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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Inclusive governance for a global Internet
World Summit on Information Society, Geneva
Brussels, 10 June 2014
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Vice President Kroes Speech at the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva, Tuesday 10 June 2014
Across the world I have seen the role that new technology can play. This is not just a toy for the happy few. Across the world it can cut poverty, promote and protect fundamental rights, empower individuals and groups by connecting them to unlimited opportunity. And so a tool for equal opportunities between men and women.
I am committed to including as many people as possible in that digital opportunity. Every European digital. For boys and girls.
I know World Summit on Information Society is also dedicated to that goal.
And more than that: World Summit on Information Society is a living example of how governments, civil society and private companies can work together to bridge the digital divide.
The Internet is a platform for amazing innovation. Able to cope with diversity, and adapt to local needs and sensitivities.
Its main innovative success lies in its nature: open, unified and global.
It deserves the governance to match. Open and transparent, global and multi-stakeholder.
But we cannot go for he lowest common denominator, nor should we run off in separate directions. That would damage the network, and lessen its economic and social impact. Instead we should find a way forward together.
We are in the middle of a significant transition in how the Internet is governed.
As you know – the United States government has announced they will transition core Internet functions for more open management and stronger accountability. I sincerely welcomed that announcement.
But now the follow-up to that announcement is at stake.
In Europe we have already defended for a long time the multi-stakeholder model. But organisations must be accountable, transparent, and independent. Decision making must be more effective and more global. Structures must defend and promote our most basic rights and values.
For me there are three key objectives.
First, to make governance more inclusive. Especially of developing countries.
Second, to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to governance.
Third, to recognise the responsibilities that governments have in enforcing the rule of law, acting within that multi-stakeholder model.
I do not support government control of the Internet. Not by one government, not by a group of governments.
Public authorities do have responsibilities and duties. But self-regulation or similar is often more appropriate. And the stakeholders who design, run and use the Internet are at the heart of any governance system.
The NETmundial conference in Brazil gave us a great example of what the global multi-stakeholder community can achieve. The roadmap for internet governance was a welcome outcome for all those who care about an inclusive, digital future.
This work has been stuck for a number of years. I don't want that to continue.
So today I am calling on all of you for your help. Let's work together. There were very clear milestones in that roadmap: let's take them seriously.
But there are also principles to be upheld and to be defended.
For example, we cannot speak about a vision for media in the Digital Age without clearly defending the principle of freedom of expression and the free flow of information.
Our approach must be – as was stated clearly in Sao Paulo – that rights that people have offline must also be protected online.
Let's remember the prize. A vibrant, unified digital world, diverse and democratic, developing and benefiting every corner of the globe, for girls and for boys, for men and for women
I hope that we can all agree on that.
Let's not stay with the promise, let's put it into practise.