Critical Internet resources, access, openness and using the World Wide Web to assist development were among the issues tackled today at the opening in Rio de Janeiro of the second meeting of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum.
“The United Nations does not have a role in managing the Internet,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message, delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang. “But we do embrace the opportunity to provide, through this Forum, a platform that helps to ensure the Internet’s global reach.”
The Forum “may have no power to make decisions,” Mr. Ban said. “But it can inform and inspire those who are in a position to make them.”
Adding his own remarks, Mr. Sha said the Forum was a unique opportunity for all interested parties to develop, under UN auspices, an innovative dialogue “freed from the constraints of negotiating a text. The Forum is also unique in that it brings together people who normally do not meet under the same roof.”
Development had been one of the key priorities throughout the Internet governance debate, he said, adding that “the Internet is capable of delivering economic opportunities for all. But much remains to be done.”
Sérgio Rezende, Brazil's Minister of Science and Technology and the Chair of the meeting, said the Internet embodied the spirit of compromise, cooperation and participation. “Without this spirit, the Internet loses his potential,” he said.
The Internet was essential for education – thus the need for universal access. The digital divide was a factor in the current increase of inequality, and digital inclusion would lead to a fairer, more balanced world. Developing countries should intensify their efforts to make people more computer-literate, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Portugal’s Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education José Mariano Ago said the organizations that managed the Internet, especially the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), had shown an unprecedented capacity of response. Such a flexible and dynamic model could be improved but should continue, he said.
Paul Twomey, ICANN's President and Chief Executive Officer, said the most important item on the meeting's agenda was access. “Our discussions here will mean nothing to someone not able to get onto the network in the first place.” The challenge now was to bring the next billion people online.
ICANN was committed to an open way of doing business that included many stakeholders, he said. “Anyone, from governments, the technical community, business and civil society, can participate freely, either in person or virtually.”
The Forum is not a decision-making body, and there will be no negotiated outcome. But the meeting aims at creating an open dialogue on public policy issues relating to the Internet and creating new dynamics between participating institutions. During the four-day meeting, some 1,700 representatives from some 90 countries, as well as from the private sector, civil society and the academic and technical communities, will discuss Internet governance in plenary sessions as well as at 70 other events.