Those of us who participated in the NETmundial conference in Brazil last April were pleasantly surprised by how constructive the talks were, and we left looking forward to further action.
In contrast there are some states and actors pushing for a radical change in how the Internet is governed – an intergovernmental, more state controlled system. I do not agree with that: the current system, where all stakeholders are involved, is a good model on which to improve.
If you care about the multistakeholder system – then you want it to be credible and effective. With the establishment this week of the NETmundial Initiative of the World Economic Forum, we have another opportunity to continue the momentum for reform of ‘multistakeholder’ internet governance.
This follow-up initiative to NETmundial should increase our collective capacity to achieve concrete reforms: globalising while enhancing the transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of those internet governance institutions and processes
To get there, it will be critical for all involved in the initiative to be fully transparent and highly inclusive. As @anriette from the Association For Progressive Communication has noted: “The NETmundial (Brazil) process was not perfect, but it made a HUGE effort to be inclusive and transparent. The degree to which it succeeded contributed to its legitimacy and success.” The World Economic Forum has a valuable convening power, but it is the processes themselves that can confer lasting legitimacy on this Initiative. Within that effort we need to remember that many organisations in the majority of countries do not have the resources to meaningfully participate in a growing number of forums; as with NETmundial Brazil we must remember that this can be partly addressed by using digital means of interactive debate.
I hope also that the Initiative will play a useful role in strengthening existing communities and networks such as the Internet Governance Forum; with limited resources for making internet governance work better we can’t afford to waste energy. It will not be enough to simply talk. My fear about current internet governance is that it leaves a great deal of space for talk, and too rarely moves us to action: this will be an ongoing challenge for the NETmundial Initiative.
Personally I will be interested to read and hear the reactions of the many internet stakeholders around the world, and to see if it can make an immediate impact on the IGF meeting next week. I and my team will be involved in the Initiative and I will keep you updated about my thoughts on my own blog.
Author: Neelie Kroes is vice-president and commissioner at the European Commission
Image: Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff attends the opening ceremony for the NETmundial : Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance conference in Sao Paulo April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Nacho Doce