IGF 2009 Opening Keynotes
November 15, 2009 - Whipping out his smartphone, waving it to an audience of more than 1,500 global Internet experts, and pushing the button to send a Twitter message simultaneously, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee officially unveiled the new World Wide Web Foundation during his keynote talk at the global Internet Governance Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
"It is my pleasure to officially launch the World Wide Web Foundation here at the IGF," he said, adding that initial start-up funding is being provided by the Knight Foundation. "We started out with the World Wide Web Consortium - W3C - all kinds of people coming together to decide Web protocols... to keep it one Web. We had the consortium to make standards, which are and were needed... Next we started talking about Web science, and three years ago we started what has now become the Web Science Trust. But to get the Web to serve humanity to its utmost you need more than science. We thought more broadly. Not only do we need standards, not only do we need science, but we need to think about society."
He said the planning for the new foundation has been in the works for quite some time, and it has involved input from many people who are also involved in work with the Internet Governance Forum. "When we look at the Web, we don't look at it anymore as connected computers or as connected Web pages," he explained, "when you look at the Web if you want to understand why it happens you look at people. We look at the Web now as humanity connected. Humanity connected by technology. We want it to empower people. We want it to do the very best for humanity."
Berner's Lee's gleeful announcement was a major highlight of the first day of the Internet Governance Forum, but several other important keynote presenters also took the stage.
Jerry Yang, a co-founder of Yahoo, began by congratulating Berners-Lee then spoke about the profound impact the Internet has had - especially in regard to its influence on the developing world and emerging markets. "When we started Yahoo, there were fewer than 10 million users, less than one-third of one percent of the people were online," he said. "We understood there was an enormous amount of social value to the Web, and we had the opportunity to make big and positive impacts on people's lives. More than 1.6 billion people are online now, 25 percent of the world's population."
Yang said the power of connection is what sets this communications tool apart. "There are three aspects we have to focus on," he said, explaining the need to connect billions more. "Access, content and user experiences, and our responsible engagement in emerging markets. Bringing down the cost of access is critical, the content and user experiences we provide to the next billion are important. Once they get online we must provide relevant local content and tools that enable people to connect to their communities and the larger world."
He also acknowledged the importance of the mobile Web. "As we develop content for the next billion Internet users, we must assure that we develop applications and content that work well on mobile platforms. Inexpensive devices are portals to the Internet and to vast amounts of information and opportunity. I am certain that this dedicated group of citizens can think and work collaboratively in a way that welcomes the next billion in a vibrant, global Internet."
ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré recognized ICANN's new president and CEO, Rod Beckstrom, saying ICANN has its role to play in Internet policy, and "ITU is the recognized organization for communication infrastructure that also supports the Internet and we have to work together."
The ITU is the branch of the UN that facilitated the meetings of the World Summit on the Information Society from which IGF was born. Some in the ITU regard IGF as unnecessary. Touré acknowledged that IGF has some merits, but took care with his words. "IGF is a place where we can make progress on certain topics and introduce those mature topics into other more formal processes, arrangements and organizations for further consideration," he said, pretty much declaring that ITU is one of those places with control that IGF does not wield.
ICANN's Beckstrom said IGF has been instrumental in indirectly influencing change in ICANN processes and progress. He addressed delegates directly, saying, "You urged consistently for ICANN to become more global, and on October 1 we signed an Affirmation of Commitments with the U.S. Department of Commerce," referring to an agreement by which ICANN will go through new review procedures. "You also advocated for internationalized domain names, and last month, after years of work by many parties we were able to commit to formally launching top-level internationalized domain names for country codes." He promised that ICANN will continue to evolve and continue to listen to those who challenge it to be better.
Internet Society president and CEO Lynn St. Amour said IGF has emerged as an important meeting place for those interested in the "value, potential and future of the Internet." She said the strength of the forum is the human links it forms. "We can come together to forge relationships, explore ideas and share our inspirations when we return home and resume our work," she explained.
"When it comes to realizing the future of the Internet we have only just scratched the surface. In a world of 7 billion, we only have 1.7 billion who are connected to Internet. A common set of values and principles has always characterized the development and operation of the Internet. Open standards, freely accessible, inclusive processes and transparent governance have always been part of its evolution. Internet governance by definition must be open and inclusive. We’re obliged to assure these fundamental principles endure. The exciting new applications and services being deployed today and the unimaginable developments tomorrow arise specifically from the Internet’s intrinsic design principles. The next frontier of the Internet and indeed the key to the Internet lies substantially in future markets. Only by preserving the open nature of the internet will the next billions emerge, not simply as Internet consumers but as fundamental Internet contributors. Their creativity and ingenuity will propel the development of new applications new technologies and new businesses."
- Senior segment producer, Janna Anderson