Last week we announced the names of twenty-five individuals who were selected as the awardees of our 25 under 25 program, an initiative which recognizes young people from around the globe who are using the Internet to make a positive difference.
The program forms part of the Internet Society’s 25th Anniversary celebrations this month, including a special recognition ceremony planned in Los Angeles, California on Monday 18 September for the 25 under 25. We invited all twenty-five awardees to Los Angeles to take part and receive their awards in person but we have learnt that unfortunately, not everyone will be able to travel. Three of the awardees have not been granted visas to enter the United States.
On hearing this news one awardee, Mariano Gomez, penned us an open letter. In it, he explains his frustration at a process which required him to travel over several days to a ten minute interview which resulted in rejection. He described with utter clarity the irony of being denied entry due to the very conditions he hopes to address with the innovations he is pursuing on the Internet.
We understand and applaud Mariano’s statement. Not only are we disappointed that he and two others from our 25 under 25 awardee line-up will not be able to join us in L.A. as we celebrate their achievements, we are also dismayed by the existence of regulations in the U.S. and elsewhere that prevent these and other young people from exploring their potential.
At the Internet Society, we stand by the heroic accomplishments of each of our awardees. Every one of 25 will be receiving their award regardless, whether in person or otherwise. In addition, we are supporting those who cannot be with us with travel costs to attend other Internet Society events being held in their own countries during our global online meeting where they will be able to participate in the ceremony remotely.
The power of the Internet lies in its ability to transcend boundaries, to condense time and space and to overcome physical and geographical limitations and restrictions. Even if there are those who would see borders closed and barriers put in place, we will continue to look to the Internet as the means for the world to connect, collaborate and share.
This is why the Internet must remain open, globally-connected and secure and why we are using it as the way to have a global conversation that connects our community around the world. Our InterCommunity 2017 event is not just a meeting, it embodies the idea that lies at the heart of the Internet Society and its values – that the Internet is for everyone.