SIF13 (VII). Internet freedom for global development – making progress?

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.

Wrap-up: internet freedom for global development – making progress?

Moderator: Emily Taylor, Consultant, Non-executive Director Oxford Information Labs Ltd, Member of Multistakeholder Advisory Group at UN Internet Governance Forum.

Panelists: Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation; Yoani Sanchez, Journalist, Generation Y; Sang-yirl Nam, Research Fellow at the Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI); Andrew Wyckoff, Director, Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry at the OECD; Carlos Affonso Souza, Vice-Coordinator, Center for Technology and Society (CTS/FGV); Sylvie Coudray, Chief of Section of Freedom of Expression, UNESCO.

Internet freedom means physical access to infrastructures, but also access to content without any political bias or censorship and, at last, the freedom to publish content or opinions without any fear of harassment or personal harm.

The “Internet without the Internet” is about using USB keys to find and share all that it is not legal to be found and read and shared. Just like people are used in Cuba to look for illegal food in the black market, so do people look for illegal information on the Internet.

But what are the limits of freedom on the Internet?

Freedom is also having the skills to be able to operate the Internet.

Freedom is not being above the law, being free from the law. So, you are free not against the law, but because of the law.

ICTs give freedom to people through empowerment, providing tools to manage their own lives, to innovate, to leapfrog the stage of development they are in.

Freedom of the Net should be approached from a Human Rights point of view, which are “above” specific laws, sometimes disrespectful to Human Rights.

Multi-stakeholder initiatives are great for creating debate and a state of opinion, but at the end, it is elected representatives the ones that have the responsibility to make a decision and to make this decision happen in the real world. On the other hand, citizens can engage now much more through ICTs, so we should include them, not only as organized civil society, but as individuals, in decision-making processes.

When we speak about “responsible” citizens, what it sometimes happen is that totalitarian governments want “responsible” citizens that will only read and say what is “responsible”. And what happens is that once people reach the content that is on the Internet, they become critical and will read and say whatever they want, despite it is considered “responsible” by their totalitarian governments.

More information


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 (VII). Internet freedom for global development – making progress?” In ICTlogy, #116, May 2013. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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