WCIT-Lots of Losers But Guess Who Won?

Posted on December 15, 2012

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Well the WCIT seems to be over and not surprisingly there are many many losers…

There is the Justice League (of America) (JLA) who ended up being able to not sign a treaty agreed to by at least 2/3rds of the countries of the world and in the process get to reject “Broadband for All” and “Human Rights” in pursuit of “Internet Freedom (for who and what?”?. A noble set of interests errr…causes and really really PO everybody else (in the non-North, non-white universe…

There are the folks with the black hats (everybody else) who were basically told if you don’t like the way we run things (by the Justice League (of America)) “go get your own Vint Cerf and build your own Internet”. The world holds its breathe to see how they will respond (because at the end of the day they have the means, the talent, and now thanks to the JLA the motive, to do so–and in the process fracture, perhaps irretrievably, the golden goose the JLA was so adamant to protect…

There is Google who came into the fray wearing an aw shucks white good guys hat and left wearing the blackest of black top hats and tails courtesy of Eric Schmidt’s proud declaration (“Google’s Tax Avoidance is called Capitalism and I’m proud of it”) which probably didn’t surprise half the world but rather startled the other half, mostly dewy eyed Google employees and the folks who signed on to their Save the Internet (for us Capitalists) campaign. (Earth to Google, if you are being pursued for not paying your taxes by half the world and as potential prey for picking by the newly enabled regulators and tax and spenders from most of the rest of the world (the ones who aren’t billionaires or in your direct or indirect employ) probably not a good idea to be giving the world even more reason to become suspicious of your “don’t be evil” intentions… Please be aware that there are large parts of the world where public declarations that greed is good at the top your lungs doesn’t get you a get out of jail free card.

There is the ITU, but who wants to rub salt in their wounds except to say that belated and halting acts of commission aren’t enough to overcome decades of sins of omission.

And then there is the “technical community”.  Someone should have warned them to not get involved in politics and if you do, don’t back the losing side (not that there were many winning sides here, but that’s the point).  They are now sentenced to pushing the same rocks up different hills over and over and over again for the foreseeable future.

The only clear winner from the WCIT is Civil Society. Their well-being and cheerful participation (in multi-stakeholderism) was hailed at every possible turning both by the US and its allies and by the ITU. By staying on-side for the duration (mostly it would appear by being more or less invisible) CS was handed some very big chits to cash in with the USG and with the ITU.

Precisely how CS responds remains to be seen. This represents a very significant opportunity to become working partners in a variety of real world situations and much beyond the elaborate kaffeeklatch that is the Internet Governance Forum.  But for CS to have a truly meaningful participation it has to shift from its current pre-occupation with the issues of the North–privacy, freedom of expression, even human rights towards a balance with issues of more immediate interest in the South–digital inclusion/Internet access and use, distribution of the economic benefits of the Internet, local languages and cultures and so on–thus as much emphasis on Internet Justice as on Internet Freedom!

And perhaps most important it has to not allow itself to be captured by one or another of the financial honey traps that are being laid for it so artfully as we speak.

But the immediate future is for CS to lose; as, at least for the moment, all anyone really wants them to do is show up.  Having something useful to contribute would be a bonus or (for most of their collaborators) a necessary cost of to be endured having invited them (at a time of extreme duress) to the table.

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