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Opening Statement on behalf of Civil Society, at World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) +10, February 25, 2013

Opening Remarks

Acknowledge dignitaries and Participants

 

As CS, we applaud the efforts being made to provide accessible remote participation for this meeting, improving possibilities for inclusion and active engagement in this significant global policy process. It is exciting that WSIS is setting an example, which strongly supports timely interventions from remote participants, and registration as participants in the WSIS +10.

 

The civil society wishes to note the following developments that stand out:

·         Enormous growth in number of Internet users, in absolute figures, in percentage per country, in global reach.

·         At the same time most people in the world still can't access the Internet at all (for reasons of infrastructure, economics, disabilities, politics, etc.), or are experiencing censorship, limited bandwidth, physical accessibility, etc.)

·         Others like the Small Islands Developing States that are susceptible to natural disasters have such challenges as ageing infrastructure, a lack of universal accessibility with Digital Inclusion and scarce resources. 

·         Explosion of mobile phone use in particular in Africa, which are also facilitating adoption and use of internet.

·         Social media: People increasingly reaching beyond passive consumption of information to actively creating and sharing information. There is much wider involvement of citizens in debates on information society issues.

·         Growing awareness of the impact of policies on how we enjoy the Internet and on our lives in general.

·         Continued incredible intuitiveness and creativeness with which people use, adapt and invent technology—a demonstration that the human mind is free. 

·         A lot has been achieved in terms of consciousness-raising and shifting agendas. A very concrete achievement is the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet that has already been making its mark in the wider IG community.

 

However:

 

The internet presents a new challenge in thinking about the protection and promotion of human rights, protection of the right to privacy, and data protection online.

 

Therefore an understanding of the human rights environment online calls for an  understanding of the technical design of the internet and how it is shaped by commercial forces as well as looking at the kinds of content it carries, and the controls that apply to such content.

 

As we reflect on WSIS + 10, and as someone who comes from Kenya, I can attest to the fact that the multistakeholder model endorsed at WSIS IS doable and has worked for us. It has deepened efforts to expand access and therefore needs to be preserved.

 

There is need for all sectors, all countries to work together to bridge divides, tackle issues, and not allow geopolitical interests to prevail.

 

Conclusion

The right to information, both to impart and to receive, is a fundamental right that impacts every country in the world. While the right to information is often regarded as being a "first world problem" that is secondary to the right to life, education, and health, neither of these rights can truly exist if we don't facilitate every means to achieve the right to information.

 

As we take stock let us remind ourselves that this event is not just a reiteration of well-worn themes, or a self-congratulation 'festival' but that it really challenges and provides concrete examples of how and where to implement the WSIS plan of action in a holistic sense.

 

We need to ensure that internet access is universal and affordable, and must therefore, be seen as a global public infrastructure.

 

Any positive agenda for internet freedom will need to address  issues raised by developingnations as well as being in line with the human rights values, and be negotiated through amulti-stakeholder process.

 

A long-term objective would be to ensure that the internet continues to be a global,interconnected information commons governed in dispersed and participatory manner byits users.         

 

I thank you for your attention.

Ends, Grace Githaiga

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