Internet Governance Forum Opening Ceremony
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be here today. I am grateful to our gracious Turkish hosts, the IGF Secretariat, and the Multistakeholder Advisory Group for organizing this year’s Internet Governance Forum.
For centuries, Istanbul connected continents, people and cultures through ancient networks of trading routes and cultural exchanges. This week, I am pleased that we are here to discuss the future of our newest “network of networks,” the Internet.
This year, the international community celebrates the 45th anniversary of the first Internet log-on and the 25th birthday of the Worldwide Web. In this short span of time, the Internet has proven to be a revolutionary force for economic growth, but also a fragile one that all of us must work to preserve.
Across the world, the Internet bridges the gap between talent and opportunity. For example, three Nigerian university students have already helped tens of thousands of Africans secure jobs by creating a job search website called “Jobberman.com.” As West Africa’s most popular online career resource, Jobberman connects talented individuals with job opportunities.
Today, the Internet’s economic benefits are increasingly shifting to the developing world. In fact, in Turkey, SMEs that use the web experienced revenue growth 22 percent higher than those that did not. Overall, the Internet economy contributes 5 to 9 percent to total economic growth in developed markets; and in developing markets, the Internet economy is growing at 15 to 25 percent per year.
The Internet’s enormous impact on economic growth makes it critical that we adopt policies and practices to ensure its future viability. We have a shared responsibility to be good stewards of the internet. I believe complacency is one of the biggest threats to the internet as we know it. I see three critical challenges ahead.
First is broadband access. As a community, our shared challenge is to promote global policies and practices that increase everyone’s access to broadband, particularly in the developing world.
Second is ensuring an open internet. We must strengthen the ability of citizens to access information on the Internet regardless of where they live so that people can freely obtain information and express their opinions.
Third is misuse of the internet, such as cyber-attacks, identity and Intellectual Property theft. We have many tools to address misuse, including technology. However, we must use these tools with precision, so that they address the misuse while preserving internet openness to the greatest degree possible.
Because of these formidable challenges, there are some that advocate for replacing the multi-stakeholder system with centralized intergovernmental regulation. Ideas range from governments imposing international taxes on the transmission of content; mandates on how information has to be routed or stored; and regulated pricing between networks.
This type of regulation would only result in a cumbersome and more expensive Internet that would not be capable of driving positive change in education, health care and the overall economy. Think about the consequences of taxing every Skype call, or regulating the types of information that flow across the Internet through multilateral governmental mandates. This could cripple the user experience and greatly diminish the Internet’s effectiveness as an engine of growth.
We must continue to demonstrate to the world that only the multi-stakeholder approach, that brings together government policy-makers, businesses, NGOs and Internet experts on an equal footing, can effectively overcome today’s challenges and preserve the Internet’s future.
The first step for the continued success of the IGF is to support its long-term sustainability beyond 2015. The United States strongly supports the continuation of the IGF, and I encourage all participants here to join us in supporting extension of the IGF’s mandate at the UN General Assembly this fall.
In conclusion, as I mentioned at the outset, I urge all stakeholders to work together to fulfill our shared responsibility to preserve the Internet’s future.
I am excited to engage with all of you to ensure that the Internet remains vibrant and continues to be a conduit to better the lives of people worldwide.