By Xiong Chengyu
Professor of Tsinghua University
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With the advent of cooperative exploration of polar regions, deep sea and space, the concept of the global village has now become a reality for humanity. Based on the United Nations Millennium Declaration, the term "Internet Governance" was proposed at WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society), held at Geneva in 2003.
The declaration, signed by delegates and heads of governments from 175 countries, is truly inspiring. It announces, "We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting sustainable development and improving their quality of life."
Internet governance is a necessary measure to achieve this goal. At the Geneva conference, all delegates expressed the same belief: Internet governance should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. It should ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all, and ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet, paying proper heed to multilingualism.
Five years have passed since 2003. During this period, we have witnessed worldwide progress of Internet governance. The Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), composed of experts from different countries, was established in the same year just after the Geneva Declaration. The working group quickly proposed an interim report and built a multi-stakeholder forum for dialogue: the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The first forum was held in Athens at the end of 2006, the second in Rio de Janeiro at the end of 2007, and the third, whose topic is "Internet for all" will be in Hyderabad, India at the end of this year.
From individual awareness of the need to carry out Internet governance, to the proposal of the concept "Internet for all" this year, a developing understanding of the importance of the Internet is apparent. As an essential part of the information society, the Internet is greater than the sum of its infrastructure and technology platforms. Promoted by the development of science and technology and the demands of society, the Internet will be a new social structure that all peoples will unite to build.
All social structures are based on order, and the network society is no exception. Already through Internet governance people are striving to create order in the network society and balance competing interests.
In addition to the multilateral consultations within the framework of the United Nations referenced above, all regions can also hold intra-regional multilateral consultations to talk about region-specific issues. Pairs of countries can also launch bilateral consultations to address issues concerning both. Hence, a multi-level consultation structure is formed: multilateral – inter-regional – international. This will promote genuine communication and consultation among different interest groups. Since China and the United States are the two countries with most Internet users, the conduct of a strategic dialogue between them carries extra significance.