Brazil takes a lead in the future of the Internet

IT policy secretary: "We are sowing the seeds of a debate that has only just begun"
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The Brazilian government believes that it is in a strong position to lead the debate around global Internet governance and hopes to "energize" other countries to participate more actively in the future of the Net.

When debating the topics to be discussed at next week's Internet governance event NETmundial, the information technology policy secretary at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Virgílio Almeida, remarked that Brazil has the authority to be a leader in the subject of Internet governance.

"Not a lot of countries have a body like the [Brazilian Internet steering committee] CGI.br, which is a truly multistakeholder organization that has been in place for over 20 years and provided the source of the principles that will shape next week's discussions," Almeida told ZDNet.

"Our own Internet Bill of Rights, the Marco Civil, has already been voted by the Lower Chamber of the Congress and is due to be voted by the Senate. The Marco Civil is the result of a democratic process and something that prioritizes citizen rights. This also puts us in a very good position to discuss the future of Internet governance," Almeida added.

According to the IT policy secretary, the United States government plan to end its contractual oversight of ICANN over certain key aspects of Internet addressing and naming makes NETmundial "is even more timely."

"The multistakeholder nature of the event provides a good environment to have a productive debate about the freedom and openness of the Internet," Almeida said.

"It is important to emphasize that this conference is just the beginning of something greater, a process to strengthen global Internet governance issues," he added. 

"We are sowing the seeds of a debate that has only just begun. But we also want concrete results, real actions to come out of this event."

Critics have said that the US plan to end the ICANN contract is a dangerous move for the future of the Internet. For example, Republican members of the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee believe that letting go of ICANN could encourage other countries to attempt to seize control of the Web - but the secretary denied that Brazil would want to do anything to that effect.

"We do not want the ICANN to end of anything along those lines. But we do want a more globalized mechanism that would allow these discussions to take place in a multistakeholder environment," Almeida said, referring to the model that ICANN itself has advocated since the 1990s. 

"Also, we are not planning to host another meeting like NETmundial. But we do hope that these discussions around concerns that are not only technical, but also social and political, will help energize other countries to have their own discussions about Internet governance," the secretary added.

It was expected that one of the key topics to be addressed at the conference next week would be the adoption of anti-surveillance policies. However, the US has already said that it will not entertain any debate around the reach or limitations of state sovereignty in Internet policy.

When questioned about the stance the government would take on the spying matter, secretary Almeida said the conference will not have a slot dedicated to that particular subject and that the issue, which will be addressed within the block around the right to privacy on the Internet.

Since the NSA spying accusations became public, Brazil and Germany have pushed for a United Nations resolution for online privacy to be recognised as a human right and also for "no-spy" agreements with the US. However, when asked whether Brazil will be trying to get a consensus at NETmundial, Almeida said that "there is no schedule" for the matter to be resolved.

Internet governance NETmundial will take place on April 23-24, with about 600 delegates from 85 countries expected to attend, representing the civil society, private sector and the government.

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