By AL for APCNews ATHENS, Greece, 01 November 2006
Latin America makes noise at the Forum on Internet Governance. What priorities is Latin America carrying around in its briefcase for this first Forum on Internet Governance? How are all the sectors participating in a pioneer event in this format? APCNews spoke to Raúl Echeberría, LACNIC executive director, the Latin America and the Caribbean internet address registry.
The Internet Governance Forum, which is taking place in Athens Greece, from October 29th through November 2nd, is a unique opportunity for the region. According to Raúl Echeberría, it can become a “channel to efficiently discuss” priority issues for the region, such as interregional infrastructure. It is essential, according to our interviewee, to define “ a strategy to reduce the costs of internet access” at moments like these, since international organisms like the International Telecommunications Union “ have failed at negotiating on these issues on numerous occasions”.
An issue that makes noise
“I think that it is an issue on which the governance forum is making noise. It is an issue that is going to be broached during the access panel and it will be a place to exercise enough pressure to create more favourable negotiating conditions for our countries” he reflected.
The linguistic diversity reflects the different visions of the world, y Echeberría alluded to the need to promote content in various languages and to create conditions favourable to accessing knowledge, as well as sharing it through the powerful tools made available by internet.
Languages on the internet, a political issue
Diversity is precisely one of the four axis of this Internet Governance Forum (in addition to openness, access and security) Raúl intervened during the general session dedicated to this issue as a member of the public and he spoke of the presence of Spanish on the internet. It is the second most spoken native language in the world (after Chinese) and this is, in reality, far from being reflected in the web of webs. He also mentioned the impact of the costs related to local content, adding thus a new point of view to the existing debate.
What can governments do to face this reality? A lot, according to our interviewee. Nothing is better than an example to prove it: French is the language with the second highest internet presence, which is a direct consequence of the place that promoting French language and culture occupies in France’s public policies.
The slippery slope of security and freedom of expression
Echeberría also referred to an issue “strongly rooted in popular appeal”: security and cybercrime. Governments perceive this concern and that is why it came to the table at this forum. However, the region is facing a great challenge: “if we lack adequate participation we might wind up adopting criteria or good practices or basing ourselves on conventions that are developed in light of the issues of other countries and regions […] The application of very restrictive models that cater to the needs of others can also hinder internet development in the region”.
The thin line that separates security from the violation of fundamental human rights related to freedom of expression and privacy did not go unnoticed by our interviewee: “We can’t allow for certain boundaries –human rights, for example- to be crossed with the excuse of seeking laudable objectives, such as fighting internet crime or re-enforcing network security and stability (or the security of states via it). This was confirmed many years ago and we cannot discuss it again”.
“There is a lack of debate at the regional level pertaining to what the point of equilibrium is between the unrestricted respect of those rights with the considerations that improvements to security factors warrant”, he added.
Knowledge and shared experiences
Regarding the modality in which the IFC is being inaugurated by bringing all sectors to the negotiating table, he commented: “I think this is a very interesting experience. For those of us who come from the internet community, it is something we experiment with daily: the manner of participating and participative work is something that is a very natural process for us”.
“There is a big and very positive change in the attitude of the governments that have adhered to participating in this forum (…) In this issue, more than in others, we can realize that knowledge and experience are very distributed. Advances on these issues can only be made with the contribution and cooperation of all sectors”, he concluded.