London Cyberspace Conference: it's good to talk, but better to do

The London Cyberspace Conference was yet another at which we did a lot of talking. What we should really be focusing on is doing; creating growth and jobs.

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William Hague hosted the event.
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Dominique Lazanski
On 4 November 2011 15:19

The London Cyberspace Conference took place this week at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.

Hosted by Foreign Secretary William Hague, the event was focused on bringing together business, governments, and civil society to discuss current issues in cyberspace. Economic growth, cyber security, and social benefit of the Internet were just some of the issues up for discussion.

Overall the conference ticked along just fine and was generally seen as a success. I’m not about to disagree, as I do think that it went well, but the conference itself has to be looked at from an International perspective.

Why did this conference happen now?

After all, the Internet Governance Forum, ITU, and ICANN all host multi-stakeholder conferences that discuss the Internet. And this conference was yet another conference in a yearly series of conferences. (I ought to mention that in-keeping with the confusion, one more conference, it was announced, will take place in Hungary next year…and then of course there’s the conference in Korea the year after that.)

The short answer is that there is an international power struggle going on for the control of the Internet.

China and Russia, along with India, Brazil, and the rest of South America are calling for more control by a new international body that would vote and control things like Internet architecture and regulation.

This power play was clear at the Internet Governance Forum and it seems that this week’s event was a way to reaffirm what the US, UK, and EU want: a multi-stakeholder approach with non-binding and non-treaty agreements.

What the Foreign Office sought to achieve, as an outcome for this conference, is therefore noble: behavioural norms. That is, the FCO hoped to achieve a general agreement on ways forward in cyberspace.

But my worry is: where were the entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in all of this? Yes, companies like Verizon and BT attended the event, but where were the people who do and make things in this space?

The Internet will not be governed or controlled by governments, but by people who use, develop, create and grow it. The conference lacked people like American computer scientist, Vint Cerf, Richard Stallman, the software freedom activist, and Peter Thiel who has been so successful in the industry.

But also conspicuous by absence were entrepreneurs in our own back yard and people who enable the investment and growth as well.

I have always said that government needs to get out of the way of the explosive growth of the Internet that will continue to happen in spite of attempts to control the freedom that it brings.

But as is the way with conferences, this event was yet another at which we all did a lot of talking about what the Internet means, when really, we need to focus on the doing; creating growth and jobs.

Dominique Lazanski spent over 10 years in the Internet industry in Silicon Valley and works for the Tax Payers' Alliance in the United Kingdom. She tweets at @dml

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