This is an important year for the Internet Governance as the WSIS+10 review process will take place at the end of the year and is involving not only the UN agencies but also the whole community. The “Connecting the dots Conference” was probably a great example to be followed by other working groups and organizations involved. In fact, UNESCO began even two years ago with the preparation of a study based on a multi-stakeholder dialogue.
It is a given that the Internet is changing the economic and social landscape worldwide and, therefore, its governance affects all of us. And as far as there no a centralized governance we all should contribute and become part of it. During the conference the participants from governments, civil society, academia, private sector, technical community and inter-governmental and international organizations discussed around a comprehensive study on Internet-related issues. This Internet study addresses issues on knowledge society and focuses onfundamental topics for the future development of the Internet: access to information and knowledge, freedom of expression, privacy and ethics. The debate was vivid and many recommendations came up from diverse perspectives and contexts.
The business community was active expressing our views on each of the proposed pillars. ICC BASIS Chair, Ilham Habibie, highlited in the opening remarks (click here) that “access to the Internet in developing countries is the crucial starting point for ICT innovations to enable UNESCO’s vision of Internet-enabled Knowledge Society”. And he also stated that “UNESCO could encourage governments to work together with business to develop policies and practices to maximize freedom of expression and the free flow of information over the Internet and to minimize trade and investment barriers".
The (non-binding) Outcome Document (click here) was approved by consensus and represents a political positioning at the UNGA discussions later this year. In general terms, it tries to reinforce UNESCO’s contributions and leadership within the UN system, specifically within the WSIS+10 review, the IGF and the post-2015 development agenda.
Among other things, it urges “Member States and other actors to protect, promote and implement international human rights law on free expression and the free flow of information and ideas on the Internet” and refers to continued dialogue “on the important role that Internet intermediaries have in promoting and protecting freedom of expression”.
Today the Internet provides a contribution of $4.2bn in the digital economy, then we should profit from its economic and social potential. What is more, we need to be prepared for the years to come as Internet changes everything: education, science, and culture included. Indeed, the new wave of innovation associated to the Internet of things will impact in the world we live today.
On top of this process, all players adopted last year in Sao Paulo key Internet Principles rooted in Human Rights that could be used as a fundamental source of new agreements. In this sense, UNESCO’s “Connecting the dots” final document, together with the Sao Paulo Principles, constitute an exceptional basis to agree on the path for their implementation. Lots of work have to be done but we are confident with bodies like UNESCO and, of course, the multistakeholder approach followed in the Internet Governance issues.