Linking connectivity, human rights, & development

7 Dec 2016 10:00h - 11:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

Mr Peter Micek, Executive Director of Access Now, chaired the session and introduced members of the panel all engaged in the effort of extending the benefits of the open Internet:

  • Economic benefits
  • Benefits to human rights
  • Realisation of rights
  • Prevention of harms and inefficiencies

Micek spoke about consideration of human rights in the design of networked systems, both technical and policy. He referred to the global goals to provide universal and affordable access in least developed countries by 2020. Micek emphasised the urgency and handed over to Ms Sonia Jorge of the Alliance for Affordable Internet.

Jorge reviewed some of the trends that AFAI has seen with respect to a lack of access and a lack of privacy and full digital rights. She highlighted AFAI’s two major projects, Digital Inclusion and Digital Citizenship which they see as closely connected.

Jorge described two challenges of the digital revolution:

  • Creation of new patterns of privilege and discrimination
  • Job losses and wage polarisation and not only productivity gains

She reminded all that ordinary citizens need the power to make choices and fully benefit from the opportunities of the Internet. Lastly she expressed concern over the amplification of voices of fear and hate and called for more voices of tolerance and rationality to combat them.

Micek then introduced Ms Carolyn Nguyen, Director of Technology Policy at Microsoft who gave insights into Microsoft’s approach. Nguyen thanked Access Now for the Global Connect Initiative.

She stated that as a technology company, Microsoft strongly believes in the potential of ICT to enable and strengthen the exercise of human rights. Nguyen mentioned Microsoft’s recent policy roadmap called Cloud for Global Good which includes principles for establishing a trusted, inclusive and responsible cloud.

Nguyen referred to Microsoft being a signatory of the UN Global Compact since 2006 and described a last mile project in Kenya where Microsoft worked with the Government and local communities for meaningful infrastructure to enable economic development. One young participant, began providing technology support around the world through this project. Lastly Nguyen mentioned a recent push to address issues facing refugees like family connectivity, education and settlement applications.

Micek mentioned a September 2016 study that found that governments still play a key role in the allocation of the Internet and invited Mr Manu Bhardwaj of the US State Department to share.

Bhardwaj endorsed comments from Jorge, Micek and Nguyen on the need for human rights considerations. Bhardwaj indicated that the State Department along with key partners has highlighted 65 global actions and allocated $20 billion to promote connectivity. He spoke about giving visibility to connectivity initiatives to finance ministers while discussing how taxation of ICT products affects connectivity.

Micek invited the UNESCO representative who spoke on the Internet Governance framework called Internet Universality which addresses

  • Fundamental freedom (expression, privacy, cultural)
  • Openness (Open standard, technology)
  • Accessibility by all
  • Multi-stakeholder approach

Mr Mario Viola of the Institute for Technology & Society in Brazil examined where Brazil’s strong legislation didn’t always guarantee the protection of human rights and access to the Web. He mentioned two recent cases

  • Data capping
  • Blocking of uncertified mobile phones used by 40 million persons

The ITS and civil society organisations advocated for evidenced-based policy making.

Ms Chinmayi Arun, Assistant Professor of Law, National law University Delhi, addressed internal zero-rating and net neutrality. She indicated that the initial text-based Free Basics did not benefit the majority of illiterate citizens as no video content was available. She also pointed to feudal parts of India where patriarchal families prevent women having private access to the internet. Jorge also commented on the disproportionate access and barriers preventing women coming online.

A member of the European parliament expressed concern over marginalisation and society’s avoidance of the difficult issues and choosing to talk about successes. Bhardwaj lastly gave insight into discussions with those in global finance and progress, ensuring CEOs and government leaders take into account the human rights considerations. 

by Andre Edwards, Trinidad and Tobago