[governance] NYT opinion by Vint Cerf: Internet Access is not a HR

Divina MEIGS divina.meigs at orange.fr
Sat Jan 7 03:54:30 EST 2012

Dear Ginger, Avri, Jean-Louis and other members of the list

I would like to join my support to Jean-Louis¹s approach to Vint Cerf¹s
comment and make it a plea not to confuse  technology with  humanity, so as
to remain people-centered as a civil society group. I understand the need to
bridge the digital divide and to ensure that ICT-driven media foster
equality and solidarity. But, the real human rights behind access to
internet already exist, and they are related to freedom of expression and
freedom of diffusion, as well as right to dignity, equality, privacy,
education and participation (among the most important). Access per se
doesn¹t make sense, because it is too easily confused and confined  to
technological hook-up: access is also about understanding quality content,
using it and eventually producing it (which requires education,
It doesn¹t mean that we can¹t battle to ask for cheaper, open, interoperable
access to broadband but it has to be seen as an enhancer of rights and not
be confused as a right in itself. I would rather plea for a broader
information and communication rights package that supports  individual and
collective creativity as well as  pluralism of ideas.

What we need to engage in, when dealing with this issue in multi-stakeholder
perspective is to ensure that the engineering community is ethically minded
and considers those human rights in the early design process of ICTs, not as
post-production gimmick under the form of opaque guidelines for indiscrimate
users.    We need to ensure that   human rights applied to ICT-driven media
maintain their capacity to evolve for the benefit of people and we need to
keep concentrating on relevant international instruments to ensure just
that.   As such we cannot let the technical community focus our attention on
a single aspect of the package that happens to play in favour of the
commercial expansion of proprietary  infrastructures. Let¹s keep our
attention focused on  open software, public value, information commons, net
neutrality and interoperability. This should empower people to prevent
fragmentation of the networks, privatisation and monopolistic property,
unwarranted surveillance, and threats on freedom of expression and dignity.


Divina Frau-Meigs
Professor, Sorbonne nouvelle University

New books: 
Divina Frau-Meigs, Socialisation des jeunes et éducation aux médias, Eres,
To order: 
ete/p2839-socialisation-des-jeunes-et-education-aux-medias.htm  and download
online chapter on ³news and youth images²  by clicking on "Supplément à

Divina Frau-Meigs, Media Matters in the Cultural Contradictions of the
ŒInformation Society¹: towards a human-rights based governance, Council of
Europe publishing, 2011
To order : 

Le 07/01/12 00:29, « Jean-Louis FULLSACK » <jlfullsack at orange.fr> a écrit :

> In a necessarily short article Vinton Cerf found the right words for
> countering the ICT/Internet evangelists ­the heads of ITU and UNESCO, in tune
> with Cisco and Carlos Slim are some of the most zealous for different but
> concurrent reasons- who are using the context of WSIS ad nauseam, to convince
> the whole world that access to ICTs and Internet IS TO BE a Human Right.
> What¹s more, this ³new age human right² has shifted from ³old fashioned DSL
> access² to Broadband access two years ago, with the full blessing of UNESCO
> (many thanks from the corporate ICT world !) and the ITU. Listen to their
> apologia for the ³Broadband as a basic need for DCs, like water² during the
> WSIS Forum last year, on the ITU WSIS website !
> Never was this shocking comparison questioned by any African representative,
> even from the civil society.
> That¹s why Vinton¹s statement is not only right in words and in time, but also
> urgently needed for bringing this derailing WSIS bandwagon on a new track,
> i.e. on actual Human needs, namely those mentioned by the MDGs, the Earth
> Summits (i.a. Jo¹burg)  and the Fourth UN Conference of the Least Developed
> Countries (LDC IV, Istanbul 2011). For this to happen, Vinton¹s statement that
> ³Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself²
> is the fundamental idea to take in account.
> What¹s more, he considers ³the responsibility of technology creators
> themselves to support human and civil rights² as a fundamental issue. And he
> adds 
> ³As we seek to advance the state of the art in technology and its use in
> society, we must be conscious of our civil responsibilities in addition to our
> engineering expertise².
> Isn¹t that at the very core of the WSIS discussion and of the CS commitment ?
> The only issue I missed in Vinton¹s statement is the mention of the pharaonic
> amount of financing invested in ICTs and Internet broadband infrastructure in
> DCs, in particular in Africa, and the huge sums paid by the mobile phone
> users. A large part of this treasury is a misuse of precious financial
> resources which could be otherwise spent on more vital needs for the
> population.      
> Notwithstanding, my warmest congratulations and gratitude to Vinton Cerf for
> this brilliant lesson. Let¹s hope that those to whom it is addressed are able
> for listening it.

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