For some time I’ve been discussing with colleagues how to approach Internet policy related issues holistically. Not just from a technical point of view, or commercial, or “user”, or even civil society but rather from a perspective which encompasses all of these while focusing most specifically on an integrated approach to what we, as global citizens whose world is being remade on the Internet’s digital platform, might expect (and demand).
Much of the discussion to date has focused on “Internet users” as the most general category. The problem with this of course, is that it excludes those and still a majority of the world’s population — who, for whatever reason are not able or willing to use the Internet. Meanwhile, given the global reach and penetration of the Internet even those currently unable or uninterested in “using” the Internet are equally impacted by it. Based on simple principles of democratic participation even they should have some say in how the Internet is deployed and managed in relation to matters of most general concern.
We are all now citizens of an Internet-enabled world whether we are “users” or not.
And as citizens of an Internet-enabled world we have interests and perspectives on how the Internet is deployed and managed now and well into the future; and those need to be expressed and articulated as demands in all the forums where the future of the Internet is being discussed.
A preliminary list of what we might call the elements of “Internet Justice” would include:
- fair and equitable means to access and use the Internet–affordable by all and designed and deployed in such a manner that all may realize the benefits of effective use
- a fair and equitable distribution of the benefits of the Internet including the benefits of the widest possible access to information and the opportunities to communicate; the financial and other benefits that are accruing as a result of increased efficiencies and effectiveness of communications and information management; the benefits that result from users contribution to and participation in system development and content creation; and of the benefits that are rapidly accruing as a result of increased mastery over the elements of physical being in all its complexity and variety
- the right to use the Internet without systematic interference by government authorities or corporate interests in the messages which are being communicated
- the right to use the Internet in privacy and without surreptitious surveillance
- the right, means and opportunity to use the Internet to access and share without undue cost or hindrance the full intellectual heritage of mankind
- an Internet infrastructure which can be relied upon to ensure the maximum level of personal security and reliability
- an Internet where there is the opportunity for end users to build or manage Internet infrastructure as and when it is needed
- an Internet governed on the basis of democratic principles and processes but also one where those impacted by decisions have a role in making those decisions; and where there is a recognition that just as we need to invite and acknowledge the participation by the highest quality of disinterested information, advice and intervention in support of our physical environment so too in our technology and digital environments
- an Internet of peers within whose architecture each node or end point is equal in power and privilege to every other end point.
This list is as open ended as the Internet is open ended. Just as the horizon for enhancing the well-being of all global citizens through more efficient and effective communication and access to and use of information is continuously expanding, so is the need to ensure that the Internet is and continues to be a resource available, usable and of equitable benefit to all.
Comments, suggestions, edits, additions, endorsement gratefully encouraged…