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.
Claudio Menezes – Senior Programme Specialist, Information Society Division, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; works on internet issues including multilingualism and ICT and persons with disabilities. Based in Paris, France.
Q: Why did UNESCO feel it was important for you to come to this forum?
A: UNESCO has been promoting the concept of the Knowledge Society based on a certain number of concepts and principals: diversity; equity in education; freedom of expression. Since the beginning of the World Summit on the Information Society, UNESCO has been an active player in this environment. As a matter of fact, UNESCO is the UN agency that facilitates some action lines in the plan of action of the World Summit on the Information Society. I am dealing with the promotion of multilingualism in the digital world. As part of this work, UNESCO has been preparing publications, promoting debate and dialogue among the different stakeholders, and at this specific forum we are organizing a workshop on the topic “Multilingual Global Internet, Avoiding the Risk of Fragmentation.”
Q: How do you propose to get more languages represented on the internet?
A: The issue is going from oral language to digital objects. There are hurdles to be overcome in order to include new languages in cyberspace. In addition to that, we would like to increase the presence of languages that are already in the digital world. The process starts with mapping the scripts and symbols into a chain of zeroes and ones and from there it is possible to build, to add value to the process. At the end of the day, it will be possible to have hardware and software for new languages, but there first the standardization process in the beginning, otherwise you cannot have the keyboards or the captioning for the different languages. It’s a rather simple but also sophisticated process because it requires negotiation, understanding – there’s not much standardization for languages. Our role as UNESCO is mainly to promote the debate. We are not in charge of covering all of the needs of more than 6,000 languages. It’s a huge task. The topic of language is important.
Q: Who do you and/or UNESCO feel should be governing the Internet?
A: UNESCO has been a platform to convene the different stakeholders to put the issues on the table, to have a discussion and see how best to accomplish the governance that will be implemented. The present stage is a stage of discussion. It’s not a stage for our decision-making. We have been promoting debates, at the World Summit for the Information Society last year in Tunis and this year, in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union, UNESCO promoted a three-day symposium to present different perspectives on the multilingual Internet. Today, we are discussing the more specific topic of fragmentation. At this forum – it was already said by people who were involved in the beginning of the Internet, like Mr. Vinton Cerf and Mr. Robert Kahn – that today the Internet is different from its beginning. There are important new issues for debate, and that’s why we are here at the Internet Governance Forum.
Q: What is your greatest hope for the future of the Internet?
A: A utopia in an era of multilingualism – as many languages as possible will be present in the Internet, and this a utopia of multilingualism. People speak as many languages as possible. Of course, this is a vision.
Q: What is your greatest fear for the future of the Internet?
A: We see the misuse of technology. We appreciate the use of technology for education, science, culture, communication and information because this is the focus of UNESCO. We believe through participatory debate it will be possible to prevent misuses like pornography, racism, segregation. These are dangers. We believe the way to address these risks is a participatory process. The Internet Governance Forum is a good platform to discuss different views because through this debate we can address these risks, which are not created by the Internet but are a projection of social problems through a technology tool.
Q:Describe the future impact of the Internet in one word.
A: Participation and education.
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.