Global Tech Leaders Promote Open Internet

Leaders from 34 countries, including notable technology pioneers, have released principles aimed at maintaining the Internet as a forum for open communication and expression.

Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributor

July 5, 2011

3 Min Read

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Global government and business IT leaders from 34 countries have put their heads together to come up with a set of policies to maintain the Internet as a forum for open communication and expression.

The policies are similar to ones the Obama administration developed in May to steer the country's own cyberspace-related activities so as to foster a more open, interoperable, secure, and reliable cyberspace through global cooperation. They also are in line with the administration's overall goal to promote government transparency and accountability through the use of the Internet.

A group of public- and private-sector IT leaders--including Internet pioneers Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf--convened last month and developed 14 key policies aimed at ensuring the Internet can continue to foster technological and economic innovation while "concomitantly meeting certain public policy objectives, including the protection of privacy, security, children online, and intellectual property," according to a communique, which is available online.

The document was developed at a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a global organization to promote policies aimed at improving the economic and social well-being of people around the world, according to its website.

In a blog post, White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy Danny Weitzner and Karen Kornbluh, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, cited recent comments by President Obama to demonstrate the administration's commitment to keeping the Internet open and free for everyone to use.

"As the president told a group of students in China, 'I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet--or unrestricted Internet access--is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged ... the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes,'" according to the post.

The officials decried policy such as that taken by the government of Iran last month to disconnect Iranian Internet services from the rest of the world, and said the new policies are aimed at preventing such activity from happening.

"There are calls for greater governmental and inter-governmental, top-down, one-size-fits-all control over the Internet," they said in the blog. "If these trends continue, they risk balkanizing the Internet--with high costs in both economic opportunity and the realization of human rights."

Indeed, the Obama administration's cyberspace-policy guidelines stressed the value of the Internet in the global economy and aimed to balance openness with privacy protection and security. It was in this same spirit that global leaders developed the new Internet policies, Weitzner and Kornbluh said.

Among policies listed in the communique are to promote and protect the global free flow of information on the Internet and to maintain the open, distributed, and interconnected nature on which the World Wide Web was built.

Other policies communicated by the group with the hopes they will be adopted globally include: ensuring transparency, fair process, and accountability; cooperating in a joint Internet policy development process that takes various stakeholders into account; strengthening consistency and effectiveness in privacy protection; promoting creativity and innovation; developing capacities to bring publicly available, reliable data into the policy-making process; strengthening consistency and effectiveness in privacy protection at a global level; and fostering voluntarily developed codes of conduct for Internet behavior.

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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