Internet for the Common Good
- Declaration: An Internet for the Common Good: Engagement, Empowerment, and Justice for All
A Community Informatics Declaration. Signed: Michael Gurstein, Centre for Community Informatics Research, Development and Training, Canada
"Effective use of the Internet holds the potential to benefit everyone. Currently, however, its benefits are distributed unequally — some people gain power, wealth and influence from using the Internet while others struggle for basic access. Our vision is a technical, interactive and information rich Internet platform on which people in their communities and elsewhere – the poor and marginalized in Developing and Developed countries, women and youth, indigenous peoples, older persons, those with disabilities--are able to develop and exercise their civic intelligence and to work together equitably and effectively to address our multiple individual and collective challenges.
Much more than just a new technology, the Internet is a new social environment which allows anyone to connect to anyone without intermediation. The Internet is not primarily a marketplace, it is a community space for human interactions including for communications, transactions and management where we expect principles of equity, fairness and justice to prevail. Governance of the Internet must be directed to ensuring that this new social space functions effectively for the well-being of all.
A community informatics approach to internet governance is one that supports equity in the distribution of Internet benefits and ensures that longstanding social, economic, cultural and political injustices are appropriately addressed within this new technology and social environment. Questions of social justice and equity through the Internet are central to how both the Internet and society will evolve. It is critical that people are free and empowered to develop the Internet infrastructure in ways that reflect the core values and ways of knowing of the different communities that adopt and adapt this technology.
Instead of a singular, universal Internet infrastructure, we support the development of an Internet in which communities are the "first mile" and not the "last mile". We believe that the primary purpose of this Internet is not to mine data and make human knowledge into commodities for purchase and sale, rather it is to advance the development goals of communities equally, leading to a more just and fair distribution of and within these universally and widely distributed infrastructures.
As both citizens and community members in an Internet-enabled world we have collective interests and perspectives — rights and responsibilities — for how the Internet is deployed and managed now and into the future. These need to be expressed and affirmed in all the forums where the future of the Internet is being discussed. As a collective, and as members of civil society, we have developed a charter for Internet governance based on principles of community informatics. We appreciate your interest and welcome your support.
We aspire to an Internet that is effectively owned and controlled by the communities where it is deployed and used and Internet ownership that evolves through communities which in turn are federated regionally, nationally and globally. The Internet is above all a community asset and a public good before it is a site for profit making. Similarly it is a local community utility before it is a global artifact. Equally with the access layer, the higher layers of applications and content should be community owned and controlled.
Community ownership and control should support a rich ecology of commercial enterprise. but enterprise subject to community/public supervision and serving community/public interests.
A just and equitable Internet includes:
1. Fair and equitable means to access and use the Internet: affordable by all and designed and deployed in such a manner that all may access and realize the benefits of effective use including the poor and marginalized in Developing and Developed country communities, women and youth, indigenous peoples, older persons, those with disabilities, Internet users and non-users alike; no one, from any community globally, should be without access to the Internet.
2. Equitable access within all communities to the benefits of the Internet. Benefits include access to information and the opportunities to communicate, increased effectiveness of communications and information management, and the opportunity to contribute to and participate in system development and content creation. Everyone, within all communities should have the right, the means and the opportunity to access and share the full intellectual heritage of humankind by means of the Internet without undue cost or hindrance.
3. Respect for privacy. People must have the right to use the Internet without unauthorized surveillance or systematic interference private communications by government authorities or corporate interests in.
4. Infrastructure that ensures the maximum level of personal security and reliability.
5. Opportunities for all within all communities to build, manage, and own Internet infrastructure as and when it is needed.
6. Governance of the Internet by democratic principles and processes — including privileging the input from communities affected by decisions and ensuring for the inclusion of the widest possible perspectives supporting the development of our technology and digital environments.
7. A peer to peer architecture where each node or end point is equal in power and privilege to every other end point and where there is a complete neutrality of the architecture and the medium for all users and all applications.
8. A recognition that the local as a fundamental building block of all information and communications and where the "global" is understood as a "federation of locals."
9. Equal opportunity for all to connect and communicate in a language and culture of their choice.
10. Recognition and equally privileging of the many types of knowledge and ways of knowing, nurturing pluralism and building from the capacities of each individual, community and knowledge society.
11. Support for collaboration, engagement, education, solidarity, and problem-solving as the stepping stones to civic intelligence and the capacity of communities, civil society, and people generally to equitably and effectively engage in informed self-governance."