United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today stressed the importance of using the worldwide net to promote global development as he opened the first ever Internet Governance Forum by encouraging participants to use the four-day gathering to foster dialogue and cooperation.
More than 1,200 participants comprising government, private sector and civil society representatives, including academic and technical communities, are expected to gather in Athens until Thursday to hold interactive discussions on issues related to Internet governance, including freedom of expression, access, multilingualism and others.
“With more than 1 billion users worldwide and still growing dramatically, the Internet has outgrown its origins as a network run by and for computer specialists. Indeed it has become too important, for almost every country’s economy and administration, for Governments not to take an interest,” Mr. Annan said in a speech read out by Nitin Desai, Special Adviser for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
“The challenge therefore is to bring two cultures together: the non-governmental Internet community, with its traditions of informal, bottom-up decision-making, and the more formal, structured world of Governments and intergovernmental organizations.”
“The Internet Governance Forum is well placed to contribute to that effort by fostering dialogue, and by giving voice to a wide range of views, including developing-country individuals and institutions involved in Internet governance.”
The Forum, which is not a decision-making body, grew out of the 2003 and 2005 WSIS, during which the contentious issue of Internet Governance was one of the most widely debated. As a result, Heads of State and Governments asked Mr. Annan to set up the Forum.
“I am very encouraged that during the preparatory process, all stakeholders acknowledged that the Internet can play a powerful role in helping developing countries to advance their economic and social well-being, and agreed on the development dimension as overarching priority of the Forum.”
“Today, the Forum enters uncharted waters. Its mandate… calls on it to serve not as a convenor of Governments, but of all stakeholders. The Forum will thus have to develop procedures and practices for cultivating meaningful cooperation among these disparate partners. While this will be a challenge, the Internet lends itself particularly well to this search for new forms of global collaboration.”
Over the next four days there will be eight main sessions and more than 30 workshops, covering the following themes relating to Internet governance:
openness – freedom of expression, free flow of information, ideas and knowledge;
security – creating trust and confidence through collaboration;
diversity – promoting multilingualism and local content;
access – Internet connectivity, policy and cost.