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Report on ISOC involvement in OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy

16-19 Jun 2008, Seoul, Korea

Background

In 2007, the OECD invited ISOC to coordinate non-governmental organisations involved in the Internet technical community to provide advice and input to the OECD's Ministerial meeting planned for June 2008. As a first step, ISOC was asked in September 2007 to participate in the drafting of OECD’s on-line Public Consultation on the themes of the Ministerial meeting. Then we were invited to participate in all OECD ICCP (Information, Computer and Communications Policy) committee meetings to help shape the conference’s essential documents: the ministers’ agenda, their final “Seoul Declaration”, official background documents, and the OECD’s final Policy framework, designed to set the organisation’s working program for the next decade.

Accepting the role as a coordinator, ISOC staff invited several partner organisations to work together, and the group grew organically by word of mouth. Eventually 17 organisations (see Appendix) collaborated to organise a 1-day Forum and a memorandum containing advice to the ministers. Because there is no organisation called the “Internet Technical Community,” great care was taken at all times to make it clear that ISOC was simply playing a coordinating role and is not able to speak for other organisations beyond the scope of agreed text. Those most involved in the project were: Constance Bommelaer, Leslie Daigle, Bill Graham, and Matthew Shears.

To ensure that ISOC members were aware of the project and had input into the memorandum and forum while the text was fluid, the draft documents were distributed for comment. Conference calls were arranged for organisational and Chapter members in October 2007 and February 2008. Several members had questions and helpful comments that were incorporated into the documents. Similarly, many suggestions were received for potential forum speakers. Every effort was made to contact recommended speakers, and then to achieve a balance in the forum sessions considering the many organisations involved, as well as regional, gender, and other factors. The fact that very limited funds were available to provide fellowships or pay for travel further complicated the planning effort. In the end, a group of high-quality speakers was assembled for the day.

Other organisations were encouraged to consult their members in the same periods, before the group completed final drafting and Forum planning. After those consultations, and taking into account the comments received, the 17 organisations worked together to finalise the text and the agenda.

Although the memorandum is not an ISOC document, our influence is clear. The memorandum incorporates almost verbatim the text of ISOC’s five “abilities” from our web site, and The User Centric Internet was submitted as a background document for the Ministerial: both with the agreement of the other organisations.

Activities during the Ministerial

On June 16 the Internet technical community Forum was held in Seoul, concurrently with forums held by the business stakeholders and civil society/labour stakeholders. Its agenda focused on the Conference themes of Creativity, Convergence, and Confidence. ISOC played a prominent role in the Forum – one that was vocally appreciated by the collaborating organisations and by the other participants in the OECD Ministerial. More than 475 people registered to attend, and about 150 people were in attendance at any one time, as people moved from one forum to another during the day. The agenda and all presentations are posted on the ISOC web site. Lynn St. Amour spoke during the first plenary session of the Ministerial on June 17, and made a clear and strong presentation of the community’s memorandum. Ministers or senior officials from 39 countries attended and heard the message. In addition to Lynn’s presentation, Leslie Daigle made a presentation on the future development of the Internet to the main program “panel of experts” on June 18. Lynn participated in two press conferences at the end of the stakeholder day, and at the end of the Ministerial, as well as giving several interviews to the press. A joint press release was issued on behalf of the organisations participating in the Internet technical community Forum. All of this material is available from a dedicated ISOC page. Additional material, such as YouTube videos, were already distributed to the membership mailing list.

Several times during the week, OECD officials and others involved in the Conference recognised the Internet technical community’s contributions, and those of ISOC in particular. Several themes are repeated in the Seoul Declaration. A few examples are the stress on expanding access, particularly in developing countries; promoting the free flow of information; and “upholding the open, decentralized and dynamic nature of the Internet and the development of technical standards that enable its ongoing expansion and contribute to innovation, interoperability, participation and ease of access.” There is also an intention to encourage adoption of IPv6, in particular by timely adoption by governments. The Declaration promotes multilingualism and cultural diversity on the net. It also recognises the need for social inclusion for people of different capabilities, education, and skills. There are many other similarly positive statements in the text. Several ISOC members present commented that the language used in the meeting and in the Seoul Declaration seems to have changed to become more inclusive and more Internet-friendly than has been the case in other recent intergovernmental meetings. If this new positive attitude moves from the page to action, it will be a good sign indeed.

And, in another striking example, in his closing speech the head of the OECD, Secretary General Angel Gurrìa surprised us by saying: “I recommend that we begin the process of formalising the participation of civil society and the technical community in the work of the OECD on the Internet economy.” While his statement attests to the value of our participation, the question of how the diverse organisations constituting the technical community might respond will have to be addressed. A valuable option would be for ISOC to propose continuing to play a coordinating role to facilitate these organisations’ participation.

Follow up

On June 19, the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP) met and its Chairman again thanked ISOC for its contributions. He said he believes that Gurrìa’s recommendation is about starting a process, and he expects the Secretary-General to provide more detail on that before the next ICCP meeting in December. We will await that material before any next steps can be considered or decided on.

Appendix

Organisations participating in Internet technical community participation with the OECD Ministerial meeting on the future of the Internet economy: