Here I am, sitting in a plenary room at the opening session of the Internet Governance Forum in Athens. This forum was set a couple of months back, in Tunisia, where the second summit on the information society (WSIS) was drawing to a close. Some of you might have noted back then that the two main issues discussed in that UN-organised summit were internet governance and ICTs for development. Well just about eleven months later, what appears to be the legitimate space for continuing the debate on the future of the internet is called the Internet Governance Forum.
Everyone talks, but no-one listens…. Spam, multilingualism, cybercrime, cybersecurity, privacy and data protection, freedom of expression, human rights, interconnection …. The Internet is one of the most powerful inventions of the digital age…. Given the huge impact of the Internet on our daily lives, states must remain the ultimate guarantors of our Internet rights and freedoms,… Reporters Without Borders will be at the Internet Governance Forum in Athens to remind participants that free expression must be at the centre …. A long-simmering dispute over whether the U.S. government has too much control over the Internet’s underpinnings …. Some voices emerging prior to Athens.
The leader of a Netherlands-based non governmental association at the very end of the World Congress on Communication for Development, here in Rome, probably best summarised how development practitioners (communicators, donors and those benefiting from the development at the end of the line) need to move on.
In an attempt to blend ‘symbolic’ communication with ‘organic’ communication we structured the session like a live talk show, allowing our ‘in-studio’ guests panellists to respond to the radio audience as they attempt to ‘call-in’.
The session started with music and song, a rarity in conferences, especially one that is convened by international bodies like the World Bank. But so is a panel of indigenous peoples in forums on communication and development. The invisibility and marginalisation of indigenous peoples from the development and communciation systems were the main issues that representatives of indegenous nations from Asia, Latin America nad Africa highlighted in a special session at the World Conference on Communication for Development currently ongoing in Rome.
Here is a fresh analysis by Rahul Kumar of One World South Asia (OWSA) about the World Congress on Communication for Developement (WCCD). He writes: "People, local communities and the grassroots was the answer that came repeatedly from politicians as well as practitioners for answers to better communication, right communication and well as the mantra for successful communication strategies. Read "Global communications meet searches for answers" here.
Interestingly enough, being present at the first Communication for Development (C4D, in NGO slang) conference in Rome gives me some insights for the upcoming Internet Governance Forum, a space where the future is supposed to be discussed.
Who really controls the internet? Lot of hints, lots of diversity of views… but plenty of smoke screens too. Here’s a lecture, taking place today and titled Who’s really out to control the internet? UN and USA Governance, If you tune into the Guardian, the story you get is “US loosens grip on running of internet”. And here’s another version of the truth, coming from The Mercury News which says, Internet governance dispute will last years, official warns. A dispute, is it?
Amnesty International is calling for internet freedom particularly for bloggers in countries “such as China, Iran, and Tunisia” Nitin Desai’s statement on the “Balkanisation” of the internet also attracted quite some media. Another view, from the other extreme, it would seem, comes from The New York Sun, which says, Keep the United Nations’s Hands Off the Internet!
PressZoom which describes itself as the “global news service and press release distribution” network, has these figures about the Internet Governance Forum, which begins in Athens, Greece from October 30. Participants: 1200. Main sessions: eight (focussing on the Internet’s openness, security, diversity and access). Workshops: 30 (held in parallel to the main sessions, focusing on specific issues relevant to Internet governance).