by Keisha C Taylor
Most civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens don’t use high-level jargon such as “Internet governance” and “ICT policy.” For them, it’s about having reliable and fast Internet access; accessing health care services via mobile in rural areas; voicing views online without fear of persecution, not having useful services blocked by Internet service providers (ISPs), not being exposed to cyberbullying, or fearing to become a victim of online fraud.
The Internet, and technology as a whole, is so intertwined with day-to-day life that the decisions made by governments and corporations directly impact how we use the Internet and how CSOs work — now and in the future.
International Economic and Policy Stakeholders Recognize the Internet’s Increasing Role
Trends in mobile phones, social media, cloud computing, open data, e-government and e-governance, new applications, and open and developing Internet standards have increased the importance of ICT to multiple actors, which include CSOs. However, with Internet use also come problems such as cybercrime, lack of data privacy, and data security. Influential international economic players have also realised this, and the importance of the Internet to the economy, and have organized several meetings on these issues:
- The first e-g8 meeting in Paris was held this year.
- The OECD recently hosted an event on the “Future of the Internet economy: Generating Innovation and Growth,” a follow-up from the 2008 meeting in Seoul.
- The 6th Internet Governance Forum will soon bring multiple stakeholders to Kenya to discuss key policy and governance issues. It is themed “Internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms, and innovation”.
- International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is inviting CSOs and corporations, entrepreneurs, and the general public to submit questions, ideas, and stories in the run up to ITU Telecom World 2011 in October.
Not convinced yet? Here’s more evidence
- A recent UN report declared Internet access a human right.
- Net neutrality has been enshrined in law in the Netherlands and Chile.
- Other countries have made Internet access a fundamental right.
The importance of the Internet is recognised in such forums and should not be ignored by the wider civil society that has helped to drive its development so far.
CSOs and Internet Users Need to Get Involved
It is difficult to predict how the Internet will evolve as new services are introduced and more individuals and institutions from remote areas and developing countries come online.
However, as we continue to rely on the Internet for socio-economic development, increasingly for routine tasks, and in some cases survival, it becomes more important for all to improve digital literacy, help others learn how to use technology effectively and better educate ourselves about such policy issues. We also have to engage with other CSOs and other stakeholders on these issues.
Civil society organisations and users should assume a bigger role in ensuring that they inform and influence decisions being made nationally and internationally, and the Internet and related technology can be used to ensure that they do.