This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Culture Secretary was speaking about the importance of the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance
Good morning everyone.
It’s a real pleasure to be here in India.
A country that, as Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently observed, is at the cusp of an IT revolution.
India is a proud nation, a great nation.
And it’s a nation that stands to become greater still thanks to the incredible power of the internet.
The world wide web is without doubt the greatest technological success story of the modern world.
Just as Britain’s inventors powered the worldwide industrial revolution, so it was a British genius – Sir Tim Berners-Lee – who ushered in the global digital age.
The ability to get online has completely transformed the way billions of people live, work and learn.
It allows us to build communities across borders.
To trade with customers in distant lands.
To instantly share ideas with friends and strangers around the world.
These benefits have been felt by hundreds of millions of Indians.
Only China boasts more internet users than India.
Prime Minister Modi has used social media to revolutionise the way politicians here communicate with the vast electorate.
And the Digital India plan is set to change both the profile and face of India for years to come.
Yet around 80 per cent of Indians are not regular internet users.
Worldwide, more than 60 per cent of people have never even been online. Not once.
That’s four billion people who are missing out on the benefits and opportunities of the web.
Four billion potential customers missing out on what Indian businesses have to offer.
But the situation is rapidly improving.
Internet penetration is growing at a phenomenal rate.
The web is becoming ever-more open to different languages and non-Latin scripts.
Every year the number of users increases by 10 per cent, and by an incredible 40 per cent here in India.
In the past decade, almost two billion people worldwide have accessed the internet for the first time.
Earlier this month, McKinsey predicted that another 900 million people will be online by 2017.
But that will only happen if the previous, explosive rate of growth continues.
And that will only happen if the internet retains its freedom to grow and evolve across national boundaries.
That’s why continued collaborative internet governance is so important.
Before I go any further I should be clear on what we mean by ‘internet governance’.
It’s one of those phrases that journalists and politicians have been throwing around a lot recently, so it’s good to be clear on exactly what it is.
When I talk about internet governance – and when the UK government talks about it – I mean the definition agreed at the World Summit on the Information Society.
The development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.
And the way that should be put into practice is best expressed by the principles agreed in Brazil earlier this year at the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on The Future of Internet Governance – NETMundial.
These principles weren’t put together by politicians.
They weren’t drawn up by bureaucrats at the United Nations or the International Telecommunication Union.
They weren’t imposed by civil servants in London or Washington or Delhi.
They were created in the open by the community that supports and curates the internet.
The people without whom life online would be simply impossible.
The people who have the best possible grasp of both the challenges facing the internet and the means required to tackle them.
And the principles themselves are as robust as they are simple.
Internet governance should be built on a fully inclusive, multi-stakeholder process.
One that ensures the meaningful and accountable participation of everyone involved.
Decisions should be made in a bottom-up, open, consensus-driven way.
There should be a suitable level of accountability, with mechanisms for checks and balances as well as for review and redress.
Anyone affected by an internet governance process should be able to participate in that process.
I’m proud to say that the UK government wholeheartedly supports the NETMundial principles as a basis for the global internet governance framework, and I’d urge our Indian friends to support them too.
After all, what is the alternative?
Top-down, centralised decision-making.
A bureaucratic world-wide web of red tape.
Cyberspace divided by firewalls and virtual fences.
And the internet being run not out in the open by the people who make it work, but behind closed doors by horse-trading politicians.
Just imagine an internet that relied on governments agreeing on things.
Internet governance has to match the rapid pace of change experienced by the internet itself.
But let’s face it, ‘Rapid action’ and ‘inter-governmental agreement’ are not concepts that generally go well together.
And a fragmented, locally-managed internet would be bad for business too.
India is already a global technology hub with an outstanding skills base in IT and communications.
Companies such as TCS, Wipro, and Infosys are world leaders in their fields.
These firms, and many others besides, rely upon free, unfettered access to a global internet marketplace to thrive and to trade internationally.
If we were to restrict the online world by moving to a model of governance based solely on discussion between governments, we could quickly find ourselves with an internet that’s broken up into regional blocks.
An internet that’s no longer truly global.
And if that happens, the financial implications for some of India’s most dynamic and most successful companies could be very damaging.
But I don’t want you to think that national governments have no role to play in internet governance.
Of course we do – we’re one of the multiple stakeholders, after all.
We have to ensure that the internet does not become an online version of the Wild West.
A dangerous place where honest people cannot feel safe and secure.
The law must apply online just as it applies offline.
Governments cannot deliver that by simply throwing up barriers and fragmenting the internet.
But working together we can take a lead in the promotion and delivery of effective cyber-security.
As the global internet economy grows, so do the risks posed by cyber criminals.
In the UK we rank computer-based attacks alongside international terrorism as one of the biggest threats to our national security.
It’s a problem that must be tackled. If the world is going to fully realise the benefits of the online age, the internet needs to be open yet secure.
We need to know that we can communicate and transact in safety.
That’s why, in 2011, the UK government published its first Cyber Security Strategy.
It supports economic prosperity, protects our national security and safeguards the public’s way of life by building a more trusted and resilient digital environment.
The strategy is being delivered with almost a billion pounds of government funding, and is another example of the multi-stakeholder approach in action.
For example, there’s our Cyber Essentials Scheme.
Developed by government, industry and academia, Cyber Essentials lets any organisation – large or small, British or overseas –demonstrate that they have the key technical controls in place needed to counter the most common online threats.
It’s a great opportunity companies around the world to demonstrate to their customers that they take cyber security seriously.
With more than 70 years of experience in information assurance and a worldwide reputation for excellence in this field, it’s no surprise that the UK’s cyber security sector is going from strength to strength.
It expanded by 22 per cent last year, including £80 million of exports to India.
That’s the highest growth rate in the global list of 53 major economies, and means we are on track to hit £2 billion of cybersecurity exports by 2016.
Once again that success is down to the multi-stakeholder approach.
It brings together the government, industry and academia so they can work in cooperation rather than competition.
And we’re more than happy to share the results with the world so that other countries can join the multilateral fight against cybercrime.
That’s why the UK was delighted to co-fund this event, giving stakeholders from both our countries a chance to discuss solutions to the challenges we all now face.
But you mustn’t be lulled into thinking that cybercrime is just about hacking or online fraud.
From terrorists to stalkers, an insecure internet is a rich resource for those who would seek to harm others.
Later this year our Prime Minister, David Cameron, will be hosting an international summit on tackling the online sexual exploitation of children.
It’s a great opportunity for world leaders to come together and confront the criminals, and I look forward to India taking part.
We must ensure that the internet is safe, secure and successful, but we cannot allow that to be an excuse for further government control of cyberspace.
The multi-stakeholder model, both to governance and security, is the single best solution to this challenge.
It will allow the internet to survive and to thrive, providing unlimited benefits to countless individuals and businesses.
And India is uniquely placed to show the world just how well this approach can work.
This is the world’s largest democracy.
Asia’s third-largest economy.
Home to a rapidly-expanding digital community that has phenomenal potential for further growth.
With a new government, a booming private sector and a vibrant civil society, there has never been a better time for India to embrace the multi-stakeholder approach that already serves the internet so well.
ICANN’s Fadi Chehade has called the internet ‘the Greatest Public Gift’.
He’s absolutely right.
It doesn’t belong to anyone, it isn’t controlled by anyone.
The Internet itself has endured and expanded precisely because it is bigger than any one country.
And there should be no national barriers in cyberspace.