On the theme of social benefits, all delegates reaffirmed the overwhelmingly positive and transformative benefits that the Internet has brought to citizens, societies and governments.
Many speakers in particular welcomed its contribution (especially through social media) to freedom of expression and association, and its ability to expose human rights abuses as they happen and give the unheard a voice. In bringing citizens and governments closer together, the Internet is a powerful engine for empowering citizens and driving government accountability.
Speakers emphasised the particular importance of engagement with the youth community, both in giving them a voice in the democratic process, and being more receptive to their ideas in the development of policy.
The conference agreed that efforts to improve cyber security must not be at the expense of human rights. There was overwhelming support for the principle that cyberspace must remain open to innovation and the free flow of ideas, information and expression. Many speakers affirmed their belief that rights to freedom of expression and association apply with equal force in cyber space, and stressed the imperative for governments to comply with their obligations and commitments in this area as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Speakers stressed that capitalising on the full benefits of cyber space and protecting freedoms needs the participation of not just governments but also business and civil society. Given the speed of technological advance, speakers thought that the best foundation, and the one which best reflected the dynamic of the Internet itself, was a transparent and stable framework of self regulation.
There was strong support for the principle that users of cyberspace should show tolerance and respect for diversity of language, culture and ideas; but delegates said that protecting this principle must not be used as a cloak for attempts to subvert the right to freedom of expression and association, or become an excuse for fragmentation of the Internet. Speakers also expressed concern that some states may use notions of sovereignty as a guise to restrict access, block websites and censor Internet content.
Delegates (and many of those commenting as part of the online debate around the Conference) emphasised the need for transparent and interoperable approaches to handling privacy and data protection issues which recognise the requirement for global trade but also the importance of protecting personal information.
The Conference acknowledged the need to continue efforts to bridge the ‘digital divide’ and work towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. The work of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission on capacity development and extending access was noted under this theme.