Opening Session – Kathryn C. Brown

Kathryn C. Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Internet Society.


Thank you for inviting me across the other part of the ocean, I know it is been rough in last couple of weeks.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and esteemed colleagues and friends and thank you President Bonvicini for this wonderful invitation to speak.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Internet Society who have been advocating for an open, secure and trusted internet that benefits everyone, everywhere.
The Internet Society was founded in 1992 by Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf who believe that society would emerge from the idea that is the Internet and so it did.
Fast forward these 25 years we are in what Thomas Friedman in his newest book “Thank you for being late” calls the age of the acceleration. He posits that three largest forces on our planet: technology, globalisation and climate change are all accelerating at once and as a result as you have all recognised here, many aspects of our society were places in geopolitics, our being reshaped and need to be reimagined.
Friedman weaves this history of the convergence of supercomputing, fibre broadband, mobility, sensor technology and massive data analytics with the network technology of the internet. To describe a world today with the rate of change and the acceleration of the rate of change, both increased at the same time. And where the slower rate at which the human beings have adapted and are able to adapt, has created the current anxiety.
Even as the opportunities of the Internet Age have begun ever so more apparent, the rate of change has some shouting: “Stop the world, I just want to get off”.
There are those who just wish to turn the clock back, some that are actively trying to do so, but honestly, it is so impossible to do it.
Everywhere in our globally connected world, change is marching forward at an accelerated rate. In Africa, the benefits that are sawing grain now in Western economies, are starting to pay dividends. In my meeting in Nairobi in this past week, there was a sense of hope, most especially among the young people whose future appears radically different than it did 5 years ago.
An Important side note: people under thirty make the 50% of the African continent. Yet even with the sense of youthful exuberance, one can fear amongst various governments. Like those here in the West, they are in the midst of disruptions to establish culture, politics, economies and ways of working.
There and here the fear has led to calls to shut the borders, build walls, put the internet over tight government control and even to shut it down.
The Internet Society has recently highlighted the high economic in human cost in internet shootdowns pointing out that unilateral, technical measures are really appropriate tools to fix political, social of legal issues.
Even those of us who urgently advised that fear must not win out against hope know however, that when it comes to our individual and collective safety and security, just saying no to these interventions is not enough. Hope alone is not strategy. It will not deter the evils of terrorism and hate, criminality and fraud. But neither will fear.
Encryption is the current highly relevant topic here in Europe that is part of this conundrum. In Europe, interestingly and accordingly to EUROSTAT 84% of EU 28 uses the internet once a day and because the EU has been the Worlds’ guardian of user’s personal privacy, we have good data showing that upwards of 70% of internet users in the EU provides of some kind of personal information online.
Given the focus of user privacy by the EU it is perhaps not a coincidence that according to Cisco, Western Europe followed by Central and then Eastern Europe, lead all other regions in the number of secure internet servers that conduct encrypted transactions over the internet.
As with many things, technology designed for legitimate of even laudatory reasons, can be exploited by those with nefarious intent. Thus, we hear what sounds like a logical call to do a wave with these safe places for terrorists. But it’s quite evident that encrypted technologies protect the civil freedoms of many.
Indeed, over two thirds (2/3) traffic unfixed access networks in Europe are already encrypted.
I have some deep empathy for politicians who are facing hard, urgent problems, but who don’t have the proper tools to deal with them.
The encryption quandary is like some many others in our changed world. Do we have embraced positive change? But we are not prepared for the inevitable negative side effects of that change.
Our toolbox has not been updated. So, we reach for the solutions we know; shut it down, build in, lock step break, regulate it.
But in our new changed world I find myself violently agreeing with VP Timmermans – we need new tools.

And how do we address this solutions gap?
Again, how others have said in this room, we start by recognizing our fundamental values. I was heartened on the other side of the Atlantic last week when European council president Donald Tusk (?) said that the greatest task today is the consolidation of the whole free world around values, not just interests. Values and principles first. Of course, he is right. You are right.
Transactional solutions may be temporarily satisfying, but in the long term, unsustainable are worst. Quick fixes may exacerbate the very problem one is attempting to solve. Europe has been a steadfast champion of the principles of the Internet for over 25 years.
Upholding the values of openness, global connectiveness, trustworthiness, transparency and inclusion and it is against these values that we should be seeking a new policy direction.
I have the notion that the new tools needed to solve the problems of the next 10 years can be found in the innovations of the last 10 years.
Let’s ask ourselves how can a supercomputing power of sensor technology, big data analytics and high speed connectivity that have we created, help with the very disruption we have caused? And how can a methodology of Internet innovation, creativity, cooperation and collaboration shapes sustainable solutions?
The EU has called for multistakeholder processes and procedures to develop internet policy for over 10 years and yet we have not reformed of how government governs in the digital age.
The European is perhaps, in an unexpected position in in this extraordinary year of 2017 to take the lead on making good on the promise of the new governance model.
Let’s talk for a moment about who would be your partners:
The technologists among us, who helped designed those applications that we need to address change. While this Summit agenda points out to the new technologies that disrupt how we work, govern ourselves and blur ethics online and offline, I might prefer to tilt the lens a little and see these technologies as tools for innovation and creation. Creation of the new way of governing. We might use the technique of the internet standards organisation to inject a bias for action and agility. Rough concerns, running code.
Earlier today someone mentioned this, do we honestly need one rule, one law that is to last forever? When change is moving so fast? Can we not experiment and find structures that will allow us to have norms and yet, have agility?

At the table, in addition to the technologist, must be civil society. They will legitimately and passionately insist that human rights principles must shape the guardrails that insure that new solutions enhance and not harm our right as citizens.

Experts from the areas of the economy that are now being changed by the internet; education, medicine, agriculture, banking, transportation and more will want the place at the table.

And surely, the private sector remains the engine of the economic growth and innovation and without it, frankly we would indeed still be living in the 1950. Business needs to be in the room.

And finally, in this fraud times when freedom and security and war and peace are ever so close to the surface of so many of our anxieties, advocates for the adherence to the rule of law, established international codes of behaviour must have a clear voice.

All of these players need to come forward each and every one of them with the new commitment to the actual problem solving, that will require learning a demonstrating some new skills, substituting for instance their lobbing profanes(?) for understanding and willingness to collaborate, to form consensus.
There is a lot to do and governments feel the burden of the future on your shoulders. But we need to acknowledge that when things are moving so fast, governments do not have the complexed knowledge, base, experience or wisdom.
Indeed, the solutions to the changes occurring in our society may not be at all obvious because we have not yet done the work to fully adapt to our current circumstances. We need an entirely different mindset.
We actually have to move from managing disruption to the things as they are, to inventing new frameworks for anticipating and managing the way things will be. And to do that, the internet way requires that the discussions, the decision-making enforcement be inclusive and multi-stakeholder.
As the working sessions progress over the day tomorrow, I hope the conversations can quickly move from our anxious lament that disruption and chaos is our destiny, to an exploration of how tyo use tools of the digital age to reboot the relationship between the governing and the government. We must do so if we are to reap the benefits of the greatest technological advances in history.
For all the people of the Earth.
Thank you.

Day 1