Emerging Issues: Role of Civil Society in Internet Governance
REAL TIME TRANSCRIPT: Emerging Issues: Role of Civil Society in Internet Governance
14:00-15:30, Wednesday 16 June 2010
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>>: This session is about the role of civil society in
internet governance, so may I now invite our moderator,
Mr Charles Mok, chairman of Internet Society Hong Kong,
to introduce the panel for us.
>>Charles Mok: As always, a difficult thing to do, to try
to get your attention and your brain back after lunch,
but we have a fabulous panel here that I think will be
helpful in the process.
First of all, actually, this morning, I was chairing
the discussion that we had about some of the more
technical issues, internationalised domain names,
critical internet resources and so on.
Actually, in fact, we are seeing that the process
and the discussion, international discussion about
internet governance gradually, over the last 10 or more
years, moving more from the technical issues to a lot of
the issues that really has to do with our society.
Civil society, social movement in particular.
Today, we have assembled a panel from all around
Asia, to give us their views and feedback on this topic.
The topic that we are going to be discussing is
about the role of civil society in internet governance,
but we were discussing about this topic over lunch.
The way we look at it is even though we are trying
to get ourselves prepared to provide input to internet
governance from the civil society’s view, in fact, it
all started with the internet affecting the way that
society runs itself and in particular, civil society has
been seeing a lot of impact from the use of internet in
the way that they do carry out many of their courses and
promote many of their courses and so on.
I think, right now, what we are looking at is how do
we deal with this buy directional relationship.
Then, taking stock at what has been happening and
providing feedback to the institutional and other
arrangements relating to internet governance, from civil
I think hopefully, maybe, that will be what we will
be trying to discuss today.
We were also trying to figure out what would be the
best order of speaking, for all of our panellists, let
me introduce them very briefly with their title, when it
comes to turn that they will be speaking.
So we don’t take up too much of the time. Their
full bio is already in the package anyway.
Our first speaker, Issac, sorry to maybe surprise
you a little bit, but we have decided you should be
Issac Mao, our good friend, he’s been very active
and prominent blogger and internet business person from
China and Issac is now also a fellow with the Berkman
Centre in Harvard university.
Issac, if you are ready with your PowerPoint, I’ll
let you go first.
>>Isaac Mao: Good afternoon.
Today I’m trying to use maybe to figure out some of
my observations on the internet governance models, what
I experience in the past 15 years, you know, from since
I become an internet user and then a blogger about seven
years ago and how to apply some methodologies to my
research and what’s the current status of the internet
governance landscape in China, briefly.
Let’s try to recall those early days of internet,
because there is no concept of internet governance at
all. There are only pioneers in this landscape and we
see they were actively trying to define their own rules
and try to define their norms, like those early stages.
Then we have the definition of internet users. It’s
becoming larger and larger population and quickly
adopted by the whole society.
Someone came in, it’s called government, because
they see the emerging of the information flow in the
society from the internet usages and they are trying to
approach this new stuff from their traditional
Then we see that some of the governments, especially
in China, they are trying to define themselves as
a position beyond the internet users, to try to outlook
the whole landscape from their understanding, but they
are still separated from this whole sphere.
Some governments, they are trying to define some
rules, although they are not so — you know,
knowledgeable about the whole internet and all the
So it’s a kind of early governance we see. It’s one
directional, governance based on existing maybe social
rules and regulations.
We see those kind of confrontations between the
government and the internet users, because the internet
userses, they are trying to set up their own options and
define their kind of rules, like the P to P file
Many, many places we can see that the confrontation
between the existing laws and regulations and the game
rules defined by the internet users, this confrontations
also raised up a lot of debate and dialogues.
That’s a good thing from the evolution.
Wait. We see those businesses interests came in
also and the government, they found a very good new
position to try to control those businesses in some
countries, especially in China.
We see many internet businesses. They have to
follow those rules from the government. Either it is
written rules or hidden rules.
The battle becomes between the business and the
internet users now and the government try to escalate
themselves in the top level of managing role.
But internet users won’t just stay in their
position. They want to try to challenge the
regulations, try to challenge those rules from the
They bypass the businesses to try to directly talk
to the government in different platforms, such as IGF.
That’s something we see for Chinese internet users,
because they don’t have so many direct channels to talk
to government. Instead, they go to overseas platforms
like IGF and ICANN meetings or maybe some other
international forums, to talk to their officials.
That’s very interesting thing.
If you’re interested, you can see some kind of
We see this kind of model is not so adequate to try
to really have some kind of ideal internet governance
So I suggest that we can try this model, that engage
those three parties together with internet users and
more and more conducted users, with businesses and
government, they are setting themselves through triangle
position and the government can have more and more
variety channels to talk to internet users, at the same
time business and government have the biodirectional
channels to talk to each other.
We are still like this kind of practices all the
But the best model in the future maybe in the next
few years, I try to envision is that the government and
business become part of the internet users as well. So
when we talk about the e-inclusion or e-engagement, we
are always trying to, I mean, for the government, we are
trying to separate ourselves from the internet users.
We are trying to outlook the internet users.
But actually, I think the e-inclusion should be
redefined as e-connect, so the government and business,
they are all part of the internet users. They are all
part of the trying to define themselves as the inside
the system, instead of being excluded from.
So that’s the model part I want to raise to give
people an abstract concept.
But back to the real world, in China, we see a lot
of confrontations between internet users and the
As I showed it’s almost like in very early stage,
that the government want control the whole internet and
the internet users try to confront back and they try
to — but they didn’t see any effective channels to talk
to each other.
When the business came in, the business tried to
satisfy the government a lot to secure their business
benefit and that’s the case about the Google case, which
Google.cn try to satisfy the government for about three
to four years, but eventually, they found that they
cannot sustain this kind of satisfaction, because the
command from the government come in every day, by
telephones, by messages, to try to push Google.cn to
censor some new key words or new rules, criteria and
they cannot sustain this model, because for Google, the
company, they cannot have a lot of people to follow up
this kind of rules with very high salary. But for some
Chinese companies Baidu and Sina, they can do a similar
thing, because they can pay very cheap labours to comply
the censorship rules.
So for the China government, I think they gracefully
understand the market and try to control the market very
well, but they ignore a lot from the internet users.
So just this month, back to June 8th (this month,
back to June 8, the China government from the central
government news administration office, they publish the
China internet, the internet in China white paper.
If you look into the paper, it seems very well
explained, their philosophies and positions and
strategies to manage internet.
For example, like in the part 3, we can see that the
title is guaranteeing citizens freedom of speech on the
They illustrate some data here, some facts.
I use quotes for these facts, because actually, the
facts are still under challenge as well.
It reads like:
“China’s websites attach great importance to
providing netizens with opinion expression services,
over 80 per cent of them providing electronic bulletin
On the above part, you can sigh that at the same
time, there were 3.23 million websites running in
So roughly, there are over 2.6 million websites in
China provide on line bulletin services. Remember the
number. I will use it next slide.
So in China, there are over a million, some
220 million bloggers. It’s a big number.
Then, over 66 of Chinese netizens frequently place
posting to discuss various topics and to fully express
their opinions and represent their interest.
It’s a great number.
The conclusion from the white paper is that China
internet users has enough freedom to express themselves.
But what came from the internet users? One blogger
called the passenger, passenger 8, he said that from all
the data from the white paper, we have a calculation
here in the right.
The equation comes like 2.2, 220 million internet
users, 80 per cent, 60 per cent, 66 per cent frequently
comment on-line and then we got 3 million comments
If K, as the frequency from active users, to say
only half post a day, you know, for those active users,
half post a day is not so active, but we can use this as
a presumption. Then we can get the conclusion that
almost 96 per cent of those posts are or comments has
been deleted from the China internet.
That’s the conclusion totally contradictory to the
I don’t want to blame the government reports or who
wrote the reports. I just want to say that, you know,
if such kind of white paper to be published, if we
really validate the data, how can we reach that kind of
totally different conclusions? It’s a kind of question.
That’s back to my model of internet governance.
If we really try to have built some kind of
conversations or dialogue platform, how can we reach
such totally different result from one party to another
This is a kind of question I want to raise.
So in China, there are still a lot of problems where
we are trying to solve. Not be able to be solved within
China. It’s a kind of issue. We want to build between
the officials, between the governments and the internet
users, but this kind of efforts seems not so easy.
We are trying to see that this kind of conflicts to
be resolved in a conversational way instead of conflict
Because right now, the China internet users have
a creative wish to try to confront the government, like
the famous story. So I want to conclude my talk with
this famous grass mud horse video.
>>Charles Mok: Have all of you heard of this grass mud
horse? Maybe you can explain.
>>Isaac Mao: The grass mud horse is the internet users call
themselves and the river crab is described as the
government. So the river crab try to eat out all those
grasses, the internet users are living in.
>>Charles Mok: River crab in Putonghua, in China, sound
like harmony, harmonising. So it’s a parody of the
government trying to harmonise people speeches and then
they are the river that eat the crab, so the grass mud
horse is the magical creature that kill all the river
crabs. They are all of us, the internet users.
I think you can do a Google, even on English, for
grass mud horse and you can find a lot of videos and
funny parodys that are very creative Chinese internet
users have put up all over the world.
Thank you Issac for your great presentation.
Let us come to the second speaker to give us
a perspective, but probably very much also along the
same way in has to do quite a bit with probable freedom
of expression and so on in his region. From Sean Ang,
who is the executive director of Southeast Asia Centre
for e-Media, for Malaysia.
>>Sean Ang: My name is Sean Ang. I’m from Southeast Asia
Centre for e-Media.
What I’m going to do here is to look at the question
of freedom of expression between the context of civil
society, so the issue of internet governance.
I’m working with basically four groups of people.
The first group are the NGOs, second group are the cyber
activists, citizen journalists and bloggers and also the
As you are aware, in the earlier session, Chun from
Prachathai were involved in this dissemination of
independent and neutral news and there’s some issues
there. So we also work with other groups such as Misima
and Iriwadi from Burma and also with some I would say,
undercover groups and also something emerging now is the
In Malaysia, citizen journalists are becoming an
important player in the whole check and balance
mechanism in the governance process and also we try to
expand our work in other countries, to promote the idea
of citizen journalism.
You will notice here, there’s a term called citizen
journalist and also blogger. So in some countries, we
have to use the term blogger, because the law and
regulation, if you call yourself a journalist, then you
are under certain law and regulation. So we will use
the term something broader.
So before I go to my other slides, let us look into
this interesting slide.
This slide was taken from Malaysia government,
national IT council.
Before I became an activist, a media activist,
I actually worked for the government, so I roughly know
their thinking and also know their secrets.
As you can see here, in this bigger scheme of
things, we are moving towards the future and the future
is about knowledge economy, it’s about innovation
economy and the most important characteristic, if you
see our human evolution, is the transition from the use
of our hand. If you look at the early phase of our
stone age primitive society, we use hand to make tools
and hundred dollars for food. There’s a lot of exercise
and physical activity.
Later on, we move into the agriculture period,
whereby we still use maybe a little bit of our brain,
but the focus is still on toiling, farming and there’s
a lot of physical activities.
Maybe that’s a reason we can know why in
agricultural society, they want to have a lot of
children, because they need labour to produce economic
Now we are moving into a new direction, whereby what
matters is not our energy or our physical contribution
any more, but it’s our brain.
So we are moving towards a new kind of economy. The
next slide, this is hype cycle. If those who are into
technology, you will notice that, even me, myself, as an
individual, just I got a handphone using this very high
pixel camera, then in a short time, the android phone is
here. So I bought the android here and Sony Ericsson
come out with a new model, which is even better.
So the technology is moving very fast and there is
a high need for people to think creative. So what would
drive the economy now is no longer our physical
attributes, but our ideas and innovation.
If you look at hype cycle last year, there is even
an idea management. So there is going to be a fierce
competition for ideas.
If you look at some of this prediction, from some of
these people who actually do scenario planning,
developed countries in the next 20 years or 30 years
will have short of talent, so actually a lot of people
will, the issue of brain drain will be a serious
problem, whereby many developing countries will start to
migrate to more developed countries.
Developed countries, more people will become older
and there will be lack of talents and there is going to
be fierce competition for people talent.
So in this, we’ll have a big implication on
business. How are you going to get talent? And there
is going to be a big implication on the country and
Countries that do not provide conducive environment
for progress, the people will migrate. Then you will be
So we go to the next slide.
What I’m going to show you here is the relationship
between freedom of expression and why freedom of
expression is important for societal change.
I think a lot of people out there, even if when
I was in Malaysia, people often think of freedom of
expression meaning can say something.
In our context of civil society groups, people
I deal with, freedom of expression means we will be able
to express something that matters, that matters most,
something that matters most.
There’s a concept, what we call a principle. If you
can address 20 per cent of the problem, then you can
address 80 per cent of the problem.
We activists, we have discovered that the most
important issue that we need to address in our society
is the issue of political system.
The issue of governance.
Because these are the issues that will have big and
major implication on our society wellbeing.
Why this is important.
If you are from a business, you need a conducive
business environment for the development of ideas and
also products and services.
But if you have what we call a government that is
corrupt, whereby there is no transparency and it is
difficult for you to develop, so that is why many
investors will invest in the countries they have better
governance and more transparency.
The second thing is, we need to have a better
governance system, so that there will be equitable
society. If there’s no equitable society, then there
won’t be finance.
What is happening now in Southeast Asia, there is
a group of government players, they are playing a very
active role to sensor and why they are doing this,
because they are protecting their interest group of
those political elites.
For example, in Malaysia, the government, they are
finding out ways to surprise in Thailand, we can see the
yellow shirts which are aligned with the monarchy and
also the military groups, they are trying to suppress
What’s the reason? Because they want to control the
I’m giving you an actual example, whereby I’m
This is a photograph of the investigation of
Malaysiakini, by MCMC.
We can see that in the case of Malaysia, for
example, we can notice that there are many other issues,
very important, like in the earlier session, we are
talking about this protection of children, we are also
talking about crime, internet crime, people, but what is
happening now in Malaysia is a lot of resources are
being used to wash over a blogger and so on.
For example, the last demonstration that I have
participated, we can see the Malaysia government
actually mobilise a lot of the FRO people, sometimes for
a demonstration of just 206 people, they mobilise up to
100 police. So 100 police is looking over
a demonstration with people with cannedless, to make
sure that there’s no riot.
What’s the implication of this? If you look into
Thailand, it’s the same thing.
The government is working at mobilising so many
police and armed forces on peaceful demonstration.
What is the implication?
The implication is the resources are being wasted.
We want the government to use the resources to
protect the business.
But instead of catching the real criminals, they are
now catching the activists who are fighting for the
rights of the people.
So I give you another example.
In the case of Malaysia again, it’s related to MCMC.
So this is one example whereby there’s a video of this
could you head protest. So in the case of Malaysia, it
is cow head protest.
They send a team of people, actually I think more
than five people, just to do the investigation process.
In the case of Malaysia, an issue like this, whereby
the actual protestor, who are insighting riot, are not
being investigated, but instead they try to kill the
messenger, which is Malaysiakini and this case is still
The most important case in Malaysia is the hunt for
Raja Petra. What is happening in Malaysia is Raja Petra
has brought up two important issues.
No. 1 is to ask for the investigation of our first
lady, so whether she’s involved or not in a murder.
They did not accuse her, but she say something is
Can the authority please investigate? If the wife
of the programme is somehow involved.
The second issue is he’s trying to analyse religion,
Islam, and to say that, Islam has some weaknesses but
overall, it is not the religion that matters, it’s the
The whole discussion of Islam is within the context
of attacking the current ruling government.
This issue makes Raja Petra high profile target of
the authority and what’s a very important blogger in
So he has no choice but to escape from Malaysia.
Because the whole judiciary process is not
transparent, there’s no way that he can get a fair
trial, because in the country like Malaysia, the
executive also controls the judiciary and also the
This is the same also for other countries.
So you can see that I’m talking there the Southeast
Many things that you think that are not important,
it’s important for us, because we are under a different
kind of political system.
So you see the whole idea of the authority now is to
create a fear culture.
We can see like in Malaysia, we have Barisan
Nasional, Singapore the people’s action party, Thailand
democratic party and also in Burma, state peace and
development counsel of Myanmar.
How do we go forward from here.
I think there is urgent and desire and need,
important for us to create a framework to protect
citizen joinists and bloggers and these are some of the
recommendations. No. 1, how can IGF promote freedom of
No. 2, can we create legal funds to support
journalists and bloggers and thirdly to relocate an
exiled writer if they are under threats and No. 4, to
ensure the independent of organisations that control the
So the item E, maybe it is more related to internet
governance, for example, if I were to write anything
that criticise the political system, if I raise it
under.my donation, then I will be in trouble, because
I have to get.org or something else registered outside
of the country.
We also need some kind of framework for us to see
how the whole internet governance will infringe on our
At this moment, we really don’t have any clue.
For example, a blogger will ask me, Sean, how do we
now if the government is monitoring us? Is there a way
for us to know this answer?
The second question asked, how do they know if they
are not being monitored?
We need answer like this, so we have a more
conducive environment to express ourselves.
In my first few slides, I’m trying to talk from the
civil society perspective. Now I try to play the hat of
What if we also may also consider the situation
whereby there could be abuse. What if the government
have a good intention and they really want to have
social stability and what if there are certain
individuals from the government are victim of some
political power play? This could be another scenario.
In order to — I do not want to be seen as someone
civil society radicals whatsoever, so to be fair to the
civil society, we need some kind of international level
For example, in Thailand, they are accusing some
bloggers are terrorists, but are they really terrorists.
At the same time, the people are not certain who is
right and who is wrong. So with certain kind of
international standard for the protection of freedom of
Some kind of ombudsman process.
Maybe this will help a little bit to create the
Why I have mentioned the word ombudsman, because in
the case of Malaysia, for example, there is already some
commissioner, human rights commissioner, and even there
is original human rights organisation, but this
organisation so far has not produced that kind of
People are still distrust this organisation. It is
seen as a government tool. Me, as a participant here,
it’s the same thing.
Why I think civil society need a voice, because
internet governance, the whole governance process of
this IGF, is it independent? Do you guys take into
consideration the needs of the people?
So this is why we want to have a more role here, so
we can play a better check and balance and, of course,
I also understand that some of these agenda of internet
governance has already been set, through an evolution
Maybe it focus more or domain name, the
infrastructure, OK, fine, but why not, from today
onwards or from this forum onwards, we have a new agenda
and this agenda is to look into the relationship between
the government and also its citizenry.
To conclude my presentation, the theme of this
forum, building vibrant communities, realising internet
possibilities. This is only possibility if citizens are
fully empowered without any fear and we will be able to
think out of the box to challenge current societal
>>Charles Mok: Thank you, Sean. Let me introduce our next
speaker, Parminder Jeet Singh. He’s the executive
director of IT For Change.
>>Parminder Jeet Singh: Thank you, Charles.
After two panellists before me have spoken about the
way civil society has been functioning in some areas
which are related close to internet governance or our
internet governance, I would — my intervention here
would deal with broader questions about what is civil
society in this new domain policy domain of internet
governance? Because I think and it will also come out
as I go through in my points, that this is a very new
policy domain. It’s essentially global. There’s
nothing else before that. There are no issues like Sean
said, interaction between government and its on-line
citizenship, which looks like a different kind of
interrelationship than with governments with their other
Issac spoke about how governments should become
a user and then the government system should be
redefined from within, which is quite a radical way to
look at it.
But the least it says is it’s a hugely different
I would like to kind of bring forward some
open-ended issues and questions about what is the shape
and what is the role of civil society in this new policy
domain. It also, accordingly, has been changing a lot.
Mostly, they’re open-ended issues. I may have some
perspective, but I do realise that there are other
perspectives, so they are more issues of discussion
rather than unilateral presentation here.
I would try to talk about three things. One is the
nature of internet governance as a new policy space.
Then the role of civil society in it and then the
context, which is multi-stakeholders on which has
evolved as a new form of governance, which is evolving
as a new form of governance, with very unclear and
I think that needs also to be inspected.
The first thing I would like to say is that
generally, we understand internet governance as the
forces, the policies, which shape the technologies,
which we deal with and not so much really about the way
those technologies get used.
So I’m just making a separation and I think the line
is not very sharp, but seeing things in categories is
We know that the technologies which we use are
constructed by human minds and hands, by interests, by
motives, good, bad, mixed.
Therefore, every time something is shaping the
technologies and they are not given and a lot of people
in the morning and now have spoken about how these
technologies got initially shaped, because there were
some good people with good intentions and they came up
with a very open architecture.
Probably bad people were not taking notice at that
time and that set up a platform on which we have built
More and more interests have come on board and
there’s a lot of negotiation of interests, on how these
technologies get shaped and the internet of tomorrow, 10
years down the line, would be an internet which would be
shaped by a power struggle among many forces here.
Internet governance really, as I understand, deals
with what shapes the internet. To deal with it does not
mean that we are looking for a centralised method of
shaping the internet. It just takes talk of the forces
which shape the internet and looks at the public
interest implications of that and where necessity
intervenes in the interests of the public, to see that
the internet that gets shaped is the internet we all
I see internet governance as the technology shaping
space and public interest intervention in that
technology shaping space.
That would bring me to the next point, that I think
there is a civil society which is community volunteerism
of the highest kind and we are not talking of that civil
Again, we are also not talking about a civil society
which is more organised to assist service delivery down
the line. Since we defined internet governance as
a policy space, we are talking of civil society’s role
in a policy space and that role is of bringing and
participation and bringing in points of view.
So my response to the principal question posed by
the organisers as the title of this panel, the role of
civil society in internet governance, is that primarily,
it is to bring in participation as points of view.
Next, is that what kind of participation? Not every
participation is what I would associate with the domain
of civil society.
Business lobbying brings in participation of
business, big business groups, in governance, for good
or bad, but I wouldn’t consider that a civil society
Civil society brings in the participation of those
groups, people, who are disempowered, who generally do
not count as equals in the typical policy making
systems. This is a system of deepening democracy.
We see that the typical institutions which make
policies are not sufficiently inclusive of certain
disempowered people and civil society’s job is to get
those interests and those perspectives into policy
That essentially is the role I see civil society in.
We do often talk about expert tease issue and
there’s a lot of confusion, most of this in technical
area of internet governance, where there is a lot of
expertise required and a lot of people do associate
expertise with civil society.
I think even if it is associated with the civil
society role, it is a secondary thing.
Expertise, which is disinterested, disinterested
expertise is a saleable commodity, it is something
somebody has and somebody with sell it, volume untear
it, I mean, a knowledge economy, people generally are
selling their expertise, selling their knowledge and
that’s not a civil society function.
Interested expertise is a strategic form of
advocacy. If somebody uses the expertise one has, in
pursue answer of a point of view one tries to push, then
that’s strategy advocacy. That’s still participation,
but strategically you are using your expertise to
enhance the participation of the interests which you
have tried to represent.
Between expertise and participation, I think we
should be clear that the primary purpose, primary role
of civil society is to bring in participation of the
disempowered people and secondly, it may be of
That distinguish has been very crucial, as I would
discuss some other developments which have happened in
the area of civil society and internet governance.
Having defined itself as bringing in the
participation of the disempowered, it’s important to
frame the structural location and form of civil society
and I think the civil society defines itself in
a relation to the powerful players, two of which are the
state and the big businesses, as the other. It
essentially identifies itself with not having those
This is important, because representing the
disempowered, you cannot too closely be related to the
key powerful players.
When I say you cannot be too closely related to it,
I do not mean that you would not make strategic
alliances with them. We work all the titles with
governments, with private sector for strategic
alliances, but the structural distance has to be clear.
It has been traditionally understood. Our organisation
has affiliation with the United Nations economic and
social council with special consultative status. Before
they give that, they check our funding and see that very
small part of the funding can be from the government.
In the funding is more than a small per cent from the
government, you are not accepted as a civil society and
same kind of rule should be applied to your funding
coming from the private sector and this is what I mean
to have your structural location distinct as some
distance from the powers which you are questioning.
It’s not that power is bad, but the power has to be
questioned and civil society in a policy role is placed
in terms of getting the perspective of the disempower
and questioning the structures of power and that
structural location is to be very clear.
That brings — I mean, people have asked the
question of legitimacy. Who are you? Anybody can get
up and make an organisation and claim it’s a civil
society and yes, there is a huge question of legitimacy.
But it’s an ongoing examination. It’s not fixed,
unlike government which gets its legitimacy from
constitutions, elections or whatever.
But there are processes. We in civil society do
recognise some civil societies as more legitimate than
I think it’s a big discussion, but I will be very
clear that we very often talk about it and it’s a key
central question to the role of civil society.
If I have to mention couple of things, I would say
it’s demonstrated work, which shows that you have
presented the interests of the constituencies that you
claim to represent that should be there, there should be
demonstrated connections, there is where there should be
acceptance among other people, other groups in your area
of work that you do represent certain things.
So there is a hugely complex but very ongoing
process of legitimisation and it’s very easy to say that
civil society is illegitimate. It’s just more complex,
One of the tasks of civil society is, apart from
participation, is asking difficult questions. The
organisers that I started asking difficult questions
about this forum before I came in here.
The difficult question is to engage with power, to
diffuse power. The only way to diffuse power is to
engage with power and question the power and speak on
behalf of those who have been left out.
There has been a certain history of how civil
society has evolved. A lot of early work, as everybody
knows, has been done by technical people who were very
good people, exceptionally good people, very cream of
the society who made internet as the way internet is
This community then grew, I mean, this community
perhaps grew a little, but internet grew faster than
them and governments got interested and internet started
affecting everybody’s life. It started affecting
intellectual property, started affecting trade,
governance, reform, everything, civil society outside
people who were involved with technical expertise, got
involved and there’s some kind of lines of tension which
came up between those initial volunteers who put a lot
of work and the new civil society.
I think this is an issue which should be discussed
more and that community is generally recognised as the
technical community, which has been associated with the
development of the internet.
There has been lines of disengagement or rather
disengagement between the two sides.
I do think that probably the community which was
incumbent civil society in a way, which were associated
with the development of internet in a non commercial and
on in status manner, probably needed to do more to
accept the fact that internet has become now a bigger
reality and more people from outside who want to come in
and understand it and be a part of that particular civil
I did discuss it, that expertise cannot be used as
political currency beyond a point. We can give you
a Nobel prize, but we are still it’s the same equal
vote, which anybody else gets.
There are a whole lot of complex issues would take
a long time to discuss about, but there was this
tendency, perhaps, to kind of close and say, well, this
is committee which knows more and therefore there are
more representative of whatever.
And that engagement with a wider civil society has
been a problem, many people are trying to do work on it
and I really appreciate that, but I think those
discussions should come out more in the open and that
would do all of us a service.
The technical community has had closer relationship
with policy making bodies and they have difficulty to
recognise or disengage from the fact that policy I can
Burmaing body is then a policy making body and it itself
has to be questioned by a civil society outside it and
that recognition has been not very forthcoming in a way
and there has also been another issue. The suspicion of
the state as one party out to take control of the
internet are not completely unfounded, has made them
distanced from the state so much and go perhaps many of
them so close to the business sector that that has been
a problem of tension for the rest of the civil society
about disengagement of the voluntary civil society
system from the business sector and there again those
lines of tensions between technical community and civil
society have come.
The last thing about multi-stakeholderism.
Prof Peng said that internet governance is to create
a public good and Prof Xue Hong said in the morning
about new form of global democracy.
I think there are a loss of questions about
multi-stakeholders, I don’t myself understand it very
well, but I think it needs to be engaged with. More has
to be talked about it before it takes a final format and
taking things for granted and there are issues of
conflict of interest and I understand forums as public
participation forums primarily and anything more and
I have a couple of points to make which I would leave
out now, but I must say that it should not be taken as
a composite structure which is presented to you, a lot
of political issues around it, those issues have to be
examined and alone this new form of public participation
So what I would expect the IGF to do is to take note
of the fact that and when they go to the IGF and make
recommendations, to make note of the fact that
participation is what basically a public participation
forum should be looking for, a very actively of the
disempowered and to keep on examining the role of
different stakeholders and I understand the APRIG asked
for a slot for a workshop on the role of civil society
which is good and those kind of examinations are
important role of business, role of the government and
those kind of issues should be discussed more, apart
from the very technical decisions, discussions which we
have had, both things should go side by side.
Thank you very much.
>>Charles Mok: Thank you, let’s go straight to our next
panellist, John Fung, from the Hong Kong Council of
>>John Fung: I have a social service background, so let me
start by explaining that there are two things, two major
things that social service organisations do.
Firstly, we provide direct services in the community
to help the most disadvantaged.
Secondly, we work towards social changes and try to
influence policy maker, policy changes, towards general
wellbeing of people.
Therefore, communicating of views in the community
to the government is a very important role.
Right from the old colonial era, the Hong Kong
Government has very clever way to engage the public.
Opinion pole was not very common when I was younger,
plus those tools, those polls would usually be giving
dry numbers and percentages without reflecting the
sentiments, emotions and the concerns.
That clever way was a structure of advisory
committees, councils, meetings, and by appointing
community leaders, representatives of civil societies,
into the many committees, views were heard, consensus
These were all very well until web 2 came along.
In March, the proliferation of social media.
All of a sudden, the government realises that the
old way of assimilating views and absolving the
representatives into advisory structures seemed to have
stopped being effective.
Not only can people publish the views in great
details on the internet, netizens are difficult to be
The dominant culture in web 2 is de-centralisation
and distributed views anyway. Everyone if the
government sets up 10,000 more committees, that won’t be
enough to accommodate the different views.
That’s the challenge for the government, in terms of
continuing to be a government and legitimacy.
It is also a challenge to CSO in general, because
their roles in being the channel to consolidate public
opinions, to formulate consensus, seems to about
If the government or anyone wants to learn about
public opinions and listen to public, they probably can
go do that, can do so on the internet directly.
Perhaps even better with the powerful search engine.
So what would be left for traditional CSOs to do in
terms of social movement and social change?
We can say for sure that unorganised individuals and
unorganised unstructured groups or loosely structured
groups at best on the internet could demonstrate
extremely strong power in mobilisation, in shaping
social discourse and agenda and in pushing for social
movements of all types.
But how about follow-up work which requires a lot of
errands to be run, and those boring logistics at the
Does it mean that the roles of CSIs would be
shifting more towards tasks of such nature?
I don’t know. This is my first question to you.
My second observation is related to the first one.
Web 2 changes the landscape of NGOs, of CSOs in
Hong Kong and in the world. I think it will, if it is
not already happening.
Hong Kong, like other parts of the world, has a wide
range of CSOs, some are tiny and small with one or no
staff and some are huge, as big as having a budget of
close to US$100 million a year.
In the past, needless to say, bigger NGOs were more
influential because they have more resources to do
lobbying, to conduct a wide range of promotional
activities and to engage the public for support and so
on and so forth.
So they’re winners, most of the time.
In web 2 era, it’s not the case any more.
Quite the contrary, my observation is that bigger
organisations seem to be more prudent and having more
reservations in adopting more interactive tool to engage
the public and they are more like the government, in
terms of mindset.
But on the other hand, smaller NGOs are more
vibrant, more open minded, more courageous to try new
And the adoption of web 2 and social media seems to
So my projection is that weaker CSOs, therefore,
would take better and more advantage of the new
technology as compared to their bigger counterparts.
The third thing I want to say is about internet
Internet governance is very complicated, as most of
us are aware, there’s a range of technical and
nontechnical and yet hard to understand issues.
I don’t think there’s one single person that can
claim expertise to all the issues involved.
It’s taken myself, for instance, a few years to
overcome slightly my own internet governance phobia, my
local host organising committee colleagues would agree
how hard it has been for me to engage NGOs in Hong Kong
to participate in the Hong Kong IGF tomorrow.
So it’s a challenge to us all to think about how to
make use of web 2, to make internet governance and all
those policy issues at least look more relevant and
friendly to the community, to the NGOs and users in
I’m sure Cheryl and some other people probably have
been working along these lines and I look forward to an
easier and more participatetry channel to consult users
views on internet governance issues.
>>Charles Mok: Thank you, John. John brought up the local
conference that will happen on Thursday and Friday and
I hope any of you, if you are going to be still around
in Hong Kong, to make sure that you try to join us and
meet some of our local NGOs and other people that we
hopefully can try to educate them more about the IG
Let me turn now to our next speaker, Mr Yap Swee
Seng, from Malaysia.
>>Yap Swee Seng: Good afternoon, everyone.
Let me thank the organisers for inviting me to this
very interesting conference, as we are coming from the
human rights organisation background, seldom we
participate in this kind of very technological oriented
Anyway, I think it is very important that the human
rights organisation has been using internet tools for
human rights work to promote and protect human rights
and have created a lot of impacts all over the world and
in many countries, for democratic change and protection
and promotion of human rights, so that’s in the Eastern
Bloc of Europe, as well as in many Asian countries.
But we are now looking at a trend that states and
governments are looking into the possibility of how to
control these tools of internet and this is a worrying
trend and in Asia, we are seeing this trend increasingly
and leading by none other than China, in various ways.
I think this is for the state, this is the so-called
internet governance. This is from the perspective of
It comes in at least three forms.
So whatever you call it, limitation, control or
governance, this is the government’s perspective and
this internet governance comes in three phases.
One is assessability, limitation to accessibility
and because of economic constraints, like in countries
like Laos, in Burma, that makes internet access very
expensive and unaffordable to many.
This contributed, of course, to the issues of
Yesterday, we already have a session on this one, so
will not want to spend much time on this, but accept to
just point out the reality in the region, in the Asian
region, is that a lot of countries don’t even have
enough electricity, let alone access to internet.
So it is a big surreal when I heard yesterday, when
some governments are pursuing 100 per cent of
penetration of internet and when some countries like
Burma and Laos or Cambodia have less than 1 per cent of
internet penetration and countries like Laos,
40 per cent of the population still doesn’t have regular
So it is very stark reality in the region.
Control of accessibility is one.
Second the second phase is censorship and
This comes in various forms. One form is blocking
websites, to prevent freedom of information, freedom of
This happens in many countries, China, Burma,
In Vietnam, you can’t access world press, you can’t
access blog spot, BBC, human rights watch, as well as in
Burma and in China, you can’t access websites related
Tianamen Square Massacre, Xingang, Tibet issues.
So those are one way to block freedom of information
Secondly, also, this is to block websites from
outside and the other way also to close down websites
that is within that has been in existence and when it
cross the line.
This is happening in many countries, including
Malaysia and recently in Thailand, in the past two
months, more than 1,000 websites have been closed down
by the Thai government, that is perceived as supporting
the red shirt protestors.
In certain countries, also it is required
registration for internet users and in Vietnam, photo
identification is needed for users to use internet in
Surveillance and data retention is another form of
control by the state or internet governance in the sense
of a state.
A lot of this surveillance, for instance, in
Vietnam, you have this software that is installed that
will track the access of users to websites and this is
actually an infringement to the right to privacy of the
internet users and data retention is another key issue,
how states are using all this data that is tran
transacting through internet and cyber space.
Then another form is also state organised cyber
attacks or cyber threats to websites to bloggers, to
blogs that are critical of government policies or
criticising government policies and practice.
Then lastly, there is another form of control that
is invisible, but it is very much present. It is self
censorship. When a lot of draconian laws are in place,
although it was not used, but it create a chilling
effects on internet users, so when you are keying
statements into the computer, you think twice whether
you should, you know, say things like that in the
The last form is the most severe one, is of course
the direct punishment on users when you cross the line.
So there is countries that permit freedom of
expression, like in Malaysia, like in many countries,
but there is no freedom after expression.
So after you express and then you get into jail.
So that is the extent of freedom of information that
you would enjoy in countries like Singapore or Malaysia
This is the arrest and detention on the pretext of
threat to national security, sedition, you know, trying
to overthrow governments and a lot of all these charges
are thrown against the internet users who just merely
exercise legitimate freedom of expression or even to
just access freedom of information to information that
is related to public interest.
Of course, also we are seeing another trend that is
developing which is the use of defamation on internet
users and this is crippling freedom of expression,
especially in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, as
well as recently in Indonesia, where a woman was
criticising hospital service and she was sued by the
hospital for a huge amount of compensation and this is
actually criminalising speech in a way that is really
My questions of the problems of internet governance
and this internet governance so-called, in the form of
national policy of a lot of governments, it has at least
I see four problems.
One is a lot of times, the definition of cyber
crimes are really broad. It is framed very broad, very
vague, very general, that it encompass almost everything
that you do would be construed, can be construed as
a crime, cyber crime, if the government wants to take
action on you.
Secondly, is also the arbitrary exercising of the
powers given to the government. A lot of these cyber
laws give sweeping powers to the government and there is
a lack of check and balances in this cyber laws and the
whole political system.
There is no democratic oversight of this exercising
of powers and if you look at the situation in Thailand,
these two months, Thai government close down more than
1,000 websites, without due process.
There is no opportunity for the websites owner to
even defend themselves and being given the reason why
their website is being closed down.
The third problem is that a lot of this internet
governance by the government is actually very state
interest oriented perspective and it is more to protect
state security rather than human security.
Lastly, it is the lack of consultation and
participation of civil society and general public in
formulating this kind of national policy on internet
My recommendations would be, first, I think earlier
yesterday, there was a very good comment on the internet
governance should serve the purpose of development.
So it should not be used to actually stifle
Secondly, is democracy and through internet, I think
it should have democratic oversight on internet
Thirdly, I think internet governance should also be
in light with international human rights principles and
So we should not left out these key principles,
which is universal, and it has been recognised and
adopted by many governments as members of the United
Nations and there is a whole range of human rights
regime in internationally that should be applied across
sectors, whether it is cyber space or in the real world.
It should be applied equally.
Fourthly, it is consultation and participation.
Civil society and public members should be
institutionalised, should be institutionised in a way
that they would be able to participate and there is
a genuine consultation can take place.
Lastly, I think IGF should also coordinate and
synchronise with the United Nations human rights
council. This is the human rights council is the body
that tasked to enforce human rights all over the world.
There is a need for IGF to also mainstream human
rights into internet governance and for instance,
I think one way is that the IGF can maybe in future,
invite the UN special report on freedom of expression
and his next report is really looking into
decriminalising freedom of expression in internet in
cyber space, so that is one of the focus, the next
report that he will report to the human rights council
and I think this is one way that human rights can be
integrated and mainstreamed into internet governance.
>>Charles Mok: I think it’s a very concrete suggestion that
Swee has brought about the United Nations human rights
commission bringing that into the IGF process.
Next let us turn the mic over to Christine Loh from
Civil Exchange in Hong Kong.
>>Christine Loh: I think in view of time running out, I’ll
just make a very few observations.
I think the first one I just want to make is for
those of us who are from civil society, of course we
need to stand up and see what it is that we can do.
However, I would like to offer some perspective about
how we look at this. Everything that has been said
points to my first point, which is that we’re witnessing
the kind of contest between segments of society that we
have witnessed for thousands of years.
Every time there is a disruptive technology or
disruptive something that comes up, that can change the
status quo of power, there is a contest.
So now we are talking about the internet and
therefore, there’s a contest between those who are in
power, whether they are the government power, whether
they are business power, civil society who always feels
they have to be more empowered, they’re stepping forward
to see what it is that they should be doing.
So my first point is if we look at this as
a context, and we look at this more historically to see
how these contests are going to continue, that should
tell us we’re fighting a long battle.
The second point I want to make is the fact that the
internet community has now moved away from the technical
aspects, to the broader policy aspect.
This tells us that the internet, web 2, it’s come to
a stage of maturity.
I think wins you have sorted out the technical
issues and people get a sense of the power of this
disruptive thing that we have, we are entering that next
stage, to define the sharing of power of this new
disruptive means that we have.
The third point I want to make, it’s really about
Who everybody has given examples on different
governments in Asia, as to what they’re trying to do.
If we remember back in time, in Asia, I think the
first country and correct me if I’m wrong, but the first
country that wanted to systematically control the
internet was Singapore.
I remember when we go back to those days, there was
a lot of media discussion about whether they could do
it, how they were going to do it and we heard discussion
coming from the west, essentially saying, don’t be
stupid, you can’t control this.
Now, what then happened in Singapore was a very
interesting example of how the government went about
dealing with it.
I think many of you know that story, even better
Then, you have a big country like China, saying,
well, I think I’m going to do it too.
So here, the point I’m trying to make is, it’s the
cultural difference. Perhaps in the US, the government
would never say I’m going to try and control the
internet. They wouldn’t even bother to start thinking
about doing it. They have just said, well, you know, we
don’t need to do it and we’re not going to do it.
However, if you come to another part of the world,
where the culture, the underlying culture is more
authoritarian, society is structured in a different way,
you get what some of my panellists have said, well, you
can either call it the fear drive of the government, of
chaos, or you can call it the desire for harmony drive.
But essentially what we’re witnessing is governments
seeing this as disruptive, that could affect them and
yes, of course, they are going to control it.
When you see certain governments in Asia, the amount
of time, effort, money and manpower they are devoting to
creating these systems, you see that they are serious.
I am not sure this is going to change any time in
the short term.
The last point I want to make is, in terms of going
forward, we do understand the more authoritarian
governments, what they are really fearful of. They are
not fearful of single individuals trawling the internet
and learning about all sorts of things. They are
fearful of the potential for association and
organisation, because that they see is going to disrupt
their power, disrupt their values and ideologies.
So that’s really where we are.
If we accept that, and then we look at what is it
that civil society can do, what is it that we can do
nationally, what is it that there is out in the
international or that where we can do that, very often,
we know this is going to boil down back to some argument
about liberalism versus corporatism if you want to call
it that, if you want to call it authoritarianism, but
that battle will continue, will continue locally and
a lot of NGOs are going to be accused of collaborating
with western forces that wants to destabilise Asian
countries or developing economies.
So I’m afraid these are just some of the things that
we do have to deal with.
In Hong Kong, my last comment is we are in a very
interesting place, where we have — where we are able to
have this kind of discussion, where we are able to
invite people from around the region to come and have
this kind of in depth discussion with us. We are free
to trawl the internet. We have more and more people,
I think hooking into social media. We have more NGOs
being born, although we have NGOs that are perhaps more
GOs as well, as I said, that’s the corporatism side that
we have to deal with.
We have more money being thrown on both sides, so
actually, in Hong Kong, I find this is a very
interesting space to actually watch this contest.
My last comment is, really, we are just kind of at
the beginning of a new kind of contest to witness
because of the rise of the internet.
>>Charles Mok: Let me turn now to our last panel itself,
Cheryl Langdon-Orr. All of you know her very well I’m
sure and after that, we will listen to some of the views
and questions from our floor audience.
>>Cheryl Langdon-Orr: Thank you, Charles and I am several
going to be as briefly in my world as humanly possible,
because I also don’t want to stop you from your
midafternoon break, your beverages and other needs.
I would like to, however, first of all pick up on
a number of points that all the panellists have made and
I think what should be the take home message from this
session is the diversity of enabling and disabling
factors we need to deal with here.
The role in internet governance for the voice and
specifically in today’s session, the voice of civil
society, I think is on the agenda, isn’t going to go
away, was recognised because of the parity it was given
with government and business sector in the IGF model in
the first place.
But we do need to continue to rework it, remanage it
and see where it is not actually meeting its remit.
But just let me take you back-to-back in time for
one moment. I have modified this, so with all apologies
to the original author, who I’ll confess to later. This
was written in 1996:
“The fundamental human desire for communications has
been the engine driving social, cultural, scientific and
economic development throughout history. The medium of
the internet has brought about widespread creative
communication between individuals and groups that
previously had little chance of contact. The overriding
objective is to give expression of the needs and wishes
of individuals, groups or organisations that have
a common interest in the viability of the internet, so
that all users of the internet may continue to benefit
from and to contribute to its applications, technologies
I think we probably have something we could put on
another T-shirt for a future regional internet
governance. That was written in 1996. I have dropped
the words new media. I have dropped the words
Australia. But I do think it’s that basic precept that
we are needing to deal with and why it is so important
that we see our role in internet governance of voice as
being so important.
Why on earth is a member, admittedly, of the
Internet Society of Australia and a person who
represents Asian Pacific regional at large organisation,
within the wonderful world of ICANN’s model of
multi-stakeholderism, which means I’m a member of the at
large advisory committee for ICANN, sitting here talking
about civil society.
It’s because within the model that I’m currently
involved with, in the ICANN mantle and by therefore what
we do in internet governance and the Internet Governance
Forums, we have under our gambit, both voices from
individuals, voices from various organisations and
certainly voices from civil society, but voices which
are regionally diverse.
So what we are grappling with is the fact that we
have least developed and most developed countries
wanting to bring voice from the internet end user and we
have experimented with a particular model.
It’s had fault, it’s had benefits it’s had
advantages, but it’s also shown us a few little things
that I think are worthwhile us contemplating, as we look
at how civil society and voice can be brought into
Going back to one of the issues that was brought
forward this morning, by Prof Xue Hong, is having this
voice is an important part of legitimisation and it
would be delight to see it as — but we do have a little
way to go on that first.
But it is important to see that we need to recognise
that when we are talking about voice and even very
highly organised civil society organisations, depending
on their size, it’s going to be very rare one when its
sole objective is to look at internet governance.
Most of them have a vast number of other things on
If we are lucky, they will be technically savvy
enough to at least keep up with some of the language we
use and the acronyms we use and the interesting
technical aspects that we have to deal with.
But we do need to realise that there are abling and
disabling factors and how we talk about internet
governance, how we talk about the internet and how we
tend to use it as a English based language discussion,
are real inhibitory block points for a number of voices
to be heard.
Regional Internet Governance Forums or forums like
this can cater better to bringing some of those
unifications voice and cultural differences together.
Local internet governance discussions and engagement
with local internet community is another way of doing
But I do wonder whether or not we are doing
ourselves a disservice when we are trying to promote
voice into these very important functions. We see
ourselves only as having a choice of being participatory
I would like to think that the voice of internet end
users and the voice of those who are thinking on behalf
of internet end users who haven’t got on to the internet
yet, those billions who are yet to come who are the
other side of the digital divide, and don’t know how to
have their voices heard yet, those of us who are looking
after those needs need to strike a balance between being
participatory and being purely a complainant.
I’m of the personal view and it is only a personal
view, that you actually have to be in the room and in
the forum to have your voice heard.
So how we get that to happen more globally and
indeed to hear Asia’s voice and the Asia Pacific voice
more particularly is the challenge I think we need to
One of the biggest dangers I think is complacency.
Those of us who have the internet, even if it isn’t at
an affordable immersed in this area believe isn’t that
all managed? Hasn’t it all been organised? Isn’t it
just like electricity or water or something? Of course
we know it is far from that, but we do have to
breakthrough that barrier of complacency and we probably
have to do a little bit of local outreach to our user
community to encourage them to think in the ways of the
model and the multi-stakeholder model that I think
everyone in this room is quite supportive of.
Of course, a perfect example was what the organisers
of this group did and that’s run the youth camp, the IGF
youth camp. Absolutely perfect example. Every one of
those I think nearly 60 individuals will all go out and
virally comment and create interest in another five or
six and that will go on.
So for a two or three-day excursion into role play,
you’ve set yourselves here in both China and in
Hong Kong but also in Asian Pacific, a model where you
are making change for the next five to 10 years.
The issue of experience, how we get people who are
not the IGF governance old group, those who know how
it’s done and how to do and what to do, what and when,
the confusion, the language barriers that I’ve mentioned
also, but more importantly, the literacy and technical
levels. That’s technical literacy and literacy,
literacy. As we bring more mobile internet users
on-line, their definitions of even the simplest forms of
interaction with their machinery is very different than
the ones we are all using here and how we therefore move
into a social web and web 2.0 tools to get everything in
under 140 characters, they are the challenges that we
not only need to assist in, but we need to make sure we
are listening to.
As I move finally to the other matters that I think
are probably extremely important, we need to make sure
we have opportunity, getting a seat at the table, can’t
have a voice without getting in the room, banging on the
outside of the door is rarely a successful as being
invited to the top table.
So we need to make sure that we give a seat at the
table, in the local regional and of course eventually,
the main IGF itself. We need to make it as easy as
possible for the involvement to be successful and that
probably means prior preparation done regionally and
locally and we need to look at the cost.
Resource allocation, human, financial, all of these
costs, let alone just getting to a major IGF meeting,
I find it fascinating we are talking about internet and
we so rarely use it as a communication tool in these
We don’t have a live blog and we don’t have
a Twitter feed and we don’t have a whole lot of things
that we could be doing to complement our work here today
and allow all those who aren’t in the room have a voice.
We need to up skill and give a level of understanding to
those we want to give a voice to.
Here is the most important thing. To those who are
in charge of the forum, whether or not it is a local,
a regional or the major IGF itself, you need to
recognise that there is a clear need to give recognition
and respect to the views that are brought in by the end
user voice. Having parity in name and having parity in
some of these forums and I think if we can start
appreciating the extraordinary effort that goes into
developing a genuine representational view from these
voices, think about the hundreds of thousands of man
hours and the extraordinary risk and Chang that we have
heard about. If we start to appreciate what goes into
getting that type of view and saying publicly that we
appreciate it, doesn’t mean we have to agree with it,
but we should show our appreciation, then that will be
a more welcoming environment.
To wind up, I’m going to steal, plagiarise yet
another line and this time it’s from the disability
sector in Australia. I think we — the other part of
the t-shirt not about us, without us.
>>Charles Mok: I guess I did a terrible job of controlling
the time, but I guess we still have the opportunity to
take a little bit of comments and questions from the
May I suggest that we at least keep this panel until
4 o’clock and then you will have the break, but that
means that you might have only less than 10 minutes of
comments and questions from the floor.
How many any of you have anything you would like to
ask or say?
I would like to take one round of questions and then
from I see the three of you and then let our panellists
respond and also give the final remarks, hopefully our
panellists in the final remarks can also give us
a little bit of your quick perspective on what, as
a group, you was want to suggest for us to bring back to
the whole IGF process, especially after our discussion
Let me start with Xue Hong.
>>Xue Hong: Thank you, I do have a comment on Mr Parminder
Jeet Singh’s wonderful presentation. I’m particularly
interested in the participation part, even though my
comments what are already partially been responded by
Cheryl Langdon-Orr. She always has a magic power to red
Yes, I mention the issue of the reason I know
Parminder is most senior researcher on this issue, you
are the world-class expert on this. I’m quite new on
Before we are going to governments, you are
absolutely right, we should first think about
participation. In the unlikely case could make
decisions, eventually and only a few hundred of human
beings on this planet are going to that venue and make
decision under the sort of disguise of consensus, to
govern the whole globe. That’s very concerning. Yes,
of course, I fully agree with that.
Before we go to governments, we should think about
how to engage people to make it really participative,
but let’s go the point that Cheryl raised. If you want
to be heard, you won’t have the impact, you should be in
the room. You should participate. If you don’t
participate, even though this global voting, this is
election system, you won’t have any impact felt at all.
I know you probably not a fan of Professor
Milton’s’s global election theory. 10 years ago, ICANN
sought global election for the board members. It was
not very successful, otherwise we won’t have the tier
structure for the large ICANN.
So this is my question. What do you think which way
we should go to engage people participation fully agree,
but how to move forward? Thank you very much.
>>: I’m Kay from Barminda. LI’m working with money of the
biggest civil society groups in Myanmar, in Rangoon.
Normally, when I introduce myself, in the
international events like this, I have to say I came
from Burma Myanmar, because the term Myanmar is not
acceptable for everyone. In terms of technical arena,
this is very different, because the domain name .MN is
always used for everyone, but nobody says like, you
know, it should not be the case like .MN is not OK or
not acceptable, but it should be before BR or
representing Burma. Because mostly the technicians are
very pragmatic. They use very practical way and they
don’t want to spend time for arguing how to approach the
problem, rather they want to focus on the problem
Also, thank you so much for bringing me as part of
civil society group here and also, in Burma, the
internet became part of the democratisation process and
part of the — access to the internet is really, really
we stricted, because of the government sanction, but not
only because of that, but also other factors like
economic sanction including economic sanction like, for
example, I cannot buy email storage site from Google.
I cannot buy anything from I tunes store, for example.
Also, even access to this kind of international event is
very limited for the other important key from Burma.
I am three participants from here, from the civil
society group, but I don’t see any from the government
side and the business community and also other NGOs.
Anyway, thank you so much. Next time, I hope to see
>>Charles Mok: I hope next time, wherever our regional IGF
is going to be held, we get more participation from more
>>: I’m Rita from the Hong Kong Foresight Centre.
Generally, my impression is from the panellists,
civil society is not empowered, but is kind of in a weak
position in this game of who has governance in the
Also, this rhetoric of whether there is a contest or
we hear a lot about conflict, but couldn’t we also see
this as an opportunity space and new forms of
collaboration and even social innovation? It’s
interesting because last week, I was at a very similar
conference in Europe and I really for the first time,
had the feeling that governments are taking the
influence of civil society groups very, very seriously
and they actually wanted and they wanted to improve the
quality of data, the openness of data.gov that we see
across so many countries now, the access to more
information that is the basis for action for all groups
in all society.
I mean, I do believe that this whole development
into web 2 and social media really has for the first
time, the opportunity for real cooperation and social
So maybe we should also at the next meeting in Asia,
get a few more examples of positive actions where we can
see serious collaboration between civil society groups
and governments. I think there are such examples as
>>Charles Mok: This gentleman in the back, I think this
would be our last comment from the floor and then I will
give the panellists a final round.
>>: My name is Jenswidi. I am a blogger from the
I think there is you might be beautiful, but it’s
useless to wink in the dark.
In view of this, I think in terms of IGF, it is
really important to have everyone be part of it and more
important, if you are a civil society, which means you
might be part of an organisation or just a concerned
citizen, not just a concerned, but a concerned citizen,
is that you become part of it.
Just to share in the Philippines, we have had
several issues in terms of internet governance, in terms
of legislation, politics, and I observe and notice that
apart from the NGOs, several concerned citizens also
volunteer part of it.
For example, we have presidential decrees that
supposed to affect internet commerce and there are
hearings for that.
Bloggers, media people went to it, because they felt
they were affected by it, but more than that, they made
their on lines presence felt through blogs, through
twits, I think there is also Twittering coming along
now, maybe for the next IGF, you could have a Twitter
And also, live string. We have done a lot of live
string as well.
But, of course, the important thing is I think that
everyone should be, everyone who is a stakeholder,
government, civil society, and every concerned citizen
should be part of it.
And as you said, everyone should just respect each
other’s ideas in this.
>>Charles Mok: Thank you. Who wants to go first?
>>Cheryl Langdon-Orr: I might be last on the line, but I’m
going to be first on the responses and I am going to
pick up on the last two responses.
But to some extent, also at least Hong’s question as
It is purely impractical for many thoughs of people
to have their individual voices heard unless we are
going to sit in fora for a very long time.
You do need a mechanism of consensus building and of
distillation of the most important aspects that
a majority not global majority, because I think we’re
a long way from having, but certainly perhaps
a subregional or regional view. We need to have
a mechanism to get some sift and sort, otherwise we will
be hearing a cacophony not a symphony of voice and
that’s probably a good way of stopping forward movement,
if and when in some of my other practices and life
skills, I wish to slow down a process, sinking someone
and a group of people under enough information is an
excellent way of making sure that you can get out comes
which may not necessarily be for the greater good,
something I would like to think we avoid in the world of
To come back to the web 2.0 and particularly to
where we see the advantages in what are these
challenges, Sharil yesterday brought forward the concept
that within Asian Pacific being such a large and diverse
culturally linguistically and many other ways group,
this what we might be able to do perhaps is distil one
or two points of particular consensus and I see that as
a vast opportunity. It’s a vast opportunity because if
Asian Pacific can get even one or two points of
particular consensus, we can practically guarantee it
will probably get global buy-in as a important issue as
So in our diversity and in our challenges, should we
meet them effectively, we probably then can take our
rightful place as leaders in this area.
There is always going to be a very great difference
between the attitudes in the already highly digitised
and the yet to be digitised world and we need to
remember and respect that we are going to have divorcety
of need and thinks like access and equity in the first
ground, access and equity is looking at getting just the
pipes and the mechanisms out there, so internet is an
The next layer tends to be and how do we manage it
for our physical limitations of hearing and vision,
Hong Kong seems to be the variation on the theme and
you are doing it all together.
One of the ways we could perhaps for next time bring
some best practice examples from countries and
governments who are looking at web 2.0, web on
technology and social media usage, and I’m sure within
Asian Pacific, we should be able to find a few of those
and obviously perhaps then bring them to the larger IGF.
>>Charles Mok: Any final thoughts? We are running really
late, but Sean and Parminder.
>>Sean Ang: Some comment on I think there are many civil
societies they want to have a voice. Internet
governance process, but what is lacking now is the
mechanism for the process.
For example, what are the issues? Now it appears
that we are discussing some issues here and there and
there is no proper structure.
So if there is a proper structure, what are the top
10 issues? How do we prioritise the issue? So once we
know these are the top 10 issues, who decides the top 3
Then what happens to the issue? So at this moment,
this mechanism is still unclear to me and I’m not even
sure whether whatever I’m recommending is it being
pushed up higher or whether it is relevant.
Who decides? Who is making the decision, whatever
you are saying now is not relevant.
So these are the things I think needs to be more
transparent, needs to be clear, so that civil society
can be engaged better.
>>Parminder Jeet Singh: I can’t answer your question,
Prof Xue Hong, but you basically asked, this is
a statement of the problem, then what is the answer to
That’s too huge.
I think what we need to do is that we recognise the
limitations of the new method. We seem to have started
thinking because of a new tech know social structure,
everybody can be pleasant, everybody can be there and
there is complete individualisation, everybody can
present one’s own interest, there’s no need of the
collectives, no need of the typical representative
structures, I do agree immense amount of things have
changed and we need to use all the structures and things
should change, but things should also remain the same
a lot and that’s the main point. That’s what Sean and
Cheryl said, we need to remember that certain kind of
representative systems will keep on working and let’s
not junk them, even as normative frameworks and this is.
We need to go and make the changes.
The concept of multi-stakeholderism sometimes cites
problems for me because it seem that is if people who
are present can talk all of them are present and if all
considers can be put together, public interest will be
created and I think public interest is created if you
get into a framework of public interest. Each person
comes to this place with the intention not of pushing
one’s own interest, but with the conception of public
interest and a classical political theory, so I think we
need to recognise this whole political theories and go
from there to the new systems and not rush too fast and
that wouldn’t serve.
One of the main things is that what many of these
systems give us is they give us voice without agency.
They give us presence without politics.
You can all speak, but nothing will happen, so you
can be happy that you spoke. Go home after that.
So you always need to connect systems to outcomes
which are political out comes which affect us. Many of
the systems, including the IGF, which I’m OK, people say
don’t decide something, but you need to be connected to
somebody or something which sides and if you just going
to talk, that’s not enough.
So connection of these systems to actual political
outcomes are important.
Two things I think which should be taken back from
I want to move out of what I said, I am incleaned to
say new things, but one is that we are talking about
participation. You have to actively go out and seek
participation. It’s not enough to say a system is open
and everybody can come, because everyone cannot come
unless you go fetch them, facilitate them, enable them,
even fund them, so the basic job of IGF is to seek that
Second, it should be open to discuss difficult
questions. What is multi-stakeholderism? What is
participation? What is policy making? Who is present
and who is not present should be a part of the IGF
process, not only the technical questions.
Thirdly, there should be connection of all this
talking to some possibilities of outcomes which affect
our lives. IGF may not decide anything, but it should
connect to possibilities and places where certain kind
of outcomes are delivered, which could help public
interest, shaping of the technologies.
>>Charles Mok: I’m sure we are taking note of all of these
and hopefully we will have an opportunity to really feed
it back to IGF.
>>Yap Swee Seng: I think in terms of participation, I would
really support what has been happening in Europe and as
well as in Bangladesh. That means a national process.
I think that is one way that we can get more people
involved, because not everybody can come to Hong Kong
and Hong Kong is so expensive and good food, but very
expensive, but at the same time, you need funding for
these people to come and also, there is besides this
resource constraint, there is also a language barrier.
If you have it in national, of course a lot of the
marginalised also able to participate at the national
process, but when it comes to international, there will
be language barrier and so many other constraints.
So I think that is one way that IGF can reach out to
more people and got more participation.
>>Charles Mok: Issac and John, anything you might like to
I think with that, we really have to end this
session. We have over run quite a bit.
I think please give all of our panellists a round of
>>: Now is the coffee break. As we are running a little
bit late, so we will have 10 minutes coffee break and we
will be back at 4.20.