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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Neelie KROES

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Defending the open internet

Opening ceremony of the Internet Governance Forum, Istanbul

Istanbul, 2 September 2014

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I feel young and feisty, but in my 5th and last Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as Digital Commissioner I am turning into an old-timer.

So much happened in these years and internet governance has improved tremendously; in inclusivity, accountability, responsiveness etc.

In the same period however, the Internet exploded in number of users, mobility, data volumes, economic importance, and global reach. The pace and magnitude of this development faces us all with whole new challenges. 

Against that background these 5 years have been filled with too much of the same; the talk; the initiatives; the sensitivities; the dogmas.

As the online world reaches into 3 billion people's pockets; bringing eCommerce to the remotest of areas, connecting and empowering people, activists, start-ups, creators across the globe; we got ourselves caught up in endless debates and disputes between models and approaches. 

If I say that I am an old-timer it is because I have heard it all before and it just isn't good enough. 

NETMundial has established a solid foundation and we now need to follow through in putting the multistakeholder model on much sounder footing.

We need to invest and build a governance structure for the Internet that people can trust! Trust, trust, trust is the key. 

So many have become dependent on the internet. So many trust it for critically important services in ehealth, finance, ecommerce, democratic participation, education.

For it to continue to grow, the internet and the way it is governed must justify this trust and prove to be resilient, reliable and fair.

And those in charge and active in the IG community must take their responsibility to do a few things we all know that should happen:

1) the IGF should now get a permanent status and it should be financed to perform its function as the central forum for identifying and discussing internet related issues. We are not talking about massive amounts and considering the crucial importance of the internet it is simply laughable that that the money could not be raised by governments, registrars, business and private wealth. 

(- we could spend a lot of resources on many new IG reform initiatives but the money may be best spent to strengthen the most legitimate gathering of the community here and in the regions of the world.)

2) IGF must move to the next level in problem solving and it should be enabled to be the main convening entity or catalyst for multistakeholder problem solving

3) We have the NETMundial principles, now we should apply them in each of our organisations dealing with IG. Stop talking but act!

4) The existing IG organisations must be adapted to perform under new challenges; let us not get distracted and focus instead on a collective effort to grow legitimacy through better decisions, transparency, inclusiveness and fair process etc. 

5) In this regard the globalisation of ICANN and the transition of the IANA functions should now be actively pursued in a transparent and effective manner. 

6) Build and share the tools for the world to participate and benefit from effective IG. The commission has developed GIPO and there are others; but reinventing the wheel is timely and inefficient. The IGF should be the place for these initiatives to meet and agree how to collaborate and be complementary.

With the Internet of Things on our doorstep and the next billion people waiting to get online; now is the time to act. We should put ourselves the challenge not to leave from Istanbul without having achieved or initiated these priorities.

There is too much at stake; and time is not the friend of an old-timer like me. 

Step down from your high horses and out of the trenches to deliver what is needed to keep the internet open, unfragmented, and reliable. The time is now to ensure it develops further as a global source of empowerment, innovation and creativity for all!

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