About Internet Society 5 March 2013

APRICOT 2013 Keynote Address

Lynn St. Amour, President and Chief Executive Officer, Internet Society

25 February 2013

Thank you and good afternoon – it’s always a pleasure to return to beautiful Singapore. And, thank you to APNIC and APIA for inviting me, as I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this very important regional Internet Summit.

There are many familiar faces, but given the range of organizations here today and the growth the Internet Society has seen over the last few years, I hope you will allow me to say a few words about ISOC and our activities.

The Internet Society was founded by two of the early pioneers of the Internet – Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. Vint served as the first President and CEO. And happily, we celebrated our 20th anniversary last year.

We are dedicated to the stability, continuity, and advancement of the global Internet – not for its own sake, but rather for the benefits the Internet can bring to all people.

We work at the intersections of Technology, Policy, and Development to advance the ongoing development of the Internet. We have long been active in regional development and capacity building activities that have helped many developing countries come online over the last 20 years.

Just as importantly, we promote and advocate for policies at the national and international level that support the expansion and open evolution of the Internet.

We also work to ensure the Internet’s technology continues to be based on technical standards developed in environments of open technical debate, while identifying and addressing the very real geopolitical interests.

We do all these things with a broad range of stakeholders – as a cause-based organization, we work with ISOC members certainly, but also with civil society, private sector, governments, and international organizations. We are members or recognized observers of virtually all IGO’s – WIPO, ECOSOC, UNESCO, OECD, ITU and also many regional orgs – APEC, APEC TEL, CITEL, to name but a few.

We have more than 145 organization members, across the communications industry, academia and some governmental organizations, including many here in the region;

  • 65,000 individual members, and many of them form Chapters;
  • 91 Chapters around the world and who help to inform and translate our global mission into local actions;
  • 5 regional bureaus that address regional issues, mobilize local support for global efforts, and develop policy and educational awareness; and Internet Society Offices in 17 Countries

Last May, we moved our Asia Pacific regional office to Singapore, which is headed by Rajnesh Singh, reinforcing our strong commitment to the region.

We have a very active membership in Asia Pacific — with 17 Chapters, and individual members that account for approximately 25% of the Internet Society’s entire membership. And, this includes some of this regions greatest Internet innovators and leaders, including Kilnam Chon, Jun Murai, Toru Takahashi, Tan Tin Wee, Jianping Wu, many, many others….

The Internet Society is also the organizational home for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).

Virtually everything we all do online today is because of work done, or of a standard, or “best practice document” that was developed in the IETF constellation. Open standards are central to the Internet’s development and many of the essential principles that we still hold today come directly from the IETF’s earliest days and their efforts.

We are working with the IETF to bring more people in. We have a lot of work to do here and we need your help and support.

ISOC has had a number of programs over the years:

  • ISOC IETF Fellows program has run for approximately 10 years, bringing in Fellows from across the developing world to the IETF and helped and encouraged them to take that experience back home to their communities;
  • More recently, we started the IETF Policy makers, which is proving extremely successful.

We all play a role in supporting participation in open standards development. IETF participation is growing. Comparing IETF 80 in March 2011 in Prague to IETF 83 one year later in Paris, participants increased from 1196 to 1318, and the number of countries represented increased from 49 to 56. There is still a heavy North American presence, about 40% or so, but the other countries are growing significantly. We want to encourage more.

At any point in time, there are approximately 120 active IETF working groups. Most importantly, the IETF operates in a manner that attempts to minimize barriers to participation, for example, consensus on all documents is taken online – the 3x meetings a year help to build relationships and advance the work, not to take final decisions, and the IETF is consistently rolling out new remote participation tools. We are looking to increase the diversity in the IETF, and we need help from people like you to support the IETF.

For a minute, I’d like to go back to ISOC. The Internet Society actively advances and promotes key Internet technologies that are vital to the open, global Internet — with many partners and regional organizations, including APNIC, private sector, and our chapters around the world. For example, we hosted World IPv6 Day in 2011 and World IPv6 Launch in 2012 – these efforts clearly moved the needle on v6 deployment, but we still have a very, very long way to go. And, we ALL need to do all we can to spur v6 deployment.

Another area where we are actively involved is Internet policy: on topics across Internet governance, including digital content, privacy and data protection, security, and Internet access, just to name a few. We advocate for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and we work to promote, influence, and shape discussions that are central to a free and open Internet.

Dating back to the earliest days of the Internet’s development, there was a keen recognition that to be truly successful, the Internet needed people around the world who could sustain and build Internet infrastructure to help expand it to their local communities. ISOC – working with many partners hosted 1 and 2 week long developing country workshops, called Network Training Workshops (NTWs) – a number of people here in the room supported/gave time as well as attended them. In all, they were attended by more than 1600 participants from more than 90 countries.

Many of these Internet pioneers are now leading Internet development efforts in their own communities. We continue this work today to improve Internet infrastructure and access, to foster efficient and cost effective interconnection and traffic exchange environments in developing countries, including the development of (IXP’s).

In the area of regional capacity building, the Internet Society is proud to have helped support the APRICOT Fellowship programme for the past several years. This year, there are 21 Fellows.

In addition, we also support SANOG (South Asian NOG), PacNOG (Pacific Islands NOG) and helped with the establishment of MyNOG (Malaysian NOG).

The future of the global Internet depends on ensuring that all those connected to it have the ability to participate equally, to benefit from an open global Internet, to use the Internet for communication and commerce, and to participate in developing future Internet directions, applications, and technologies that meet local and global needs.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. There are about 2.4 billion people online today, and 45% of today’s online population are from the Asia Pacific region, equal to the entire, global Internet population of only five years ago. An astounding pace of growth, and a large percentage of the remaining billions of Internet users to come online will come from this region. With very high rates of penetration:

  • South Korea 83 %
  • Japan 80 %
  • Singapore 75 %
  • Taiwan 75 %
  • Hong Kong 75 %
  • China 40 %

Given the average across all of Asia of 28%, there are many countries significantly below this level, and indeed we see countries like India with 11%. So for all of us, the challenge is how to bring the 5 billion + to come online.

ISOC is working hard to make this happen, as are all of you.

Our goal is that all countries are on a par with each other – developed and developing.

Developing countries are at the forefront of Internet growth, and many are experiencing some of the fastest rates of GDP growth in the world. But, there is still a long way to go.

What’s most important to remember is that the impact of the Internet in developing and emerging economies is not just a benefit for them – it’s a benefit to all of us. As people in places like Lesotho and India and Myanmar come online, the Internet will be transformed in ways that are hard to imagine but that will certainly keep on making it richer– provided these new users have the chance to access the Internet similar to what we have today.

The Internet becomes increasingly more valuable, useful, and interesting for all users when more people, businesses, institutions, and ideas are connected to it.

So how do we ensure the remaining billions have access to same Internet we do today? While the social and economic opportunities generated by the Internet are extraordinary, it’s easy to become complacent and take the Internet for granted. We 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 not changed over time.


  • Open, freely accessible, and globally interoperable technical standards – are at its core, and made it so successful – allowed it to scale, and as a platform for innovation – unimagined new products and services;
  • Inclusive, transparent, multi-stakeholder governance model;
  • 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 users

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.

And we owe them and many of you here a very big thank you for establishing the Internet and, hence, humankind on this course.

Turning to Internet Governance, the Internet works because its governance is distributed, open, inclusive, collaborative, and transparent. This type of mutual cooperation ensures the stability, security, and availability of the global infrastructure and has been a key contributor to the rapid evolution and expansion of the Internet – and at the same time from the outside not the easiest to understand or at times appreciate.

Two months ago, in December 2012, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) convened the World Conference on International Telecommunications, or WCIT, in Dubai to revisit a 1988 treaty called the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). The ITU Member States revised the treaty text to redefine agreements between countries to facilitate future global telecommunications. WCIT brought Internet governance issues to the fore and elevated the conversations on Internet governance to entirely new levels and new audiences.

I’d like to share some observations and lessons learned from WCIT.

In the months prior to the WCIT, the Internet Society and members of the Internet community and many policymakers expressed concerns that some Member States may use these negotiations to establish restrictive or harmful government controls over the Internet. The Internet Society does not believe that intergovernmental treaty-making processes are the best way to address critical Internet resource and policy issues. They do not allow for multistakeholder engagement in the decision making process and are just too slow. As one point: this treaty will not be in force until 2015.

We also noted that some government proposals would threaten the viability of the Internet’s multi-stakeholder model, and could pose a direct threat to the open nature of the Internet itself.

So what happened at WCIT?

Although some of the most troubling proposals offered in advance of the meeting did not make it into the renegotiated treaty, the final document was still controversial enough that 55 nations declined to sign it. Having said this, more are likely to sign it after further consultation in their capitals – likely bringing the level of support for this treaty to the same level as the last one in 1988.

Unfortunately, the WCIT did adopt a controversial new Internet resolution that has only a passing reference to the value of multi-stakeholder policy development and seems to suggest a much more prominent role for governments and the ITU on Internet matters. This resolution underscores the longstanding debate between those who envision a more direct role for intergovernmental organizations in the management of the Internet, and those who support the existing, open, multi-stakeholder model. While UN members formally endorsed the multistakeholder model in 2005 at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a strong undercurrent of support for greater governmental involvement has remained among some countries – and is not likely to go away for some time

In addition to the broad Internet resolution, the revised treaty also contains new language relating to network security and spam. While the language for both of those provisions is quite general, there is concern that the implementation of these provisions will place restrictions on the Internet and the content it carries.

WCIT was particularly useful as it provided even more insight into the Internet priorities of developing countries. They have important questions and concerns about the high cost of connectivity, privacy, and consumer protection, to name a few.

If we don’t increase our efforts to address these issues, there is a risk that many countries will turn to sources that do not support the Internet’s development and open model. It is clear that more engagement is essential. At ISOC, we are committed to taking it even more local and this will be a major focus for us this year and in the coming years – through chapters, bureaus, and partners.

And there are many other challenges that I don’t have time to address today, such as privacy, trust, and identity, which are very important to us at the Internet Society and will impact the future of the Internet for the billions yet to come online.

Although WCIT revealed deep regional and national differences over policy, there were bright spots. There were a number of strong statements of support for the overall Internet model, even among those who chose to sign the treaty. Many countries stated their commitment to playing an active role, and to ensuring that their citizens are able to take advantage of the full value that the Internet has to offer. This is something to build upon. Our challenge, and the challenge of all supporters of the multi-stakeholder approach, is not only to advocate for the model, but also to ensure that it works for those who may question its effectiveness. We need to “lean into” their concerns. If not, we risk a fragmented Internet.

In some ways, the debate at WCIT helped to clarify the risk: that the global Internet may give way to a set of national Internets, each with its own rules and gatekeepers. If that happens, the platform will become more fragmented and fewer people will benefit from it. From our perspective as an organization that believes that the Internet becomes more valuable and powerful, as it becomes more globally diverse, this is an outcome that must be averted.

The new treaty doesn’t go into effect until January 2015—so all countries—those that have signed the treaty and those that haven’t–have several years to determine exactly what changes they are going to make.

So, back to the theme — Preserving the Internet for future generations. It’s exciting to think about the new energy, the new ideas, and the increased richness the Internet will have as a result of these new online users, many of whom will be in developing countries. But these benefits will only accrue if the Internet retains the qualities it has today, including the qualities of global reach, openness, and permission-less innovation

I’d like to reference a quote from an Internet history retrospective written by Internet Society founders, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, and a number of other Internet pioneers — “If the Internet stumbles, it will not be because we lack for technology, vision, or motivation. It will be because we cannot set a direction and collectively march into the future.”

The Internet is a story – and it is still developing – it has its ups and downs – as it challenges many traditional power structures and pushes many limits, but we can accomplish things we never would have dreamed if we “all lean in and work together.”

So what can we do?

What can we all do to ensure we have an open, global Internet?

  1. Be vigilant – support and defend a free and open Internet
  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 – infrastructure and application wise, and frankly afforded the Internet protection and room to grow.
  3. 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).
  4. We must resist efforts to make Internet governance just about the so-called critical Internet resources, the Internet’s administrative functions, or any one organization.
  5. And most importantly….participate – participate – participate! This is what matters most.

The Internet is facing some of the most challenging times in its brief history.

We have all worked hard to create a free, open and accessible Internet – one that is not walled, not censored, not fractured, and we have to keep working hard together.

Given the challenges of today, and tomorrow, we must be vigilant in promoting and protecting the Internet’s principles. We must continue to support the multi-stakeholder model. We all have a stake in preserving the Internet — not only for those who enjoy the Internet today, but for future generations — from the next billion to the very last.

This should be OUR global call to action!

Thank you for your time today.

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