WSIS 2016: "On its own, internet access is not enough. Let's build greater social equality"

Two panelists during the WSIS 2016 high-policy session. Geneva, 6 May, 2016. Source: ITU on Flickr

By APC Geneva, 06 May 2016

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process is considered a cornerstone of international norms and discourse on internet policy and governance. As the process marks its 11th anniversary, the ‘ICT for development’ community met in Geneva between 2-6 May to continue to work for a people-centric, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information.

Ending digital exclusion

Technology alone cannot resolve development challenges, as the information society is primarily a matter of human development. However, the WSIS+10 review process and its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offer a unique opportunity to focus on the interaction between technology and the various aspects of development.

This was what APC’s Executive Director Anriette Esterhuysen highlighted in her statement before participants in the WSIS 2016 high-level policy session. Esterhuysen emphasises the importance of trust and insists, “On its own, internet access not enough. Build greater social equality. Fight patriarchy. Promote gender equality.”

Advancing good governance

The future of the internet is rooted in how it is governed. There are many internet governance principles, originating from UN bodies, regional organisations, civil society initiatives or multistakeholder processes, but much more can be done to enhance meaningful participation from all stakeholders. Within this context, APC participated in the World Summit of Information Society 2016 with a session entitled Advancing Internet Governance Principles and Practice, which focused on how to deepen adoption and implementation of existing internet governance principles.

“We need to stop coming up with new principles: We have start using, implementing them and educating people about them. We need to make them work and have concrete output”, Avri Doria, independent researcher, said.

“We have principles – lots of them, including norms, and standards. But most are embedded in disparate institutional and issue areas. It is broad cross cutting principles that are hard to negotiate.” Bill Drake, from the University of Zurich, showcased. “Internet governance principles are important. They create a sense of community, neutral obligations, norms and values.”

“We should separate instances where we need soft norms from those where we need hard norms and where hard norms are likely to be made anyway, such as in the case of internet security.” Chinmayi Arun, from the Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University, India, said.

An improved internet governance will result on better conditions to access to the internet and use it to achieve to gender equality, participants highlighted. It will lead to a more stable and secure infrastructure, to social justice and enjoyment of human rights and to holistic sustainable development.

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