Elon University

An interview transcript from the first Internet Governance Forum, Athens, Greece Oct/Nov 2006: Arturo Di Corinto

IGF 2006 LogoThis 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.

Arturo  Di Corinto – Cognitive psychologist and new-media expert at the University of Rome; founder of the Avvisi Al Naviganti BBS and Cittadigitali; journalist; active in advocacy for free software and the investigation of issues tied to software patents. Based in Rome, Italy.  

The Transcript:

Q: Why are you at this forum?

A: I am a journalist and I am a media activist and I’m interested in the future of the Internet because it’s a matter of democracy; that’s why I’m here.

Q: What do you hope to learn from this forum?

A: Not just to try to understand how things are moving; I want to understand the reasons for the frictions among several participants of the forum. I would like to understand what’s the real game playing here. I mean because in my opinion ICANN [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] is not the real topic of the IGF.

Q: And the real topic you think is democracy or freedom of expression?

A: Not only, not only. The real problem is access, connectivity, freedom. The real problem is freedom. Because you know, the several, the four main issues that we are going to discuss here are strictly interrelated. Because you know, without openness there won’t be safety; without safety there won’t be development; without development there won’t be democracy, and so on. They are strictly interrelated. And the main point here, the main question here is how can we guarantee the total global access to the five billion people who do not have access to the Internet? This is the first question. The second question is how to improve the access for the other one billion users of the actual Internet. This is the real topic in my opinion. Of course it brings together several other topics.

Q: What have you learned from the sessions you have attended so far?

A: I have learned that many people, many states do not like the United States, first of all. Because many many people are attacking the ICANN just because the US Department of Commerce supervises it. And so this is bad. This is bad. We should separate in some way the problem. I do not like the US policy throughout the world. Because I know since the United States was founded it has engaged in 200 wars all around the world. But this is not our problem. Our problem is how ICANN is developing the Internet, and I think the ICANN is not doing a bad job. So try to separate the two things.

Maybe I don’t like what David Gross says about the status quo of the Internet. He says it’s working; it’s OK, so go ahead; let’s move ahead. Maybe I don’t like that way of doing the same things, but the real point is that we need to guarantee the access to six billion people in the world, the access to the Internet and helping them to preserve their cultural heritage, for example. Helping them to choose the media they want to use to communicate, work together, relate to each other and so on. And helping them to understand what really matters because the core point, the core issue should be how people stay together and why do they need it to connect to each other. So they need it to connect to each other because individuals are social by nature. They want to connect to each other because they want to make business together. They want to connect because they want to tell stories, because they want to be heard, because they want to transmit their culture. So let’s go back to the real motivations and drive of the people who want to use the Internet, and we will understand maybe that our point of view is really relevant.

Q: Some question ICANN’s power and role—is this a problem?

A: No, I’m saying that the ICANN is not the real problem. I’m saying that the real problem is development, multiculturalism, multilingualism, richness and poverty so the point is not ICANN, the point is the digital divide. The point is not ICANN, the point is that we have institutions incapable of solving the conflicts all around the world and the ICANN is an example. So I don’t think the ICANN is the problem. The problem is [an example is the Chinese government]. The Chinese guy on a panel yesterday said that the liberal policy of his government assures the Chinese net to grow. It’s hilarious. The point is that the Iranian guy said that this forum should consider just the root server, DNS, and domain names. It should address only the technical problems; not anything else. So this is the problem. The problem is that there are people fighting over an issue which is not a real friction; it’s not a real friction – issue. So the problem is not ICANN; the problem is how the regional powers are trying to engage the United States and how the United States is responding. I know that so far the Internet has worked, so we should try to find the way to make it work better than ever.

Q: What is your greatest hoe for the future of the Internet?

A: My biggest hope is to use the Intent like the “Star Trek” commander used the computer of the Enterprise. Computer? Internet? Tell me this. Do this, do that, and so on. This is my biggest hope. And I think that we will have devices like the famous mobile communication devices of the Star Trek saga to access all the knowledge available in the world.

Q: What is your greatest fear for the future of the Internet?

A: My greatest fear. My greatest fear is that the election of another guy of the Bush family. My greatest fear is that people will engage in another bigger war, for example, between Iran and the United States. This is my biggest fear. Apart from that, I fear nothing. I mean, I think, and I hope that people will understand that cooperation is better than competition.

Q: What one key thing would you ask policy makers to do to ensure a positive future for network technology?

A: Listen to civil society. They know what is going is on. They know what they need and what needs other people have who are without voice over this issue.

Q: Describe the future impact of the Internet in one word.

A: The future of the Internet? In one word. Two? Globally accessible.

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.