Lessons from Busan: Report on the 1st Young ICT Leaders’s Forum

By Puneeth Nagaraj

The author was one of 35 international participants selected by the ITU and the city of Busan to attend this event.

The three day Young ICT Leaders’ Forum jointly organised by the city of Busan, South Korea and the International Telecommunications Union came to a close on Friday, the 11th of December. The forum was attended by young professionals in the ICT Sector from over 30 countries. Pursuant to a commitment made by the city of Busan as the host of last year’s ITU Plenipotentiary conference, the event sought to inform the next generation of ICT policymakers from around the world. The first two days featured presentations by representatives of the Korean government and industry, and the ITU. Since the forum had a thematic focus on the Internet of Things(IoT), the third day involved field visits to IoT facilities around Busan.

Many of the Korean representatives made presentations of projects that were funded by the Creative Vitamins Project on Day 1. A joint initiative of the National Information Society Agency (NIA) and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the Creative Vitamins Project is funding upto 50 projects in the IoT space in the next 2 years. The projects presented (at various stages of completion) included smart cars, aerial drones that monitored illegal fishing, smart electric grids, healthcare IoT technologies and smart factories. The smart car presentation was particularly useful. As a technology that is close to being a commercial reality, the presentation of Su-Jin Kwag of KATECH was particularly useful in mapping the government, industry and policy inputs that went into the completion of this project.

Day 2 kicked off with a keynote address by Mr. Houlin Zhao, the Secretary General of the ITU. He noted the critical role IoT can play in the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The day also featured presentations from other ITU representatives on ITU’s activities in the Asia-Pacific region. In the second half of the day, participants discussed ICT policy challenges in their respective countries. The author had the chance to rapporteur one of the breakout groups.

Though many of the participants worked in technical areas, they were acutely aware of the policy and governance challenges that affected their work. Access, human rights and government corruption were issues that came up repeatedly in these discussions. Ms. Xiaoya Yang led the interactive session and along with representatives of the Korean industry provided valuable feedback on the outcomes of the breakout session. Through their feedback, they asked participants to focus on short and medium term solutions that can improve access to ICTs while being aware of long term, structural issues like corruption. They stressed the need for innovative thinking to overcome many of the challenges encountered by policy makers in developing countries.

On day 3, participants were taken on field visits to two centers of IoT research within Pusan. The first was the IoT Centre at the Pusan National University, where participants had the chance to interact with researchers working on cutting edge IoT research in healthcare, smart grids among other technologies. The second was the Hyundai factory in Ulsan which is almost entirely automated. Many of the production processes at the factory incorporated IoT technologies.

In addition to the above, the Forum afforded participants a chance to immerse themselves in Busan with cultural programmes and other social activities.

Puneeth Nagaraj is a Project Manager at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi

Yes to multi-stakeholderism

By Chinmayi Arun and Sarvjeet Singh

The post originally appeared in The Hindu on 20th July 2015.

With the government’s decision to call for public comment and response, the recent consultations on net neutrality are a step in the right direction.

New Ideas: “A change in India’s stand signals potential openness to consultative policy-making.” In picture, activists staging a protest in favour of net neutrality in New Delhi.

New Ideas: “A change in India’s stand signals potential openness to consultative policy-making.” In picture, activists staging a protest in favour of net neutrality in New Delhi.

India declared its support for multi-stakeholder governance of the Internet at the ICANN 53 meeting in Buenos Aires and at the first Preparatory Meeting for the U.N. General Assembly’s overall review of the implementation of the World Summit on Information Society outcomes earlier this month. This, in combination with the government’s efforts at consultative policy-making in the context of net neutrality, may signal the beginning of a more discursive approach to communication policy.

India’s statements at both meetings have drawn attention thanks to the country’s place in the decade-old furious debate still raging over global Internet governance. Countries such as the U.S. and Germany have advocated a ‘multi-stakeholder’ model that consults governments, industry, civil society and technical community while making decisions that affect the Internet. This is consistent with these countries’ domestic approach to communication policy, which includes independent regulators that conduct wide consultations and frame policy after accounting for the concerns of various stakeholders. India has opposed this point of view in the past, favouring the ‘multilateral model’ in which national governments make decisions through an equal vote, arguing that this is the most equitable model. This has been consistent with India’s domestic command-control communication policy, which has tended to confine citizen participation in governance to the casting of the vote.

The change in India’s stand globally signals potential openness to consultative policy-making. Since ‘multi-stakeholder’ governance is an ambiguous term , the government’s approach to domestic communication policy may be a good indicator of its intentions for the Internet. In this context, it is worth taking a close look at how the net neutrality policy is being made. A clear effort has been made at consultation and responsiveness. It is a promising start and may be the beginning of consultative decision-making that gives citizens more avenues to discuss the best way for them to access information.

Consultative approach

Before publishing the net neutrality report this month, the Department of Telecommunications conducted a series of consultations. Although these consultations were closed and only for invited parties, the committee reached out to a wide range of experts and stakeholders. Reading the report makes it apparent that many perspectives were invited and incorporated but that we need to work towards documenting public input better. It is necessary to find a way to reflect different concerns within a post-consultation report.

Consultative governance of Internet policy will mean significant changes both in the process followed and in our deep-seated attitudes towards governance. If the government has to develop the uncomfortable habit of being more immediately responsive and accountable for decisions, we the stakeholders also need to take responsibility for our own communication policy.

For consultations to work, we will need to provide well-researched inputs and a continued willingness to engage and see other points of view, which is a habit that will also take time to develop.

The net neutrality consultation was a promising debut in which the government took the time to listen and respond, and a range of citizens made the effort to contribute and engage.

This is not the first time that India has flirted with the idea of multi-stakeholder governance. At the IGF 2012, the then Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Kapil Sibal, spoke of the India’s support for the multi stakeholder model. Following this, the government set up an advisory group for the India Internet Governance forum, and frequently invites inputs including in the net neutrality consultation.

Governments and other stakeholders of the world disagree about what ‘multi-stakeholder’ governance means. This governance model has its roots in the phrase ‘enhanced co-operation’, a compromise text inserted in the Tunis Agenda after prolonged negotiation. The meaning of this term, and the role played by NGOs in making decisions about the Internet remains elusive after years of international debate. The failure of the Working Group on Enhanced Co-operation set up to publish a report on what the model means illustrates the sensitive international politics within which the issue is submerged. An actual shift in India’s position may change the balance of the politics and would be worth watching out for.

India’s willingness and efforts to support a consultative model globally is likely to depend on its experience with such a model locally. The net neutrality consultations and leveraging of the multi-stakeholder advisory group are, therefore, tangible domestic experiments.

Multi-stakeholder models can vary in form and can exclude key stakeholders. For example, the Cyber Regulatory Advisory Committee consists of governmental and industry representatives with just one member from the technical community. Its characterisation as ‘multi-stakeholder’ has value since the government has the option of nominating others to the committee. But until the actual composition is more representative of different viewpoints, it will remain an industry-government committee. Similarly, the government’s cyber-security initiatives have tended to be industry-government conversations. This is troubling since all these initiatives ought to include people who work to embed human rights within these systems.

Commendable steps

The recent net neutrality consultations are a step in the right direction. The department’s decision to call for public comment and response to the report is commendable, especially since the department is under no legal obligation to do this. If India is serious about consultative decision-making, it will be worthwhile to build the more ad hoc processes followed for the net neutrality report into a constantly-improving system. The TRAI has experience with inputs from public consultations, and we have a lot to learn from other democracies that do this on a regular basis.

India’s fears about multi-stakeholder governance have always had their roots in its concerns about decision-making being dominated by corporations, especially U.S.-based corporations. This is why our government has consistently supported the traditional Westphalian governance model based on reasoning that a multilateral conversation between governments is likely to be more equitable than one in which international companies that are larger than most countries can dominate. It is good to see that the Indian government is interrogating this standpoint. This is in keeping with this government’s overhaul of systems to modern decision-making and accountability systems. India will still need to work out details and build on existing efforts like the net neutrality consultation and the multi stakeholder advisory group. We will need to carefully craft our policies to ensure that the process goes beyond giving industry a voice, and encourages independent inputs that effectively safeguard citizens’ rights.

(Chinmayi is the Research Director and Sarvjeet is the Project Manager and Fellow at the Centre)

ICTs at BRICS 2015 Summit

The VII BRICS Summit recently concluded with the release of the 2015 Ufa Declaration.The entire declaration can be found here and the relevant excerpts related to ICTs are provided below.

33. ICTs are emerging as an important medium to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries, as well as to foster professional and creative talents of people. We recognize the importance of ICTs as a tool for transition from information to a knowledge society and the fact that it is inseparably connected with human development. We support the inclusion of ICT-related issues in the post-2015 development agenda and greater access to ICTs to empower women as well as vulnerable groups to meet the objectives of the agenda.

We also recognize the potential of developing countries in the ICT ecosystem and acknowledge that they have an important role to play in addressing the ICT-related issues in the post-2015 development agenda.

We recognize the urgent need to further strengthen cooperation in the areas of ICTs, including Internet, which is in the interests of our countries. In that context, we decided to constitute a BRICS working group on ICT cooperation. We reiterate the inadmissibility of using ICTs and the Internet to violate human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy, and reaffirm that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online. A system ensuring confidentiality and protection of users’ personal data should be considered.

We consider that the Internet is a global resource and that states should participate on an equal footing in its evolution and functioning, taking into account the need to involve relevant stakeholders in their respective roles and responsibilities. We are in favour of an open, non-fragmented and secure Internet. We uphold the roles and responsibilities of national governments in regard to regulation and security of the network.

We acknowledge the need to promote, among others, the principles of multilateralism, democracy, transparency and mutual trust, and stand for the development of universally agreed rules of conduct with regard to the network. It is necessary to ensure that UN plays a facilitating role in setting up international public policies pertaining to the Internet.

We support the evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem, which should be based on an open and democratic process, free from the influence of any unilateral considerations.

34. Information and communications technologies provide citizens with new tools for the effective functioning of economy, society and state. ICTs enhance opportunities for the establishment of global partnerships for sustainable development, the strengthening of international peace and security and for the promotion and protection of human rights. In addition, we express our concern over the use of ICTs for purposes of transnational organized crime, of developing offensive tools, and conducting acts of terrorism. We agree that the use and development of ICTs through international cooperation and universally accepted norms and principles of international law is of paramount importance in order to ensure a peaceful, secure and open digital and Internet space. We reiterate our condemnation of mass electronic surveillance and data collection of individuals all over the world, as well as violation of the sovereignty of States and of human rights, in particular, the right to privacy. We recognize that states are not at the same level of development and capacity with regard to ICTs. We commit ourselves to focus on expanding universal access to all forms of digital communication and to improve awareness of people in this regard. We also stress the need to promote cooperation among our countries to combat the use of ICTs for criminal and terrorist purposes. We recognize the need for a universal regulatory binding instrument on combating the criminal use of ICTs under the UN auspices. Furthermore, we are concerned with the potential misuse of ICTs for purposes, which threaten international peace and security. We emphasize the central importance of the principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, particularly the political independence, territorial integrity and sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs of other states and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We reaffirm the general approach set forth in the e’Thekwini and Fortaleza Declarations on the importance of security in the use of ICTs and the key role of the UN in addressing these issues. We encourage the international community to focus its efforts on confidence-building measures, capacity-building, the non-use of force, and the prevention of conflicts in the use of ICTs. We will seek to develop practical cooperation with each other in order to address common security challenges in the use of ICTs. We will continue to consider the adoption of the rules, norms and principles of responsible behavior of States in this sphere.

In that context, the Working Group of Experts of the BRICS States on security in the use of ICTs will initiate cooperation in the following areas: sharing of information and best practices relating to security in the use of ICTs; effective coordination against cyber-crime; the establishment of nodal points in member-states; intra-BRICS cooperation using the existing Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT); joint research and development projects; capacity building; and the development of international norms, principles and standards.”