; and
  3. Dispersed engagement, ownership and control.
 
The fact that this is an ecosystem is why it is important that all of us work together collaboratively to nurture and preserve it.
 
LACNIC has played a significant role not only in this region but also on the global stage by actively promoting and enriching the multi-stakeholder Internet governance model. This mutual cooperation is essential to ensure the continuation of the Internet as an engine for innovation, human empowerment, social development, and of course economic growth.  LACNIC, and in particular, its CEO Raúl Echeberria, has been a tireless advocate for the open, transparent, and inclusive approach to Internet governance. 
 
Another important contribution from LACNIC is the commitment to Internet community building, which, has led to the creation of multiple diverse fora in the region.  Beyond their core work as a Internet Registry, LACNIC has been active in building relationships and cooperating with other organizations to bring together ideas and perspectives.  We are happy that the Internet Society’s Regional Bureau for Latin American and the Caribbean is housed alongside LACNIC here in Montevideo and our Regional Bureau Director Sebastian Bellagamba is here today with his team. LACNIC also incubated our local chapter here in Uruguay and we are thankful for their continuing support and partnership.
 
LACNIC has also played a critical role in technical capacity building in the region.  Over the years, LACNIC has expanded regional capabilities by hosting and sponsoring a broad range of forums, training activities, and collaborative projects to strengthen the Internet in the region and beyond.  One very recent example is the tutorial on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) held here yesterday.  Steve Crocker spoke earlier today regarding the early days of the IETF and it is still very, very central to the development of the Internet. The IETF is the premier Internet standards development body – with approximately 120 working groups active at any point in time. It continues to develop and while international participation has picked up very considerably over the last 10 years or so, we all need to do more to encourage greater participation, particularly from Latin America. There are a relatively small number of participants from Latin America but they are having a very big impact.
 
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the leadership of Raúl Echeberría, who was the founding CEO of LACNIC – and continues in this role today.  I have worked with Raúl for more than a decade now, and he served as Chair of the Internet Society Board of Trustees from 2009-2012 (the first from Latin America) and still serves on our Board.  A quote from Raúl, which I believe exemplifies his style of leadership, is this: “What we learn, time and again, is that the best and most lasting solutions are the ones that we arrive at through cooperation and mutual respect, that are rooted in principle, and that open the door to innovation."  
 
This quote not only embodies the excellent work of LACNIC, it also underlies the development model for the Internet.  On behalf of the Internet Society and our Board of Trustees, I would like to congratulate Raúl, the LACNIC Board and the LACNIC staff on this important milestone and for your outstanding contributions to the advancement of the Internet — in this region and around the globe.
 
So now moving to the main theme of my remarks today: “Preserving the Internet for Future Generations”. As earlier speeches here today have shown, the past 10 years has been a very exciting and challenging period. The Internet has evolved in ways that no one could have ever imagined.  It has become indispensable — enabling unprecedented levels of interaction, engagement, participation, and influence.  More than 2 billion people online today are linked instantaneously to news, information, and content – largely of their choosing.  And, as global citizens, they can instantly connect to groups of people and communities involved in issues and happenings at local, national, and international levels.
 
Latin America is one of the fastest growing regions in the world for Internet usage.  The Internet Society recently conducted a statistically valid global study with nearly 11,000 Internet users in 20 countries. In most areas, Latin America was equal to or slightly ahead of the global average, with one exception – social media – as 69% of individuals in Latin America use Social Media at least once a day.  This is significantly higher than the Global number of 60%.
 
According to research from Comscore — Latin America leads the world as the most socially-engaged region.  The research, conducted in April of this year, found that more than 127 million Latin Americans ages 15 and older visited a social networking destination from a home or work computer in April 2012, with the average visitor spending 7.5 hours social networking during the month.  Facebook is accounting for 1 of every 4 minutes spent online.
 
We can only begin to imagine the impact of the Internet in the next decade with the accelerating growth of connectivity to mobile devices.   According to the OECD, as of December 2011 the estimated number of wireless broadband connections (667 million in the OECD) was more than double that of fixed broadband subscriptions, at 315 million.
 
As more Internet users come online, we will see the “center” of the Internet shifting to the developing world.  Developing countries and emerging economies are at the forefront of Internet growth, and many are experiencing some of the fastest rates of GDP growth in the world, making them compelling markets and sources for Internet-enabled services and trade.
 
Because the Internet facilitates “innovation without permission”,, Internet users throughout the world are transitioning from “Consumers” to “Creators.” They are rapidly developing the innovations, efficiencies, and opportunities that will help fuel the next wave of Internet growth, investment, and prosperity.
 
This evolution is reinforced by McKinsey, reporting that over 150,000 Internet-related businesses start up each year in emerging and developing economies.  One interesting example is India’s version of Amazon.com, called Flipkart, which was founded in 2007 by two young entrepreneurs in their mid-20s or  MercadoLibre. Or even the example of the doctor I sat next to on my flight here yesterday – who is from Montevideo and has begun work on a project to revolutionize medical publishing – following, I might add unbeknownst to him, many of the principles we espouse with respect to transparency, access and openness.
 
What’s most important to remember is that the stunning impact of the Internet in developing and emerging economies is not just a benefit for them – it’s a benefit to all of us. The Internet becomes increasingly more valuable, more useful, and interesting for all users when more people, businesses, institutions, and ideas are connected to it.
 

Preserving the Internet for Future Generations

While the social and economic opportunities generated by the Internet are extraordinary, it’s easy to take the Internet for granted.  We can’t lose sight of, must not lose sight of the fact that the primary reason the Internet has had such a sweeping impact is because it has been guided by a few simple principles, or core characteristics, that have stood the test of time.  
 
Specifically:
 
  • Open, freely accessible, and globally interoperable technical standards – are at the Internet’s core;
  • An inclusive, transparent, multi-stakeholder governance model; – that delivers the most robust, creative solutions possible;
  • Globally distributed and participatory responsibility for its technical and administrative functions; and
  • An architecture that facilitates permission-less innovation, where the power of creativity and the freedom of choice is placed in the hands of individuals.
The pioneers who built and managed the Internet in its early days not only worked to develop technical standards, and establish the basic functionality of the Internet, but they also helped to shape the spirit of the Internet based on the principles of sharing, open access, and choice. Several of the early Internet pioneers and leaders are here with us today – Vint Cerf (by video) and Steve Crocker, and from Latin America of course pioneers such as those who served on LACNIC’s first Board, Oscar Messano, Oscar Robles, Hartmut Glazer, Raimundo Beca, Fabio Marinho, and Jesús Martínez and of course Raúl Echeberría, LACNIC’s first CEO. There are of course many others who deserve to be recognized but this is difficult to do in the time allotted. 
 
The openness of the Internet and the open standards process were recently brought into the spotlight with the “Open Stand” movement.  In August, the Internet Society joined with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to endorse a jointly developed set of principles establishing a modern paradigm for global, open, standards development processes.  Bringing attention to these principles highlighted what has worked so effectively for decades and what continues to work.  This is as much about enabling innovation and choice as it is standards development.   Open standards are proven in their ability to foster competition and cooperation, support innovation and interoperability, and drive market success.  And, I would like to thank LACNIC for endorsing these fundamental principles and for its commitment to raising awareness in the region.
 

The Multi-Stakeholder Approach is the Only Option

Turning to Internet Governance, the Internet works because its governance is open, inclusive, collaborative, and transparent.  It allows for all voices – individuals, private sector, governments. This type of mutual cooperation ensures the stability, security, and availability of the global infrastructure and has been a key contributor to the breath-taking evolution and expansion of the Internet.
 
As we just heard the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) has brought Internet Governance issues to the fore and has elevated the conversations on Internet Governance to entirely new levels and new audiences.  This is precisely why it is imperative to reinforce the importance of the multi-stakeholder Internet governance model.   
  
The Internet Society, along with our Chapters and members, and partners in the Internet Community have been actively involved in working with all stakeholders in preparation for the WCIT.  We have been vocal in raising concerns about certain proposals to modify the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), and we have been constructive in suggesting alternatives.  Some of the proposals at the WCIT could have far-reaching, unintended consequences for the Internet — impacting individuals who use the Internet, businesses that rely on global interoperability, and developing-market economies where Internet growth is essential to economic and social development. 
 
The 1988 ITRs (the last time they were updated) encompassed high level principles that enabled exceptional growth for the telecommunications industry and provided countless benefits for people around the world.  It is the Internet Society’s hope that WCIT will build on what has worked in the past, and that the new treaty will have an even more profound and positive impact than that of 1988.  To that end, we are encouraged by recent remarks by ITU leaders that the WCIT is about promoting greater connectivity and not about regulating the Internet.
 
Again, returning to the theme, and to close: what can we all do to preserve the Internet for future generations? I would off three things:
 
  1. Work to ensure the continued support for the broad definition of Internet Governance that came out of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).  We must resist efforts to make this only about the so-called Critical Internet resources numbering and naming or about any one organization.   Internet Governance is much more broad than that.
  2. Uphold the multi-stakeholder collaborative aspects of all we do – this has proven to be very successful, and has given us a rich and robust environment – for infra-structure and applications.
  3. There is an old adage says that what matters most when purchasing a house is:  Location-Location-Location.  With the Internet, the equivalent is Participate- Participate- Participate!   This is what matters most. Participate in local and national Internet policy discussions. Participate in discussions on intellectually property, privacy, or personal data. Encourage others to participate. Participation is what will ensure the open, global Internet will persevere.  Every Internet organization I know supports and benefits from such participation and we have all taken steps to minimize barriers to participation.
 
It is incredibly exciting to think about what can happen in the next 10 years as we unleash the creativity of even more Internet citizens from across the globe particularly those from countries and regions that historically have been under represented.   We have to focus not only on reaching the next billion users but more importantly the last billion users and ensuring they have access to the same opportunities we all enjoy today.
 
As many have said here today, the Internet is at a critical juncture, and facing some of the most challenging times in its history.  Whatever future political, technological, economic, and social challenges we may face, multi-stakeholder cooperation must be preserved, as well as a broad definition of Internet governance— for future generations —and for the remaining billions still to come online.  
 
We all need to remain vigilant in defending the core characteristics of the Internet. Personally, I also hope we all continue to value and welcome open, constructive discussion, and open up even more international forums to multi-stakeholder discussions.
 
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
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