The fourth meeting of the UN-backed Internet Governance Forum (IGF) kicked off in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, with discussions covering access, diversity, openness, security, and critical Internet resources.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, opened the four-day IGF meeting outlining the importance and necessity of wide internet access and coverage.
“By the year 2009, the number of people connecting in developing countries has expanded by an impressive 475 million to 17.5 per cent, and by 4 million to 1.5 per cent, while internet penetration in developed regions increased to 64 per cent,” Zukang said at the IGF opening ceremony.
“Against this backdrop of rapidly changing internet demographics, there are questions about how best to manage critical resources, expand access, and fully integrate all the world's languages.”
These issues and other aspects of internet governance need to be addressed for future development, especially in light of the 2015 target of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Zukang said.
According to Vice-Chairman of Tata Consultancy Services, India, Subramanian Ramadorai, new technologies can mean the difference between life and death for the 70 per cent of the global population still unconnected to the internet,
In his opening address on day one, Ramadorai quoted this year’s IGF theme "Internet Governance, creating opportunities for all" urging participating countries to consider the disparity between developed and developing countries access to the internet.
Ramadorai told the IGF that while 79.4 per cent of Australians and 70 per cent of Americans have internet access, only 15 per of Asians and only 4 per cent of Africans have access. The differences between developed and developing countries mean that their needs for the internet vary greatly, he said.
“In less developed countries, connectivity has a direct correlation with positive social and economic changes. By bringing it into rural clinics, schools and mobile devices, it impacts basic needs like education, health care, and agriculture,” he said.
“On the other hand, consumers in heavily penetrated markets are already addicted to broadband, and are looking for new applications and content, primarily entertainment such as Internet video content and games, Internet protocol television, and home networking which will bring devices and services into one integrated system within the home.”
The IGF meeting runs over three days and will conclude on November 18, 2009.