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The 2010 IGF Survey: Is Internet access a fundamental human right?

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Researchers from the Imagining the Internet Center conducted a video survey of Global IGF 2010 participants, recording interviews with more than 60 stakeholders from all sectors of society about the evolution of the Internet. Use the video viewer to see their responses. Click on the first video to begin a player that will cycle through all visible on this page or click on those you wish to view. To see additional videos, click on the numbers at the end of the video column to display additional videos – there are dozens more than you see here. The question in this video set was: “Is Internet access a fundamental human right?”

      Links to 2010 questions: 
      >Q1: Cloud computing
      >Q2: The mobile Internet
      >Q3: Human right?
      >Q4: Influence of intermediaries
      >Q5: Influence of the IGF
      >Q6: Greatest hope for the Internet
      >Q7: Greatest fear for the Internet
      >Q8: Future in 10 seconds

      To get an accurate representation of all responses in full, watch all of the videos. Each clip is brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Some respondents gave extended answers; some may be edited for brevity if necessary but the majority should include the full response.

      Most of the people surveyed noted that the open discussions conducted at IGF are important because people can speak freely about the challenges and opportunities of the Internet.??

      Print transcript of the comments made in the video on this page:

      Katherine Fialova, Association for Progressive Communication, Czech Republic: It is more, in terms of concern, that all of the energy, especially for the countries and regions where there is not enough access, is really focusing on mobile phones and I feel they are still fairly limited. It’s not the same as having a computer and Internet. It’s different – the way you handle the content – you can’t produce it. The quality of the access is different. I really fear that by focusing on mobile phones people will feel, and government will feel, that that is enough for people to just get this. For me it is limited access to information and knowledge.

      Vint Cerf, co-author of the Internet Protocol and Google’s chief Internet evangelist: Several things are happening at one time. On the Internet side we are faced, in 2010, with implementing IP version 6 and in parallel IPv 4, that’s really important because it’s the only way it will continue to grow.

      Second we are faced with a great many security risks in the network, vulnerabilities that have been and will be exploited by people who don’t mean well. We’re going to have to build better facilities to resist and make more resilient the network implementation, whether it’s the routers, the domain name servers, the hosts at the edges of the net, and the laptops, desktops and all that. So there’s this general problem with vulnerability on the net that needs to be addressed.

      We need, also, to build international frameworks that will allow us to have electronic commerce and carry out electronic contracting and the like. Digital signatures have to have a meaning that is held widely and in common among countries, so that when there is a dispute a digital signature has the same weight as a wet signature does. We don’t have any real rules yet that are commonly adopted for that. And there are other kinds of E-commerce-related, let’s say, legal frameworks that need to be made official.

      The other big change that’s coming to the net is mobility, the increasing number of devices that are not only mobile but Internet-capable. That will continue to expand, there’s 4.5 billion mobiles in the world today and about 20 percent of them are Internet-enabled, that percentage will go up over time. That will be one of the single largest transformational changes in the net, not counting IPv6 and things like DNSSEC.

      Finally, I think we are discovering an incredibly rich set of applications that are still evolving out of the World Wide Web. It is entirely possible that something will not replace but add to the community of applications on the Internet, in addition to the World Wide Web. We’re seeing, for example, a very strong convergence of all media. The Internet can carry pretty much anything, whether it’s printing, images, audio or video. Right now people have tended to think all of this convergence is simply carrying all of these older media on this new platform. I think we’re in for a surprise. What I think will happen is things that we used to think of as separate like a book, or a movie, or an audio soundtrack or webpage will suddenly become much more interactive. So while you’re “reading a book” you might find yourself interacting with content out on the net. Or the book may actually be dynamically assembling information to show you the changes depending on when you are reading this book.

      So this notion that we can carry all of these media on one platform leads to the possibility that you will interact in very different ways with these media once they are a part of this Internet environment, especially if you’re online at the time that you’re doing this. That I can easily anticipate.

      I’ve lost track of how many things we’re going after, but let me get two more. Another very clear trend is increasing speed, not only at the core of the net but at the edges of the net. That will enable things that we couldn’t do before. Think about downloading an hour’s worth of video in 10 seconds on a gigabit channel – that you can easily do, there’s plenty of memory to store that now, and it’s cheap. So the idea of downloading things and then doing something with them will become much more normal.

      And finally, NASA and the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems has rapidly been moving towards an interplanetary extension of the Internet to support manned and robotic space exploration. It has been a personal objective of mine to introduce these new protocols in order to allow all of the spacecraft from the spacefaring countries around the world to operate with each other in the same way that when you plug your laptop in you can communicate with 750 million machines on the net.

      I’m certainly not capable of guessing what the social effects are of having such a large number of people online and dynamically sharing information with each other, but it’s already illustrated a kind of crowdsourcing-like character, Wikipedia being a great example, but we’re seeing the same phenomena in Twitter, for example, where many people have the opportunity to express an opinion or bring a fact to mind and many many other people have the ability to access that. This sort of group mindthink or global mindthink is new, at least at the rate at which these things can happen is very new, as opposed to writing a book and waiting months for it to percolate.

      So we’re far from understanding how this technology is going to effect us socially. All I can say is I wish I was about 8 years old because I want to see what is going to happen in 50 years time.

      Joonas Makinen, Pirate Youth of Finland: It should be here now or it should have been here five years ago, and the biggest step is that I can’t understand the Internet service providers who keep doing things slowly. They’re so different in different countries. I come from Finland, and I reached the mobile Internet age one year ago. I use IRC. I surf the Web. I do everything – e-mailing and using GPS and map software all the time, everywhere, and I want to connect with the world 24/7. Then I come here on this trip and want do the same stuff and I step out of the plane and suddenly I have to pay 1.4 Euros per megabyte. No, that doesn’t work. So the mobile Internet – socially, it’s borderless, but actually if you want to get connected you have the same old national borders.

      Mindaugas Glodas, Microsoft country manager for Lithuania: Everything is about mobile and I believe mobile will evolve, wireless communications, wireless data will probably become the primary means of delivering information in the future, but I would not underestimate, also, the value and the use that the standard PC that we know of will have. The use of other devices, such as the TV set type of devices or the touch screens and so on, I think that, depending on the situation, we will either be using our own personal small-screen devices or we will find ourselves in environments where we will be surrounded by different kinds of interfaces and we will be able to interact, I think that in the future identity will be more important than the particular device that you are using.

      Charles Gaye, VP of Liberia chapter of the Internet Society: It is true that people are getting connected and communicating anywhere you go. There are some people who are still not connected, and they find it very difficult to be connected because of, perhaps, the poverty rate, lack of access to connection. There are some countries where people do not have access to electricity. They may have the funds to purchase a mobile phone but do not have places to recharge them. So these are some of the problems.

      Hanane Boujemi, DiploFoundation, Malta: Mobile Internet is going to give the opportunity for many, many people to have access to the Internet. But we need to keep into perspective the quality of mobile Internet as well, because what’s the point of having mobile Internet if it’s not reliable. So it’s going to be a problem for some countries in some areas, for example, if the signal is too weak.

      It’s definitely a plus and it’s an advantage for developing countries or for people living in remote areas like Africa or Latin America. We just need to make sure we work out the infrastructure to make sure that a connection is available and is reliable as well.

      Alejandro Pisanty, longtime leader in the Internet Society, ICANN, IGF, National University of Mexico: Well the mobile revolution gives you access to the Internet and to closed spaces from providers of the sites if you have access. It gives you access to the Internet, wherever you are as long as there’s signal, which is far more than with cables. You can be in places for days even without a power supply.

      You are not necessarily going to get the same Internet that is available with a fixed broadband network, not because it’s fixed but because it’s hard to provide the same bandwidth over wireless and get a very low cost over wires, and the devices’ displays, keyboards, etc., are limited. On the other hand there are a lot of services, and information and relationships that wouldn’t exist without it. They wouldn’t make sense for fixed positions and large devices. Many of them are location-based so you are adding a layer of technical complexity and a layer of political complexity.

      Sebastien Bachollet, Internet Society leader, France, active in ICANN: I guess as soon as we will be able to find providers we will allow the customer to be really online everywhere and every time with no additional costs, for example, when you are in your country compared with when you’re abroad because it’s a nightmare. As consumers you don’t use your data anymore because you try to find Wi-Fi but Wi-Fi will not be the solution everywhere.

      If someone wants to really be connected everywhere we need providers to find a solution, and what strikes me is we have providers that are based in different countries and I guess that they have made so much money abroad and they don’t want to change that but I hope one day that we will have one contract for the world to be able to connect everywhere at the same cost.

      Fernando Botelho, F123.og, Brazil: I think the mobile revolution allows you greater portability and eventually it should allow you, as well, lower costs. I work with people with disabilities so phones that have screen readings and other features that help in terms of accessibility for persons with disabilities are a powerful tool to include these people in educational and workplace settings, however, there is a various serious deficit in the availability of open-sourced, essential pieces of technology.

      Let me give you an example, speech synthesizers that are open-sourced there are some languages that are not available yet. Screening the OCR, the Optical Character Recognition engines, these are used to scan materials so that people can read the materials, these are not always available. Lastly, the mobile sector has a model where you have central control. This is not typically the situation with PCs, in many countries you depend completely on what the telco wants to allow in terms of what is installed on your phone. And in other countries, like the US, you depend completely on what the manufacturer wants to allow in terms of programming languages and other tools you want to use on your phone.

      It’s an amount of ownership that is not really ownership, you have partial rights in terms of usage of the device you bought. This is an issue that I think has to be dealt with and most consumers are not aware that they don’t fully control the devices they’ve bought.

      Juan Carlos Solines Moreno, Solines & Associates, Ecuador: Particularly for regions like mine, Latin America and the Caribbean, and other developing regions, mobile technology will facilitate Internet penetration among the population, particularly the poor sectors of the population. Internet population through computers has been very slow, although the industry has done a great job of reducing the cost of computers, but still mobile penetration is higher in developing regions and through mobile connectivity we open a door.

      There is sort of a technological leapfrog for the poor people to connect to the Internet through their mobiles, and not only that, but to connect to many other things besides voice communication. So I think that the mobile revolution and the convergence are going to be key for using ICT for development.

      Mike Sax, president of sax.net, US: The biggest opportunity that mobile brings is that it makes the Internet accessible to a lot more people because you don’t need to run the cables. People can have the Internet available all the time no matter where they go. The biggest challenges are that bandwidth is limited and price will continue to be an issue as the cost of building this infrastructure is quite high.

      Indre Sabaliunaite, intern for the European Parliament: I think that that’s the biggest change that the Internet has experienced other than providing more or less access to people. A lot of my friends have either iPhones or whatnot, or not even iPhones but iTouches and they are just so useful. One of my really good friends back in the U.S., he got one during Christmas and he’s always like “you need to get one of these” and I’m like “no, because all of my time is going to become consumed by it” because you can really do anything on it, like check your email or get all of those apps that are available. I’ve used it myself and I see it as useful, but as far as the applications go that you can download I feel like if I were to download a lot of them they would just be a waste of my time because a lot of them are for entertainment unless you download news or something like that, but that’s the mobile Internet. Another thing, I think that if you combine your cell phone with something with the access to get Internet that’s a very, very important thing.

      Judy Okite, consultant for FOSSFA at the West African IGF: The mobile Internet brings accessibility for persons with disabilities. The applications that they are going to be putting on their mobile instrument or mobile phone, they must have a design where someone with a disability is going to be able to use it adequately, and it must be affordable for them because more and more people are talking about smart phones and what we can do with smart phones, and I’m thinking of a person with a disability at the grassroots level. How do they afford the smart phone?

      Nurani Nimpuno, policy leader with NetNod in Sweden and advisor to the global IGF: I, actually, don’t necessarily see it as a revolution. I think the Internet has evolved to, again, where the infrastructure allows for the mobile Internet. That is also the challenge of the mobile Internet, to access services and to move around and continue to access those services you need infrastructure. So, that is certainly a challenge, and certainly in a lot of developing countries the opportunity is, of course, that if you have that infrastructure to support it, it connects well, so to speak. You can work and you can access your content and your services from many different places.

      Jyrki Kasvi, member of Parliament in Finland representing the Green League: At the moment I think it’s the infrastructure. Usually I prefer to think it’s social and cultural influences. But now we are moving to using these kind of handhelds, using real mobile handhelds, devices like the iPad. So today the amount of data transferred is totally on a different scale than it has been before. The trouble AT&T is having in the US is a prime example of that, and we are going to face the same thing in Europe, in, let’s say, half a year. I think that first people will be enthusiastic and then they will say “well, no, this is not working how we want it to work” and there will be a backlash unlike in say two or three years time when we will really start to move forward. We really need that working infrastructure for this amount of mobile data.

      Mohamed Ibrahim, project manager for SO CCTLD in Somalia: Mobile technology, again, I guess I am optimistic about this. I think it is helping a lot of people with staying in touch, sharing information, instantaneous messaging. So in terms of the positive side it is enabling us to communicate better. It is enabling us to communicate faster. On the other hand, I think it creates a lot of noise. There’s a lot of issues about how much data you can transfer, how much information you can cope with, all the way to the social issues like mobile phones ringing in the middle of a prayer or lecture or something. But again, overall I think it’s a positive development. I think it helps communities stay in touch.

      Andrey Scherbovich, Moscow State University Higher Economics: I think that in the near future all the earth will be one large portal for Internet access. So, I think we even will not need specific devices to access the Internet, just to wire the wall to have interactive buttons to use the Internet to check mail from everywhere to every country in the world. So the mobile Internet is kind of a step towards this situation.

      Qusai Al-Shatti, Kuwait Information Technology Society: It definitely will be the mainstream for access to the Internet. Mobiles are the tools for the low-income people to access the Internet. As we see right now, smart phones are becoming a major stream for accessing the Internet and accessing information. And companies are thinking about doing smart phones for lower income people to get an advantage. We think that if there are a billion PCs in the world there are 4 billion mobile phones around. So, definitely mobile, will be, it is the main tool for accessing the Internet right now, let’s be frank on this.

      It will help in bridging the digital divide, allowing access to lower income [people]. But the drawback is mobile access to the Internet today is more expensive than the landline access to the Internet or the wireless access to the Internet, and this needs to be addressed. If I want the mobile Internet to be an access tool for the lower-income people then I need to offer that service also in terms of a lower cost to them.

      Rafid Fatani, PhD student, University of Exeter, UK: The biggest issues with the mobile revolution, as you put it, is it really does help a lot of developing countries who do not have the adequate infrastructure. I think it’s fantastic to be able to have this technology that is very cheaply available and very readily available to help some of the developing and third-world countries in kind of engaging with the mobile revolution and this big phenomenon.
      Vasil Pefev, telerik.com, Bulgaria: First of all, everybody has access to it now, pretty much, except the developing countries who are right now building their networks. In the future what is probably going to happen is that, it will be available over the air and with some device, or something maybe even shipping plants are becoming able to get Internet. We will have access all over the place.

      Dmitry Kohmanyuk, Country Code Top-Level Domain, Ukraine: Well the change that the mobile Internet brings is that it first makes the Internet more available, meaning that the cost of entry to the Internet for the user is lower, it is much cheaper to acquire the telephone with Internet than the computer. For the providers of the Internet the challenge is that it makes the Internet more expensive for them, meaning that way more devices will be using the Internet and that the expectation of these users would be higher, because of smaller screens, lower bandwidth and also less-technical users, meaning that children, for example, are more likely to use the mobile phone for access to the Internet without adult supervision than the computer, meaning that they may need extra assistance or protection.

      Robert Guerra, project director, Internet Freedom, Freedom House: Well, the one thing that the mobile revolution brings is it brings connectivity to a much larger set of people, and it brings much smaller devices, and I think that’s wonderful. I think the biggest challenge is, again, cost, whether they will be affordable for everyone. And then the issues of the frameworks, and the networks. Will they be open, or will we revert back to very closed infrastructure?

      Tracy Hackshaw, Internet Society ambassador to IGF from Trinidad & Tobago: I am from a developing country and our challenge has always been access, via PC, and mobile accessibility brings us the ability to access the Internet via our mobile devices. In Trinidad & Tobago, mobile penetration is very high, it’s fourth in the world. It is at 144%, I believe it is. So mobile Internet is going to be a big benefit for us. We just launched our government portal, and I believe it is a tremendous benefit and it is the future for us in Trinidad & Tobago.

      Pablo Molina, associate VP of IT and campus CIO at Georgetown University: I think, again, the investment in mobile infrastructure is being judicious by companies. They realize they’re making a lot of money out of that and because of that it is releasing service at a very slow pace. So we have new multimedia materials arriving on the Internet, traffic growth, and the mobile network is not keeping up, and they’re not keeping up a normal amount of capacity. There is an amount of cost for unit of information delivered, and right now mobile services, even in the developed world, I can say are very expensive and less than optimal. And we really need to rely on mobile communication to expand the Internet to the 4.2 billion people who do not have access to the Internet now.

      Xu Jing, Peking University School of Journalism, China: I think it’s going to give us the biggest opportunity because, now, I am really interested in the combination of Internet and mobile the mobile phone. In China now, more and more, young people use mobile Internet because it’s cheaper and it’s very flexible. Those young people who as immigrants they came to the city from rural places. They are working all day in the barber [shop] or in some factories so they may not have time to use the computers or laptops to connect to the Internet, but with the mobile phone they can use it to connect with friends and to read news, so I think it’s very helpful for them.

      Andrew Mack, founder, AMGlobal Consulting, US: That is almost an impossible question to answer in part because there are so many things that are going on. We are working with a healthcare device company and they made their data transfer mobilized so that literally they have all of these different gizmos that go in a backpack and you can connect from a cell phone and you can upload data from anywhere in the world. So in terms of healthcare, incredible, in terms of mobile banking, incredible, in terms of E-government, incredible. I mean these are the kinds of things that are really very, very powerful, especially if your thinking – because we focus so much on emerging-markets countries – about countries that have a very small number of really highly technically qualified people, this allows them to take a lot of the benefits of the technology and spread them out to a much, much wider audience almost instantly. I think that the future is definitely mobile.

      – Interviews were conducted by Samantha Baranowski, Kirsten Bennett and Drew Smith, researchers from Elon University’s School of Communications, under the supervision of Glenn Scott, associate professor, and Janna Anderson, associate professor and director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon.

      – The transcript of these video interviews was prepared by Lindsay Fendt,
      a student researcher with the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University

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