SIF13 (V). A free and open internet for global inclusive growth

Notes from the Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development, held at Münchenbryggeriet (The Brewery) at Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden, May 22-23, 2013. More notes on this event: #sif13.

A free and open internet for global inclusive growth

Moderator: Rebecca Mackinnon, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation, Author.

Panelists: Tim Unwin, Secretary General, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation; Anne Jellema, CEO, World Wide Web Foundation; Anna-Karin Hatt, Swedish Minister for Information Technology and Energy; Parminder Singh, Executive Director, IT for Change; Grace Githaiga, Associate, Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet).

It’s not just the pipes, it’s what we deliver; it’s not just the Internet, it’s what we use it for and how we use it. How can we commit to the goal that the more marginalized, the more in risk of exclusion, can benefit from the tremendous potential of the Internet, mobile phones and mobile broadband. The market will deliver for many many people, but it won’t deliver for them all.

There’s a lot of innovation but the quality of broadband is a challenge. There’s also diversity in use of technologies.

Lots of innovations in the South are being captured by companies in the North, where they have more power to make them grow and establish a market power. More protection for South innovators should be a priority.

How can governments put focus on what technology can do? Transparency, open data, e-government or e-democracy are good ways to.

How can developing countries have a say in the global Internet Governance issues? Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach should be taken into consideration to broaden the importance and potential of the Internet, out of just economic issues and more into human issues. And this will change the way we approach Internet Governance. First of all internet is a public good. It’s not a choice between market and public.

Universality and accessibility of the net goes hand in hand.

Is Facebook Zero a good or a bad thing? Is it good because it provides access to the Internet at zero cost for the user? Or is it a bad thing because it de facto reduces the Internet to Facebook? There is another danger that the free as in free beer Internet is the commercial one, and the free as in freedom of speech Internet is expensive and will be killed, just like some Internet is killing community radio. People not only want to communicate with their peers through social networking sites, but there also is hunger for information.

Affordability has to be addressed urgently in many places in the world. Until prices do not come down — while keeping up quality — e-inclusion will be but a nice word. And this goes by designing a better regulation that breaks monopolies, or at least monopolistic practices — in some areas, monopolies are natural monopolies, so it makes no sense to include competition, though this lack of competition, of course, should not go against the citizens.

We have not to use rights and rights advocacy to avoid our own responsibilities, responsibilities that are shared between governments but also citizens.

If choosing in between the fast and easy to shadow internet, better to have slow,but secure.

My personal take on these issues: ICTs for accessing agricultural market information or to stop food speculation? ICTs for e-health apps or to stop medicines speculation and health system corruption? ICTs to reduce the cost of judicial procedures or to avoid governments tampering on justice? ICTs to make polling easier or to promote direct, deliberative and participative democracy? Grassroots approaches are OK, but we have to focus also on changing the whole system.


Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development (2013)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2013) “SIF13 (V). A free and open internet for global inclusive growth” In ICTlogy, #116, May 2013. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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