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On the Way to the G7 ICT Ministers’ Meeting in Japan

This week in Japan I have been invited to address the Multi-Stakeholder Conference that will officially open the G7 ICT Ministerial summit in Takamatsu. The focus of the ICT Ministerial will be on four distinct areas:

  1. Innovation and economic growth;
  2. Unrestricted flow of information, and ensuring the safety and security in cyberspace;
  3. Contributing to the resolution of global issues, including digital connectivity;
  4. International understanding and international cooperation in the future.

In December 2015, we were encouraged to see the nations of the world endorsing the WSIS agreement made 10 years ago in Tunis. The updated WSIS+10 outcome document is unequivocal that the Internet should be “governed” through bottom-up, collaborative processes that include all those with a stake in the outcome.

This continued commitment is another milestone in Internet governance that we must build upon and deepen. We believe, strongly that issues of Internet safety and security cannot be addressed by one stakeholder alone—be it the industry or the government. Indeed, we voiced a concern in New York that it would be a mistake to think “that cooperation ONLY among governments is sufficient to solve issues that require the expertise and commitment of all of us”.

This week in Japan, I heard concerns that some governments and commentators continue to assert that matters of security are exclusively within the purview of governments.

The Internet Society believes that this is not and should not be the case. Indeed, because of the transnational and distributed nature of the Internet, security issues are best addressed by collaborative and coordinated efforts of all those with a stake in a trusted Internet, including businesses, civil society groups and governments. We refer to this as Collaborative Security.

The Internet exists because of the creative energy and ideas from individuals across the world, working together to figure out how to connect networks, how to send information across those networks, and how to enable billions of users to benefit from a digitally connected world. We need to apply this same energy to issues of security. Just as networking technology is complex, so is Internet safety and security.

There is no single technical solution or regulation or international agreement or business practice that is magically going to bring about a trusted Internet. The reality is that we must harness the necessary expertise to come together to solve hard problems.

In recent years, there have been countless political debates about whether this collaborative approach to problem solving, often called the Multistakeholder Model, is valid, particularly for complex matters of public policy.

We believe that this debate is settled and that it is now more useful to focus on the particular outcomes we want to achieve for a particular problem when making decisions in the Internet age.

In our view, Internet public policies, regardless of the issue, should:

  • maintain the global, interconnected nature of the Internet,
  • enable permissionless innovation and free expression,
  • strengthen the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet; and,
  • allow the Internet to flourish as a platform for limitless opportunity and innovation around the world.

To craft sound Internet policies and make decisions that address the challenges of today while upholding the core elements of the Internet requires that we bring all the relevant expertise to the table.

With an issue as complex and sensitive as security, it is even more crucial that we do so.

At the G7 meeting this week, I will emphasize this point. The G7 ICT Ministers are among the most influential in the world. It is incumbent upon them to set an ICT policy agenda that rises above the typical politics and that draws upon all the expertise available to get to solutions. And, I am most encouraged by the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Joint Communique earlier this week. In that Communique, the Foreign Ministers wrote:

“We reaffirm our commitment to a multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance, which includes full and active participation by governments, private sector, civil society, the technical community, and international organizations, among others”.

Collaboration is key. The Internet is the outcome of the cooperative efforts of different actors. This is true for the Internet’s technical issues as is true for its more complex governance issues. The multistakeholder governance framework is widely accepted as the optimal way to make policy decisions that are accountable, sustainable and, above all, effective.

Today, the Internet Society released a paper that discusses in further detail why the multistakeholder approach works and must be embraced to ensure the continuing economic, social and human rights benefits of a global, open and secure Internet.

On Friday, I will join others from the Internet community to illustrate that the only way forward is through continued multistakeholder collaboration and coordination.

The Multi-Stakeholder Conference will be streamed live on YouTube on Friday, April 29, 2016, starting at 09:00 Japan Standard Time (UTC+9).

An earlier version of this post appeared on the Internet Society blog.

By Kathy Brown, President and CEO, Internet Society

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