[At-Large] WSIS +10 closing ceremony speech

Salanieta T. Tamanikaiwaimaro salanieta.tamanikaiwaimaro at gmail.com
Thu Feb 28 10:49:23 UTC 2013

Dear All,

Kindly find the WSIS +10 Closing Speech below:

 *Statement by Anita Gurumurthy, Executive Director, IT for
* *

*at the closing ceremony of WSIS plus 10 review *
* *

*held by UNESCO from 25th to 27th February, 2013*

  Dear fellow-citizens of the world;

On the occasion of this initial meeting in the WSIS+10 review process. I
would like to take us back in time to the decade of the 90s and the
particular sentiments at the turn of the millennium that framed the World
Summit on the Information Society. In the late 90s, the power of the
digital revolution was seen as heralding a new hope for addressing long
standing challenges in development. At the same time, world leaders were
also concerned that the digital divide at international and national levels
could lead to shaping a new class of those who have access to ICTs and
those who do not. As we stand at this milestone of the WSIS plus 10 review,
we have the responsibility to go back to this concern. The Internet – as
the future social paradigm – is already yet another axis shaping exclusion
and power.

The WSIS Declaration of Principles titled 'Building the Information
Society: a global challenge in the new Millennium' avers in its preamble
that no one should be excluded from the benefits the information society
offers. It notes – with conviction interlaced with caution that - 'under
favourable conditions', these technologies (that is, ICTs) can be a
powerful instrument, increasing productivity, generating economic growth,
job creation and employability and improving the quality of life of all.

This is the moment of reckoning – for all of us – to ask if we stand at the
threshold of a new positive future for all and if indeed, the global and
national governance and policy architectures of the new techno-social
paradigm have created the 'favourable conditions' for the good life that
seemed plausible in 2003.


   The economic crisis of the recent years, in the developed world, is a
   serious indictment of the macro economic pathways of neo-liberal growth and
   its policies. Recent research in Europe suggests that serious attention
   needs to be paid to the inequality in work - wages, working conditions and
   social cohesion - and its microeconomic implications.

   Even in Latin America, despite relative economic stability and reduction
   in poverty in many countries, a recent research by the UN says that the
   richest 20% of the population on average earn 20 times more than the
   poorest 20%. There is a considerable job deficit and a large labour
   informality affecting mainly the young and women. Colombia, Paraguay, Costa
   Rica, Ecuador, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Guatemala
   have all seen an increase in inequality in the past decade.

   The Asian giants China and India, often touted as rising economic
   powers, face huge challenges in socio-economic equity – the consuming
   middle class may but be a smokescreen that hides the livelihoods crisis for
   the majority.

All this has happened in the same decade that the Internet ought to have
been been equalising social and economic opportunity. We need to sit back
and reflect,what went wrong?Why did the Internet, and the Information
Society phenomenon not do what it was supposed to do? This is the principal
question that the WSIS review process must answer.

If the good life is also about democratic transitions, then the miracles of
technology may certainly be counted as harbingers of deep change in the
past decade. Authoritarian states have had to come to terms with the power
of interconnection in the network age. The Occupy Movement gave new hope to
social movements. Yet, new configurations of power in mainstream spaces
have more or less seen the political elite make way for a new class of
economic elite – information society democracy remains as exclusionary as
its predecessors. Perhaps more, with little place for women and others in
the margins, and oblivious of new forms of violence and misogyny in the
open and ostensibly emancipatory corridors of the virtual world.

Those of us committed to build a people-centred, inclusive and development
oriented information society have to come to terms with and interrogate the
roots of these crises – the unfavourable conditions that seem to have
jettisoned the equalising propensities of the Internet.

The crisis today for the information society agenda is two fold – it is
economic and it is cultural. The neo-liberal juggernaut has – at an
unstoppable speed – usurped the power of connectedness. As some cyber
enthusiasts continue to sing peons to the power of the supposedly
decentralised, non-hierarchical and inclusive Net, the human predicament in
real terms is far from this idealised picture. Today, a handful of colossal
corporate mega-giants rule private empires - the top 10 Web sites accounted
for 31 percent of US page views in 2001, 40 percent in 2006, and about 75
percent in 2010...”

Centralization is the name of the game – the most powerful weapon in
neo-liberalism's arsenal. Consider Google: when it comes to user data,
today Google runs a much more centralized operation than five years ago
where individual searches, youtube video histories, and calendars combine
to generate individualised and targeted ads. The Internet market place
atomises the consumer-user, coopting her persona as a commodity in a logic
that may not be self evident to Internet enthusiasts unwilling to see the

The cultural crisis is deeper. What the architects of the WSIS documents
perhaps underestimated is the way the information society would precipitate
a normative crisis. As the Internet market place broadens its horizons, we
see the individuals, communities and nations, fragmented by increasing self
interest. The seamless geographies of the connected world are images of the
Internet's economic paradigm – where membership for marginalised
individuals, social groups and nations is a simple binary - assimilation or
decimation. The talk of diversity and multiligualism notwithstanding, there
is much less we can aspire today out of the promise of the networks society
for collaboration and horizontalism than seemed plausible ten years ago. We
need to pause and ask – are our normative frameworks – infoethics and
info-civic imaginaries – adequate to ensure that every person, the last
woman, can be a global citizen in the interconnected global world.

What we are witness to instead of a reflection around the basics of
democracy in the interconnected world, are anxieties of nations states that
make ancient tribal chieftans seem like impeccable upholders of freedoms
and the rule of law

The various international summits of the UN, Rio-Earth Summit in 1992 ,
Cairo in 1994 on population, Copenhagen in 1995 on social development,
Beijing in 1996 for women – pursued problems confronting humanity with the
resolve to find progressive solutions. Today these have contributed to the
broadbasing and democratisation of civil society engagement. There are some
lessons here for civil society in the information society space.

Also, as we move towards the WSIS + 10 review, we need to be cognizant of
the competing demands of the Millennium Development Goals Review (Post 2015
Development Agenda), the processes to set the post-Rio+20 Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs), and the 20-year review of the International
Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+20). These overlapping
inter-governmental processes are bound to render the ideals of the WSIS
declaration obscure unless we are able to pitch for a review that can offer
analytical and pragmatic segways for the other UN reviews.

The WSIS plus 10 review is a historic opportunity therefore to review the
state of democracy – and I qualify, the state of global democracy. Here –
we have two tasks


   Re-interpreting human rights, equality and sustainability in the
   information society. This is a dialogue that must inform the other UN
   reviews and discussions on the crises of food, fuel, finance and climate
   change, poverty and deprivation, inequality and insecurity, and violence
   against women.


   The second task is to explore the favourable conditions that can make
   the Internet an equaliser. As a global public good, the policy issues
   pertaining to the Internet are simultaneously global and national.
   Discussing the global policy issues around the Internet should be a
   principal aim of the WSIS plus 10 review process.

  We stand at cross-roads. The promise of community has never been greater
in theory, but the risk to the collective never higher in the brazen
pursuit of economic self interest and aggrandizement of power. For civil
society the modus operandi of organising is clear. We need to ask how best
we can sieze and use the decentralising possibilities of the network age to
craft new forms of organisation; how we can define the core issues that
reflect honestly our analysis of the crises. The WSIS plus 10 review
process must indeed take a leaf out of Jo Freeman's essay - 'The tyranny of
structurelessness'. Let not the ideals of democracy in multistakeholderism
be reduced to shadowboxing – where emerging hierarchies are denied and
those that wield power escape with no accountability.

Multistakeholderism is a framework and means of engagement, it is not a
means of legitimization. Legitimization comes from people, from work with
and among people. We need to use this occasion of the WSIS plus 10 review
to go back to the the touchstone of legitimacy – engage with people and
communities to find out the conditions of their material reality and what
seems to lie ahead in the information society. From here we need to build
our perspectives and then come to multistakeholder spaces and fight and
fight hard for those who cannot be present here.


Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro aka Sala
P.O. Box 17862

Twitter: @SalanietaT
Tel: +679 3544828
Fiji Cell: +679 998 2851
-------------- next part --------------
You received this message as a subscriber on the list:
     governance at lists.igcaucus.org
To be removed from the list, visit:

For all other list information and functions, see:
To edit your profile and to find the IGC's charter, see:

Translate this email: http://translate.google.com/translate_t
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: WSIS + 10 closing statement by Anita G.pdf
Type: application/pdf
Size: 82459 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://atlarge-lists.icann.org/pipermail/at-large/attachments/20130228/936054e9/WSIS10closingstatementbyAnitaG.pdf>

More information about the At-Large mailing list