João Pessoa, Brazil. This is the week. After 10 years of growing the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), over 2,500 advocates from around the world will gather once again for a pivotal meeting to strongly affirm our central role in Internet governance and to, once again, insist that the Internet is for Everyone–Everywhere.
We will come to celebrate the 10 years of transformative change brought about by our collective efforts to build an Internet from the bottom up for the benefit of our human society. We come also to embrace the opportunities and challenges of the future. We acknowledge that we still have work to do, and, by our engagement and shared determination, we will demonstrate that the IGF is an essential part of the ongoing, global effort to ensure that the next 10 years will preserve and extend our deeply held values of openness, global connectivity and trust.
This meeting comes at a critical time in the evolution of the Internet. While the roots of the Internet are in the technical and academic world, the Internet today is deeply integrated into all aspects of our global economies. As noted in ISOC’s announcement of its 2016 Plan of Action, today we live in an era of connectedness where the creativity of more than three billion people has unleashed new uses and capabilities that now extend to the basic requirements of our local–and global–communities–health, education, job development, banking, transportation and more. As more people across the planet have become connected, the Internet’s value has increased exponentially. At the same time, the cost of being unconnected has increased dramatically. The divide between the connected 3 billion and the unconnected 4.3 billion is not just digital: it is economic, social, and political.
In addition, an increasing number of security and privacy issues have undermined trust in the Internet itself. Government surveillance, corporate and government data breaches, practices that erode privacy, mass hacking incidents, and systemic gaps in security practices have led to disillusionment among Internet users about their ability to control their online destiny. Even a universally deployed network, untrusted, will languish as people forgo its use in promising areas such as medicine and learning.
These two imperatives — connecting the unconnected and ensuring trust — are the work of our time.
The 10th anniversary of IGF is importantly focused on “Empowering Sustainable Development” and “Connecting The Next Billion”. These priorities must be utmost in our minds during our deliberations. We cannot abide by a world in which over half of our people remain unconnected from what is the “central nervous system” of the global economy. The UN has recognized the power of the Internet as an essential enabler of reaching new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has called upon nations of the world to bring Internet access to the poorest nations by 2020. At the 10th Anniversary of the IGF, we must embrace this challenge and show how this Forum can support best practices, policy proposals and community engagement to impact this great undertaking of the 21st Century.
At the same time, we know that we must simultaneously work to promote and restore trust in the Internet. The numerous workshops here in Brazil on privacy and human rights are central to our concerns. The work this week is designed to discuss how to bring about both increased security and increased privacy – on both a policy and technology level.
There is immense power in the community of people who ARE the IGF. It is my hope and expectation that the 2500 participants–Internet users, civil society, human rights advocates, technical community members, businesses, and governments, too, will all be working collaboratively to address these issues and more.
I believe we can move forward from João Pessoa showing, once again, the power of the multistakeholder community and create the policy environment that enables the Internet of Opportunity we want to make available to all. As we look forward to the WSIS+10 discussions in just one month’s time — and what now looks like a 10 year extension of the IGF — it is the time for the COMMUNITY to again map the future of the Internet.
We must find a clear path for connecting the next billions to an open, trusted Internet.
I look forward to meeting you all in Brazil and working with you and others around the world to make these goals a reality.
Image credit: IGF 2015 host website