The Worldwide Web We Want

Published on 28th April 2014

My name is Nnenna. I come from the Internet. I also come from diverse civil society teams and networks. My first is the team at the World Wide Web Foundation. At the Web Foundation, we are engaged in the Alliance for Affordable Internet, in the Web We Want Campaign, in the Web Index and in Open Government data. I work to establish the open Web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely.  That is what I do for a living.

I also belong to the Best Bits Civil Society platform, the Internet Governance Caucus for 12 years and the Africa Internet Governance Forum.  For me, Netmundial, in convening us to take a critical look at the principles and the roadmap for the future of Internet Governance, avails us with an opportunity to bring key issues to fore.

The first is Access

As much as two-thirds of the world’s population is not connected to the Internet. The penetration rates in less developed countries average around 31%. In the African continent, this figure drops to 16%. In the world’s 49 least developed countries, over 90% of people are not online.  We have one billion people living with disability.  80% live in developing countries.  Each one deserves access: to information, to libraries, to knowledge, to affordable Internet.

The second is Social and economic justice

The Internet is fast becoming the dominant means for wealth creation. The “Right to Development” needs to include social justice.  It is not enough to do a superficial “capacity building” for a few persons.  We are looking at a mechanism that allows for the highest number of persons to be included, the largest number of voices to be heard,  the widest  extent of talents to access innovation, and the deepest creativity of the human minds to flourish. For these, we need to start considering the Internet as public commons.

The third is freedom and human rights

I invite you to listen to someone for whom I have great respect. She was speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, on the 24th of September 2013.

“Do you want to hear it?” I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals. In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy.” And that, was Dilma Rousseff

In charting a way forward for Internet Governance, we must lend serious consideration to at least 3 issues:

The first is participation:  We kicked off with a basic understanding that all stakeholders have a place, a role, and a contribution. As we move further along, the multistakeholder approach is becoming muddled and is losing its meaning. It is time we came back to the drawing board. If we need to revisit the notion, or upgrade it, please let us do it. We need to engage all stakeholders at the global, regional and national levels. We need to establish respect and value for stakeholder contributions. We need to enable meaningful participation from developing countries and under-represented groups.

The second is resources: How do we ensure that resources are mobilized and maintained for a viable Internet Governance mechanism? The question is not just at the global level, but also at regional and national levels. Whose resources are we going to commit? The Internet should be able to provide resources for its own governance.  Maybe, part of the domain name fees could be reinvested here.

The third is change: NETMundial is offering us a chance at change.  Let us seize it:

From one stakeholder hijacking the process – to an open and inclusive process; From top officials issuing orders – to a collaboration; From summary reports – to transparency; From power – to accountability; From monologues – to dialogues and debates. Change the rhetoric of cyberwar – to the notion of Internet for peace. Change from cyber threats – to digital solidarity. These, I believe, will guide us in the IANA transition.

The Web we can trust, that is the Web We Want. The Web that contributes to global peace, that is the web we want. The Web that remains open and inclusive, that is the web we want. The Internet of opportunities, of social justice, of development and of respect to privacy and human rights.

NETMundial is the World Cup of Internet Governance. We need a robust stadium – we need infrastructure. We need everyone to enjoy the game – we need participation. Fans should not be discriminated against: we need net neutrality. Everyone should be free to support any team. I support Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. I also support Brazil when they are not playing against Africa.

Fans will wear their costumes – let us respect diversity. We need to know the rules and play by them: That is transparency. So it is not just about power and control for governments. Not just service and interest for the industry. Not just names and numbers for the academia and technical community. Not just “for” or “against” for us in the civil society.

We need humility. Our humility to listen to diverse voices is essential for an authentic dialogue. Let us talk to each other and not at each other. Sometimes as stakeholders, we may be so drowned with our own voices that we miss what others have to say.

By Nnenna Nwakanma

Africa Regional Coordinator of the World Wide Web Foundation, representing Civil Society, Worldwide. (Excerpts)

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