Elon University

An interview transcript from the first Internet Governance Forum, Athens, Greece Oct/Nov 2006: Flavia Marzano

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.

Flavia Marzano – Project Manager, e-Participation Project of the Province of Rome; computer scientist; member of Italian Open-Source Committee; evaluator of IST European projects; helping define Italian e-government and policy. Based in Pisa, Italy.      

The Transcript:

Q: Who are you representing and why did they send you to IGF?

A: I’m with the Province of Rome. It’s one of the stakeholders, let’s say, in Internet governance. [The World Summit on the Information Society process and IGF are] the first time in my life – I’ve never been in Geneva or Billbauer or Tunisia, so it’s the first experience. And the idea is to mainly understand, more than give my opinion, to understand others and what they are thinking about, then to get in touch with other people working in the same field.

Q: What ideas have you heard so far that stick out in your mind?

A: Mainly an openness. That was my main goal coming here: to understand the main role of openness. As a background, I’m a computer scientist, so I’m working in the field of technologies, but mainly full public administration. I’m the middle between cities and politicians, helping both get in touch with technologies. I was expecting maybe a bit more on openness; openness in the relationship between those stakeholders and openness in technologies, and to give opportunities to politicians to get in touch with citizens with technologies and to get citizens in touch with politicians and to help them in making decisions with technologies, something like e-democracy, e-participation, stuff like this. That was my main goal. So far, I’ve heard a lot of opinions on that, but nothing new.

Q: Does the general consensus seem to be for openness or not?

A: I found exactly two different positions. One is totally open, the other one is totally closed. I didn’t find, so far, anything in the middle. I don’t know why. I mean, there are people advocating closing technologies because of security, because of privacy, because of everything. And others want everything open, without any concern on security, privacy. I think we should do something in the middle of that.

Q: When people have such strong opinions on either side how do you get them to reconcile their differences?

A: Well, convince is a strong word, I mean, I try to, but mainly trying to help them and helping put them into the other position is something I do in my job every day. As a citizen you see all the wrong things politicians are doing in your position. And as a politician you don’t see, not always but sometimes, what exactly people are asking you. And this field is the same. Those two positions, so zero and one, they don’t have any other, switched on and off, there is nothing in the middle. They are very often not open to listen. So what I did try so far, but I don’t think I had so great success, is just to give them the other vision of the other side, just to put them in the middle. I think that the only right way is to consider both positions and make them converge in the middle between. But it should be a politician way of doing this. It’s their job to be able to moderate and take positions and make them converge to their own ideas.

Q: When there are so many different views, how do you expect to have international governance of the Internet?

A: This is already a success, being in a conference and talking about technologies, because we are talking about technologies with so many politicians. Normally that doesn’t happen. I mean, when I’m going to workshops, conferences or seminars or whatever, you did not find so many politicians, because they are afraid to talk about technologies… They talk about chemical issues, or environment issues, or traffic or whatever in the politician life. But technology is something that they don’t touch. They call technicians to make that decision. So I think that this is already a step ahead, having so many politicians in the same environment talking about technology and how the governance of technology, the governance of the Internet in this context. That is something that they have to take care on. They cannot leave technologies to technologists. At least in Italy, local public administration, too little attention is given to technology decisions, so having them here is already a step ahead. I’m hoping that when they come back to their own countries, they can continue and talk to all the other politicians, because they speak another language so they can probably understand each other much better with technology languages.

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

A: What is my dream? Well first of all, to leave it open. Let’s say, Internet for everybody. “IT for all,” as the European community has been saying since years. Open, that means that everybody can say and can get information wherever. The knowledge must be open. It is such a big deposit of knowledge for everybody, it should be open. It should be, maybe, more secure. I’m not so much concerned about security and privacy probably because I have not had strong problems on that matter. I’m more concerned about the openness for everybody. But as people [at IGF] said yesterday and the day before, the main issue is for all people is there are so many, 5,000 million of people who don’t use the Internet. We should think about them. And probably they don’t really care about spam or privacy or security, they just care about to get knowledge. They may need other things, of course, but after their primary needs, they will need also to be able to get information. Just this morning, I received an e-mail from a friend saying that Google doesn’t work this day and I feel like having lost all my memory. That’s the point, so this must be for everybody. We don’t have to lose our memory.

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

A: I have a greatest fear, actually. I trust politicians, but I don’t trust them. I’m really afraid that as far as they understand the real power of the Internet, how citizens can really participate in their own life and making decisions for themselves. They will probably try to keep it for themselves.

Democracy: We are in Greece, and it’s a Greek word that means power to “demos” – to people, power in the sense that we should be able to make decisions for ourselves. Politicians are people put there just to receive our needs and to make them through. My strong fear is that as far as they will understand how powerful can be the Internet, how powerful can be the democracy through technologies, they will probably stop it. What I’m hoping is that they will be able understand it too late for them to be able to stop it. That’s it.

Q: You serve as a connection between politicians and citizens. Can you describe how your job allows you to do this?

A: As I said, I’m a technician, so I’m helping politicians to understand how they can use technologies to do their job, how can they exploit all kinds of technologies to make better their jobs, but I’m a citizen first of all. And as a citizen I’m asking them to work for me. I’m not a user, I’m not a customer. I’m a citizen. Being a customer has been a good way to explain to politicians how to behave with citizens because the customer idea is that they’re always right. They always have to be followed in their ideas. But first of all, I would like to be considered as a citizen and as a citizen, I think I can help them and try to better consider my opinion. I really think that Internet can be a good instrument for e-participation.

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

A: Openness – can it be? Let’s hope, let’s hope. Yes, if it is just one word, then it should be “open.”

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.