The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has dedicated much of today’s discussions to the linkages between Internet governance and the growth and development of the Internet. I participated in the main morning session with an impressive range of experts from government, industry, the technology community and civil society to exchange views and experiences about how public policies promote global expansion of the Internet, broader, more inclusive access, and empowerment of societies and individuals worldwide. These are issues that have carried high priority for the Internet Society since its very earliest days and why a global, open, resilient and accessible Internet matters.
It quickly became clear to the Internet Society as we became involved locally in promoting expansion of the Internet that there was an integral link between Internet governance and development, whether the latter involves deployment of open standards; extension of infrastructure and localization of traffic exchange; capacity to operate that infrastructure; accessibility and inclusion; or the promotion of permission-less innovation. If economic development of societies and the empowerment and rights of people is the end that we seek, then the means — how we achieve this — matters. The means by which we get there are important.
Our experience confirms that a condition precedent to successful deployment and use of the Internet is whether all key stakeholders are at the table and work together to achieve the desired result, and that the results include policies that facilitate effective development.
Let me offer three Internet Society projects that demonstrate this connection between Internet governance and development leading to beneficial human impact.
Our work with various partners, including the African Union Commission and commercial partners, to build capacity and facilitate the development of national and regional Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Africa as well as other regions is one case in point. Studies show quite clearly that by localizing peering and traffic exchange, consumer costs drop, access increases, and local content proliferates. The partnerships forged at the outset of our IXP Programme between government entities and industry were driven by the push for economic development and consumer interest. The means were effective and the desired end is being achieved.
Our Asia Pacific Bureau initiated a project a few years ago in rural India to bring the Internet into a remote and poor area of that country via wireless means. The support of local authorities made it possible to employ the most effective technical approach, one that had not previously been used and opened the door for the local operator to connect with the wireless connection to the rural village. The impact of this “technical” development project has been a major transformation of the village’s economy as well as the empowerment of women there. Multiple stakeholders worked together to create the conditions that facilitated the employment of the wireless Internet, achieving together the desired end ─ better conditions for the people. One of the additional benefits of this programme, by the way, is that it is scalable to other places in the world.
And a third set of efforts, which we undertake all over the world, is the work we do locally with policy makers, technical community industry and consumers to help create a healthy Internet ecosystem. The end that we seek, and we see achieved, is greater economic development, including opportunities for local jobs.
The Internet Society remains committed to local development, building collaborative relationships with local stakeholders, and achieving together the local benefits for all people of the global Internet. We are pleased that the commitment within the IGF remains just as strong. We believe that there is a shared determination within the IGF to achieve this end through approaches to Internet governance that facilitate shared agreement in the desired end ─ human well-being.