Willie Currie leaves APC for South African regulator

By KAH Publisher: APCNews     MONTEVIDEO,

On October 1 APC´s former policy manager was sworn in as a councillor at the South African telecoms regulator ICASA after being nominated by civil society and private sector associations. So how does Willie feel about leaving APC after seven years heading up our policy programme? In this interview Willie talks about how the internet policy landscape has changed since he joined APC and what he´ll miss most.

APCNews: Willie, you´re leaving APC after seven years heading the policy programme. How has the international policy landscape changed in that time?

Willie Currie: The international policy landscape has changed in a number of ways. First, the issue of the internet and its governance has become more central. This is partly in response to technical developments in the growth of broadband and Web 2.0, but is also the consequence of governments becoming more concerned to control the internet in the wake of the increase of networked terrorism over the decade, the battle over intellectual property in the content industries on the Web and the threat of internet-based freedom of expression to authoritarian governments.

At the policy level there have been two main developments – the first five years of the Internet Governance Forum as a space for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and the gradual shifts under-way to make ICANN an international body, accountable to the internet community globally.

Second, the issue of broadband has become central to the global policy agenda and much attention is being paid to the policy implications at the physical, logical  and content layers of the internet. Greater physical capacity means that high bandwidth content is available on the internet and this has enabled both user-generated multimedia content to develop as well as the delivery of music and video, which has brought the issue of intellectual property in its wake.

At the logical layer, this period has also seen the growth of internationalised domain names and the impending expansion of generic Top Level Domain Names. Broadband has also enabled the growth of mobile networks and devices and greatly expanded the mobility of the internet. This massive expansion of the internet has also brought greater threats to bear in the form of the imminent depletion of IPv4 addresses and the weakness of the transition to IPv6 as well as greater criminal activity on the web whether in the form of viruses, distributed denial of service attacks, terrorist networks, child pornography and state-sponsored cyber-warfare.

APC has been at the centre of engaging with the policy implications of these developments and advocating for a free and open internet.

APCNews: What policy changes has APC been instrumental in making happen over these seven years and which make you most proud?

Willie Currie: APC has actively engaged in promoting multi-stakeholder approaches to ICT policy at global, regional and national levels. I’m most proud of our work globally at the Internet Governance Forum, regionally within Latin America and nationally in countries like Ecuador, Kenya and Bangladesh to promote this multi-stakeholder approach to policy.

APCNews: When you joined APC in 2004 you said that one of the things that most interested you was working in an organisation that was influencing international policy and also working at regional and national levels. What aspect will you miss most as you move back to working in South Africa?

Willie Currie: Well, it is this dimension of APC that is one of its strengths – being able to engage with and support policy processes at international, regional and national levels. I will certainly miss this high level of engagement that APC has achieved in being able to engage all stakeholders in these policy spaces – governments, regulators, the private sector and our civil society allies in the grand goal of building a free and open internet across the world. My sense is that this work will become more difficult to do in the coming period. The economic crisis has hit the availability of financial resources for civil society to continue to engage effectively in these policy spaces. The other factor is the increasing assertiveness of governments to try and wrest control of the internet away from multi-stakeholder processes of policy deliberation back into inter-governmental spaces that they control. Both these constraints must be overcome in the next five years and it will take greater ingenuity from civil society and its allies to do so.

APCNews: You´ve worked with your successor Valeria Betancourt for a long time. What will she bring to APC’s policy work?*

Willie Currie: Valeria is well suited to taking APC’s policy work forward in this difficult period we are entering. She has successfully built APC’s work and profile in Latin America through a mixture of resourcefulness, strategy and hard work. I’m confident she will bring this experience into her broader policy work in APC and take us forward.

APCNews: Do you have a message for the broader APC community?*

Willie Currie: It has been a remarkable experience for me to work within the APC community. It has been challenging at times to manage the complexity of dynamics, people and issues that a cutting edge network throws up, but what is important for me is the care and dedication of members, staff and partners to a free and open internet and to ensuring that how we work together is as important as the goals we are working for. I will miss you all and wish APC everything of the best in the future.

Next month APCNews will be talking to Valeria Betancourt, APC’s new policy programme manager.

Photo: Willie Currie talks strategy at an APC meeting. APC (2009).

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