Sitting watching Egyptian activist Wael Khalil debate with UK Minister Ed Vaizey at one of Nominet’s IGF workshops I suddenly realised how far we’ve come since the early WSIS meetings in 2003 when it seemed like an extraordinary idea that Internet policy could be discussed at the international level with equal voice given to less-wired states and the active involvement of industry and civil society groups. Access and digital divides may still be a key concern, particularly within nations, but countries like Kenya are now at the vanguard of innovation, and the role of civil society actors in shaping not just internet policy but also international politics and regime change could not be more clear. For this reason, and perhaps because there has been some uncertainty about the future of the IGF, events in Nairobi really brought it home to me why this forum is so valuable, and why it must continue:
- No one country, company or individual ‘owns’ the Internet; so discussions about its future MUST be inclusive
- One of the Internet’s greatest strengths is its openness; more regulation risks damaging that.
- Despite the widespread fears about ‘balkanisation’ of the Internet, most of the greatest challenges and opportunities relating to the Internet’s future affect all of us equally.
So key points to take to Baku? I would argue we ought to have an IGF that really focuses on the Internet’s great potential. We spend a great deal of time balancing risks, identifying potential harms or assessing trade-offs in key values which does little to convince those who are ambivalent about getting online. Isn’t it time we redressed the balance?
Posted by the UK IGF on behalf of Dr Vicki Nash, Oxford Internet Institute