This is a transcript from a series of video interviews designed to assess major issues tied to the diffusion of the internet. It is the record of one of many interviews conducted in 2006 with international internet stakeholders from 18 different nations at the world’s first Internet Governance Forum in Athens, Greece. The Athens IGF was the first of five annual global events administrated by the UN to focus on discussion of the overarching issues tied to the future of information and communications technologies. More than 1,200 participants shared information, experiences and best practices.
Pavel Antonov – Member of the Association for Progressive Communications, advocating the use of the internet for Social Justice and Development. Chaired the IGF Athens workshop on “Greening Development Through ICT and Civic Engagement.” Based in Bulgaria.
Q: Who are you with and why are you at IGF?
A: It’s a long story. I am the coordinator for a working group within the Association for Progressive Communications, which is trying to put together an information society and environmental sustainability approach in terms of policies and actions and applications, and trying to draft and plan activities that would bring the two together more closely. The story behind this, at WSIS, in Tunisia, we spoke to different people and we realized that there, where everyone was talking about the future of the Internet and Internet policies, there was very little interaction with environmental sustainability and sustainable development, which is another type of planning process under different international organizations like the UNEP and the UNDP. And so we felt that there may be, and there must be room for bridging those two. But my function in APC is this of a member of the council, and APC’s a membership organization. From all over the world, there are networks which participate, so I am the Bulgarian representative.
Q: How does Internet governance relate to environmental and developmental sustainability?
A: This is exactly the question we are trying to identify and we had the workshop yesterday, but in general, there are several major areas of interaction. The first and very obvious one is the issue of the impact of the Internet and the information technology on the environment – the direct impact that includes e-waste, for example, and what happens to all the computers after they’re being used and materials are there, the chemicals that are in the different components and how this is going to be disposed. As part of this, there is also the impact of the technology in terms of radiation, transmitters. All that could possibly affect human health and the environment. This is one thing. There is a general issue, which we are much more interested in at the moment, which is the Internet as an instrument for empowering the public, civil society, the citizens worldwide in having access to information and decision-making related to environment and resources. So, we look at the Internet and information technologies as a very important tool for empowering the public in solving environmental issues. And we believe this could be part of the policies discussed at this forum and the future development of the Internet, so the Internet development could be aware of this important function.
Q: How can we continue to develop the Internet to serve the common good?
A: Well, transparently it needs to be governed in a way – and it is actually, and I’m happy to see that happening already – that it involves all the stakeholders, civil society, governments, business on an equal footing, equal base. And also, we believe that there are concerns like the one we have – environment – but there are others like women’s rights and gender, and human rights, that should be considered as part of this policy development.
Q: What is your greatest hope for the future of the Internet?
A: Before I say what’s my greatest hope, I have to say my greatest joy, which is, I think, Internet is something amazing because historically, this is the first time when individuals all over the planet can actually communicate and contact each other without government controlling supervision, so it creates a totally different information medium, which is global and it’s on the individual level, and I think that’s a revolutionary step in the history of the whole world.
My big hope is that this will not be compromised and lost, so the lucky chance that we have the Internet will not be spoiled because of various technical or political considerations, and that Internet will remain as a guiding factor imposing principles of transparency and involvement and openness to all. That would actually influence the other areas of life including government and economy.
Everything should actually go to this direction: less regulation, less government control, more individual responsibility and more involvement. That’s my vision and hope.
Q: What one key thing would you ask policy makers to do to ensure a positive future for network technology?
A: My personal aspect to this is keeping the planet and planet’s resources equitably used and in harmony with nature, so this is my personal mission and the mission of the organization I work with, so I would be very willing to see the Internet contribute and be part of this sustainable development in harmony with nature.
Q: What is your greatest fear for the future of the Internet?
A: I fear the power of government, especially in the societies where the public is not in power and doesn’t have the chance to control them properly. And I fear that they may be able to put limits and reverse what has been already achieved. And I also fear the power of unlimited corporate globalization and the rule of money and financial interests over common sense and over the interest of individual citizens.
Q: Describe the future impact of the Internet in one word.
A: In one word, transparency.
This video transcript is offered for use under a Creative Commons Noncommercial License allowing no derivative works. Executive producers, Erin Barnett and Janna Quitney Anderson; chief engineer, Bryan Baker; videographers, Barnett and Baker; editor, Barnett.