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Speech of Mr Kapil Sibal, Hon’ble Minister for Communications and IT, GOI, at the IGF, Baku



Internet has evolved itself into a powerful, ubiquitous, empowering and liberating medium, even though only a fragment of its full potential is known and has been exploited by us so far. In its borderless cyberspace, internet provides limitless opportunities for freedom of speech and expression.  Internet, perhaps is the nearest approximation to the utopian world of freedom, envisioned by one of our greatest poets, Dr Rabindranath Tagore. He said and I quote:
“Where the mind is without fear,Where the head is held high,Where knowledge is free,Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls,…..”
Internet is greatly significant for India and, we believe, India is greatly significant for the Internet.
These twin beliefs stem from two simple propositions. Firstly, Internet with its immense transformational potential, can provide the means for sustainable and inclusive development in a country of 1.25 billion people, in areas such as education, healthcare, financial inclusion and service delivery. Secondly, with an internet user-base of over 125 million, which is likely to grow to about half-a-billion over the next few years, and an established mobile base of 950 million, coupled with a large and talented pool of human resources, India will be a key player in the cyber-world of tomorrow. In view of these complementary and mutually-reinforcing positive externalities, India is deeply committed to the free and unbridled growth and development of the Internet, and is determined on its own and persuade others, to exploit this tremendous opportunity.

At the outset, let me state that, in the true spirit of the vision outlined in the Tunis agenda, the issues of public policy related to the Internet have to be dealt with, by adopting a multi-stakeholder, democratic and transparent approach. It is my personal belief that the term ‘Internet Governance’ is an oxymoron. Internet, by its very nature, can not coexist with the concept of ‘governance’, which relates to a system designed for dealing with the issues of the physical world. The term ‘Governance’, immediately invokes concepts of those who govern and those who are governed, which have no relevance in cyber-space. Semantics apart, what we need today is to put in place a system designed for cyberspace – a system which is collaborative, consultative, inclusive and consensual, for dealing with all public policies involving the Internet.

Such a cyber-paradigm should, to my mind, rest on 4 pillars that are rooted in the fundamental principles of democracy, inclusive growth, transparency and accountability.

Firstly, it should be consultative, including all stakeholders in the decision-making process. The medium of Internet provides voice to the voiceless as never before in the history of mankind. This potential can be realized only by providing universal access and affordable devices. The Digital divide must be relegated to the past – instead, our communities must reap the benefits of the digital dividend. Such a consultative process should also factor regional and national sensitivities besides vast diversities in language and culture.

Secondly, it should be evolutionary, with the processes evolving through a dialogue that is continuous and continuing. This is in keeping with the very nature of the Internet, which is mutli-dimensional, dynamic and evolving. A set of static frameworks is inappropriate for meeting the ever-changing requirements of the Internet space. 

Thirdly, it should put in place a mechanism for accountability, in respect of crimes committed in cyberspace, such that the Internet is a free and secure space for universal benefaction. A new cyber jurisprudence needs to be evolved to deal with cyber crime, without being limited by political boundaries and cyber-justice can be delivered in near real time.

Lastly, it shall be duly reflective of the ground realities as to the manner of representation of stakeholders at all consultative forums.

In order to deliberate on the approaches to the design and establishment of such a cyber-paradigm, India recommends the constitution of a Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation.  If we put together our collective wisdom, I am sure, we shall be able to soon make a transformational shift from the Internet of today to the Equinet of tomorrow.

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