The Next Decade: WSIS+10 and the Debate Around Asserting the Principles of Open Internet Governance

Posted on June 3rd, 2015

In preparation for the World Summit on the Information Society's 10-year Review at the end of the year, discussions around policy and governance are already taking place.
Shutterstock, Pavel Ignatov
Bill Dutton, a Michigan State University Professor, closed the recent UNESCO Connecting the Dots Conference in March 2015 with an intriguing statement:

“Over the past decade, the focus has been on the Internet technology’s development; I believe the next decade will be about policy and governance.”

As Constance Bommelaer, Senior Director of Global Internet Policy for the Internet Society discussed in a recent review of the UNESCO conference on the ISOC blog, the statement marks the starting point of a nearly year-long conversation leading up to the World Summit on the Information Society’s (WSIS) 10-year Review, which will take place at the end of December this year.

The WSIS+10 review was called upon by the Tunis Agenda of the original 2003 WSIS to review the implementations and findings of the WSIS by the end of 2015, establishing a two-day high-level meeting of the General Assembly to “take stock of the progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of the [WSIS] and address potential information and communications technology gaps and areas for continued focus, as well as addressing challenges, including bridging the digital divide, and harnessing information and communications technologies for development.”

In preparation WSIS+10, and in line with the guiding discussions around policy and governance, Bommelaer highlights a response to a report on Internet Universality presented by UNESCO, proposing that the Internet should be definitively Rights-based, Open, Accessible to all, and nurtured by Multistakeholder participation (ROAM).

A strongly delineated definition like this one has the effect of disrupting some deeply-held assumptions and polarizing opinions. In her post, Bommelaer highlights some some of the deeper questions raised at the UNESCO conference included:

  1. If human rights are universal by nature, how is it possible to ensure that privacy frameworks are effectively interoperable between regions and countries?
  2. Beyond the development of Internet infrastructures, what training do people need to be empowered by the technology?
  3. How do we organize meaningful and accountable multi-stakeholder participation mechanisms?

These questions point to the potential necessity for policy and governance frameworks. Bommelaer asserts that the direction of the discussion indicates that a time has come to establish and assert principles around these very human values. The current democratic opportunity for any stakeholder to contribute to the shape and definition of the internet that will be must be acted upon in order to continue upholding the values of openness and transparency that helped bring it into being.

Bommelaer passionately presents the values of openness and integrity as integral to the development and government of the internet:

The principles of openness and transparency have been a catalyst in allowing the Internet to evolve constantly. They have contributed not only to unleash innovation and creativity but, equally significantly, they have allowed the Internet to manifest its full potential in terms of social empowerment, political expression and economic development.  Additionally, they have produced a fertile ground for the organic growth of a set of abilities that have further enriched our societies: the ability to connect, to innovate and to communicate, but also to choose and to share.

The UNESCO conference, while questioning assumptions and asserting values, facilitated the ongoing development of “a shared vision affirming faith in an open governance model,” according to Bommelaer, with provenance on the need for human rights protection online, as documented in a final outcome document that can be read online here.

OpenStand Principles are based on the foundational principles responsible for driving over two decades of internet and high technology growth. The OpenStand Principles embrace openness, transparency, cooperation, empowerment and voluntary adoption for open standards development. However, these principles may have an influential role in establishing a common set of values for global technology development and the open internet, which lay the framework for future governance and oversight. We invite professionals from all walks of technology, academia, media to check out the OpenStand Principles and stand with us as OpenStand advocates.

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