A crucial and common goal unites us here today in New York: the goal that the Internet – a core enabler for social and economic development – should be open and accessible to everyone. This goal is based on the core understanding that the Internet should be secured as a global resource and that it be managed in the public interest as a democratic, essential, secure, free, progressive, inclusive and pluralistic communication platform.
It is in this context that we commend the launch of the Global Connect initiative and Secretary of State John Kerry in his recent speech in South Korea, promoting an open and secure Internet. We especially applaud his statement that: “ [the internet] should be interoperable, so it can connect seamlessly across international borders; [that] people are entitled to the same rights of free expression online as they possess offline;. [that countries] should work together to deter and respond effectively to online threats; and [that] digital policy should seek to fulfill the technology’s potential as a vehicle for global stability and sustained economic development; as an innovative way to enhance the transparency of governments and hold governments accountable; and also as a means for social empowerment that is also the most democratic form of public expression ever invented.”
In the US, although most Americans subscribe to some type of Internet service, low-income households adopt broadband at significantly lower rates than those with higher incomes. Universal service has long been a national priority in the US and the recent efforts to expand and modernize the program known as Lifeline shows the government commitment. Since its creation in 1985, the Lifeline program has helped low-income households access basic, essential telecommunications services. Today, broadband is an essential service; Americans increasingly rely on it for education, employment, health care, access to government and social services, news and information, and commerce. But affordability remains a significant barrier to low-income adoption, especially on rural areas and poor areas of the country.
It is not just within the US that similar commitments have been expressed. If you remember, in 2014, at NetMundial in Brazil, the Internet was recognised as vital to the full realisation of sustainable development goals. And before that, the World Summit on Information Society outcome documents cite access to information and knowledge as the basis for building a people-centred, inclusive, and development-oriented Information Society, and specifies universal access as a core enabler of many, if not all the development goals. Also, more recently, 31 UN Special Rapporteurs have also affirmed that guaranteeing the free flow of information online ensures transparency and participation in decision-making, enhancing accountability and the effectiveness of development outcomes.
However, many of the commitments have not translated into concrete results so far. Currently, as much as two-thirds of the world’s population are not connected to the Internet. The penetration rates in less developed countries average around 31%. In the African continent, this figure drops to 16%. In the world’s 49 least developed countries, over 90% of people are not online. We have one billion people living with disability and 80% of them live in developing countries. Each one deserves access to information, to libraries, to knowledge, and to affordable Internet. And for many of those that have been lucky enough to get connected, these rights are still not realities.
The blocking of communications, including of social media, in countries like Belarus, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Sudan, and Ethiopia, to name a few with the worst scores in Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net Report, violates the freedoms of expression, association and assembly and must be condemned. Blocking also discourages trust in the Internet economy, and thus has a general chilling effect on its use. So we believe that dissent online must be protected, and restrictions on privacy only allowed to the extent they are necessary and proportionate under international human rights law.
So we believe that it is time now to move forward and set concrete steps to achieve the goal of a connected world. People need a real commitment and an executable timeline of actions from their governments and from those international organizations that were built to deliver a better world. People need to be involved in policy development and decision-making processes to ensure that bold initiatives like this one meet real and expressed needs, take into account broader social and economic divides, acknowledge that there are barriers beyond the technical ones, and to put the human dimension at the centre of policies. We need a commitment to more effective policies that ensure access to radio spectrum, encourage infrastructure sharing and minimise the barriers to entry for access providers with new technologies, better and targeted subsidies, direct investment in infrastructure roll out, and better and more transparent and accountable public-private partnerships. We need real connectivity – connectivity within a human rights framework. We do not need walled gardens and we are troubled by initiatives, particularly in developing economies, which ostensibly aim to improve access to ICTs but fail to account for their potential implications on user security or for some of the Internet’s founding principles such as non-discrimination and neutrality. People should have universal access and be able to exercise that access under a framework of free choice. States must promote and facilitate universal, equitable, secure, affordable and high-quality Internet access on the basis of human rights, the rule of law, and net-neutrality, including during times of unrest. All of the Internet, for All the people, All the time!
Endorsements of Civil Society Statement on the Launch of the Global Connect InitiativeRead the petition
|28||Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor||Brazil||Jun 29, 2016|
|27||INTIC4DEV - Intitut des TIC pour le Développement||Togo||Jun 28, 2016|
|26||Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication||Bangladesh||Oct 18, 2015|
|25||CENTRE AFRICAIN D'ECHANGE CULTUREL||DR CONGO||Oct 09, 2015|
|24||McGill University||Canada||Oct 07, 2015|
|23||BFES||Bangladesh||Oct 01, 2015|
|22||Asociacion Colombiana de Usuarios de Internet,ACUI||Colombia||Sep 29, 2015|
|21||IMPACT Institute for the Digital Economy||United States||Sep 29, 2015|
|20||Digital Rights Foundation||Pakistan||Sep 27, 2015|
|19||International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)||Global||Sep 27, 2015|
|18||Linguistic Internet Society (UISoc)||Pakistan||Sep 26, 2015|
|17||Internet Governance Forum of Pakistan||Pakistan||Sep 26, 2015|
|16||The Gambia YMCA||The Gambia||Sep 26, 2015|
|15||SFLC.in||India||Sep 25, 2015|
|14||NGOs Network for Radio and Communication||Bangladesh||Sep 25, 2015|
|13||R3D - Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales||Mexico||Sep 25, 2015|
|12||Soukeina||France and Burkina-Faso||Sep 25, 2015|
|11||Instituto Bem Estar||BRASIL||Sep 25, 2015|
|10||Fundacion Karisma||Colombia||Sep 25, 2015|
|9||TEDIC||Paraguay||Sep 24, 2015|
|8||Open Media||Global||Sep 24, 2015|
|7||Movimento Mega||Brazil||Sep 24, 2015|
|6||IPANDETEC||Panamá||Sep 24, 2015|
|5||Human Rights Watch||Global||Sep 24, 2015|
|4||Association for Progressive Communications||Global||Sep 24, 2015|
|3||Article 19||Global||Sep 24, 2015|
|2||Public Knowledge||USA||Sep 24, 2015|
|1||Access||Global||Sep 24, 2015|
|8||Norbert Komlan GLAKPE||Togo||Jun 22, 2016|
|7||Ritu Sharma||USA||Apr 08, 2016|
|6||Patricia Wand||U.S.A.||Oct 31, 2015|
|5||Sonigitu Ekpe||Nigeria||Oct 28, 2015|
|4||Gordon Widsten||Canada||Oct 10, 2015|
|3||João Carlos Caribé||Brazil||Oct 08, 2015|
|2||William Drake||Switzerland||Sep 28, 2015|
|1||James Gannon||Ireland||Sep 26, 2015|