The Future of the Internet Hangs in the Balance

(The following extract is taken from the latest report of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG))

The world is embracing a truly digital future. Upwards of one billion new users and 20 billion devices are forecast to be online within five years. However, for this future to deliver its promise of greater digital freedom, security, trustworthiness and accessibility for all, governance of the Internet across all its dimensions must be an obvious priority around the world.

In only a few decades, the Internet has grown to be a truly transformative phenomenon, with the capacity to touch nearly every aspect of life. The Internet now connects almost half of the world’s population and connectivity rates continue to expand apace, empowering users for both good and ill.

e Internet is unquestionably the most powerful information system the world has yet seen, but the digital world is only just past its infancy. As the digital world evolves, the Internet is poised to be the superstructure underlying all other infrastructures.

The Internet has become such a part of our lives that we take it, and our access to it, for granted. Maintaining and preserving its open and accessible qualities — the very qualities that encourage creativity and connectivity — present a challenge. It is vital that the rules and safeguards of Internet governance keep up with the pace of digital innovation, particularly in the sphere of the IoT. At the same time, the process of governance must not inadvertently slow down the spread of the Internet’s benefits, reduce creativity or inhibit its global reach.

The structure of the Internet inevitably transcends sovereign borders, thereby engaging a wide range of actors in its development and management. The Internet challenges traditional hierarchies and cultural boundaries. Its governance must therefore be based on both formal mechanisms and evolving norms to capitalize on its tremendous power to provide economic opportunity and security, while also providing resilience and privacy for all Internet users.

To realize its full potential, the Internet of the future will need to be open, secure, trustworthy and accessible to all. Safeguarding these attributes requires international cooperation that engages governments, businesses, the technical community and civil society in a shared vision to protect the rights of users, establish norms for responsible public and private use, and ensure the kind of flexibility that will encourage innovation and growth.

Grounded in an extensive program of research, individual consultations, public opinion surveys and enriched by our Commissioners’ wide experience, diverse geographical backgrounds, and gender and stakeholder representation, this report lays out a comprehensive approach for realizing a future with digital freedom, security, trustworthiness and accessibility for all. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of all actors, each playing a critical role in shaping the future of the Internet.

The section goes on to discuss “Three possible futures of the Internet”, namely: A dangerous and broken cyberspace; Uneven and unequal gains; Broad, unprecedented progress.

To read more and view the entire report: 

https://www.ourinternet.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/GCIG_Final%20Report%20-%20USB.pdf

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