Internet Governance Forum-USA, 2011 Opening Remarks
The opening plenary session of the third IGF-USA featured general remarks from Pablo Molina CIO of the host institution, Georgetown University Law School, Chengetai Masango, a representative of the United Nations Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum, and Ambassador Philip Verveer of the U.S. State Department.
Details of the session:
U.S. Ambassador Phil Verveer emphasized the importance of keeping the Internet free of what he called “intergovernmental controls” across continents so that ideas and information can continue to flow openly and freely at IGF-USA. Certainly, he said, it’s the U.S. view that the Internet not be used as a means of oppression or repression.
“It’s equally clear that we—all humanity—are better off if the Internet remains as it is, free of intergovernmental controls,” Verveer said. “In the view of the United States this is critically important. (An open and free Internet should be) open to new ideas and uses and to the kinds of organic change it has served so well and also free of censorship and other tools of political oppression.”
Verveer said intergovernmental controls involve Internet lag times and attempts at coming to a consensus about important issues, which ultimately results in locating the “lowest common denominator.” And all that is inconsistent with today’s version of the Internet, he said.
An excess of rules and regulations, too, are problematic because of the fretful future they could bring.
“There’s a great danger that we’re going to end up in a situation where some administrations can claim the assistance of all other administrations with respect to things like censorship and greater political control that we in the United States feel very, very strongly should be avoided.”
One way to avoid unnecessary rules is through communication, and that’s where the Internet Governance Forum, a multistakeholder organization, enters the picture, said Pablo Molina, campus CIO and AVP of Georgetown University.
“Communication is a fundamental human right,” Molina said. “The ability to communicate with others and exchange information is critical for human development.”
Individuals who send and receive money across borders and immigrants who use the Internet to bridge the gap between their foreign and origin countries must rely on communication, he said.
And with communication comes the right to education, according to Molina. More and more students and professors are working at colleges and universities form other parts of the world and opening up countries to engage in international initiatives, Molina said.
These important initiatives is why the private sector, all countries, governments, private organizations and academia are all on equal footing while at IGF, said Chengetai Masango, United Nations Secretariat of the IGF, who discussed the history of IGF during his opening remarks and will speak later in the afternoon about the national Internet Governance Forum this September in Kenya.
This allows for open and honest discussion without the fear of something being held against a speaker because no policy decisions are made at IGF, he said. Instead it is a chance for people to learn, share and bring back new ideas to help shape their various groups.
Some have criticized IGF’s approach as a soft form of government, yet Masango stressed the forum is meant to spur discussion and open dialogue to increase cooperation in the technological field.
“The Internet is the largest and most successful cooperative venture in history,” Verveer said.
And it has produced many multistakeholder organizations, including ICANN and IGF, with many more cropping up every year.
Marilyn Cade, chief catalyst for IGF-USA, welcomed more than 100 members of civil society, academia, government and the private sector to the third IGF-USA and laid out the busy day ahead.
“We focus on IGF-USA by taking a national perspective with a global view,” Cade said. “And you will see that in the workshops and sessions today.”
The workshops and sessions will focus on youth Internet stereotypes, regionalization of the Internet, cloud computing and the changing landscape in the domain name system.
- Anna Johnson