Internet Governance Forum 2010: Global disparity in Internet access highlights urgent need for ongoing and informed policymaking

  • 14 September 2010

Business leaders have called for the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) so that together with other relevant stakeholders, they can continue to seek fair and progressive regulatory frameworks that tackle ongoing Internet issues especially to ensure access to the information society for more people around the world.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the annual forum in Lithuania, the Chair of ICC’s initiative, Business Action to Support the Information Society (BASIS) underlined the importance of the IGF in facilitating policy discussions and best practice sharing on key governance related topics including driving technology access across  developed and developing nations.

Addressing over 1200 participants, Subramanian Ramadorai, Vice Chairman, Tata Consultancy Services and BASIS Chair said: “The Internet belongs to all, to the poorest, to the richest. Therefore the governance of the Internet concerns all and getting it right is more crucial than ever. All stakeholders must keep working through issues together so that we avoid conflicts and barriers that could impede growth and the development of the Internet.”

Mr Ramadorai went on to underline the global disparities in technology access. Recent statistics reveal that 66 out of every 100 inhabitants in the developed world compared with 18 in every 100 inhabitants in the developing world have access to the Internet. In the developing regions there are also marked differences within individual nations. In India for instance, of the 51 million ‘active’ Internet users, 40 million reside in urban areas as opposed to only 11 million in rural areas.

It is imperative that businesses, governments, civil society, and technical an intergovernmental organizations continue to work together to find solutions that will bring millions more people online. Internet access combined with mobile technologies will spawn a wave of local entrepreneurs and create greater access to social services, transport, education, finance and healthcare.

In India for example, business partnered with government to create a business process outsourcing centre in Bagepalli village which was enabled through Internet connectivity. Such rural outsourcing offers jobs to young people who would otherwise have migrated to bigger cities. By training them in communications skills, soft skills and processes for six to eight weeks they are ready to take up assignments. More than 50% of the employees at the rural centre are women. Working at the centre helps the employees to save money for their marriage, pay off debts, buy sewing machines, cows and buffaloes for their families. This is social transformation in action.

ICC BASIS is a strong supporter of the IGF that will take place over the next four days. The forum was set up four years ago so that stakeholders could gather to discuss Internet policy issues, exchange best practices and listen to others perspectives on an equal footing.

The forum’s original five-year mandate expires at the end of 2010, and ICC BASIS supports continuation of the IGF with its founding multistakeholder principles and structures intact.