Confederation of European Computer User Associations
|Confédération Européenne des Associations d'Utilisateurs des Technologies de I'Information|
ICANN Rome Meeting March 2004
Alain Moscowitz, CECUA Vice President
I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to be invited to address this GAC meeting in Rome and give you a short introduction to CECUA.
CECUA was founded in 1983 with support from the European Commission to identify, present and advocate issues of importance to computer users.
In 1998, CECUA and its partners1 held a conference in Brussels titled "The Citizen in the Global Information Society". The theme of the conference was Expectations, Opportunities and Concerns of the Citizens of the Information Society. To our surprise most discussion was on the concerns - the concerns of the citizens of the Information Society. Major citizens' concerns were security and the lack of a secure zone in which to conduct business, allow their children to access the Internet safely and to have safe access to secure information from government and other sources. CECUA and its partners1 concluded that the citizens needed a "safety net" to enable them to work and play safely in the Global Information Society and published a proposed Bill of Rights for the Citizens of the Information Society as a starting point for the debate on Internet Governance to ensure that the Internet met the same basic legal, societal rights and standards for all citizens, especially European citizens. The Bill of Rights2 has been the guide or Leitfaden for CECUA's activity and ever since the Conference, CECUA has been advocating and addressing these issues on many occasions and organizations such as the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament3. CECUA's main concerns today include digital divide, multilingualism, multiculturalism, Internet Governance and intellectual property rights.
Today being a citizen of the information society is synonymous with being a user of the Internet. Children and adults are taught how to use the Internet. Hardware, software and communications have become more affordable. However, the concerns have not gone away. They may be different but they are still there. Indeed some are much worse to take the example of viruses, Trojan horses, Spam, porn and fraud etc. Generally speaking the Internet is rather like the Wild West - there are no sheriffs, but lots of criminals who are making money at the citizen's expense and it is time to get the things under control before the Internet is destroyed as an invaluable source of information and a tool for the use with trust and confidence by the ordinary citizen and young person. Those criminals are nothing but terrorists causing harm to society and people. They have to be stopped and it is the role of governments to do so. Private corporation, e.g. ICANN, can not do it. Only the governments you are representatives of can do it. And it has to be done fast. CECUA is prepared to work with you and give you all the support it can.
The key to moving forward is
to realize that the Internet has two sides, the technical side being looked
after by ICANN and the "people" side being LOOKED AFTER BY NOBODY.
Too long we have focused only on the technical one. The people issues can
all be brought together under the term of Internet Governance. Internet Governance
is a global issue and international Governance should be laying down the rules,
policing the Internet and dealing with criminals in a manner which is commensurate
with the crime (instead of saying you are naughty and give a nominal fine
or custodial sentence). Without strong and positive action now we shall lose
the battle with criminals. Citizens will be disaffected because of the failure
to create a lawful, safe and secure Global Information Society. Since 1998
CECUA has organized and participated in a series of conferences and seminars,
the last one being the well attended conference on "Identity, trust and
confidence - security in the digital world" in Paris on February 12,
2004. And people are clearly coming around and understanding the importance
of the people side of the Internet.
ICANN is looking for Internet user involvement. ICANN is preparing to set up an At Large Organisation or RALO for short. This comes after years of haggling over user involvement and representation in ICANN.
The At Large Organisation is to be organised by regions through Regional At Large Organisations, RALOs for short, in each region. One of those regions is Europe.
First what does ICANN really want? Do they want a small group? Maybe a sounding board only? Or does ICANN want a real user representation with own opinions on user issues and ready to argue and defend them?
CECUA feels the former is not an option at this stage and age. The latter is the only choice for ICANN. Here are two key issues to be addressed: organisation and funding.
The potential membership of the European RALO is tens of millions of people in dozens of countries with different languages and cultures. For RALO to become successful, how many people have to join? What is the critical mass of people for RALO Europe? Obviously we are talking big numbers, millions or tens of millions. Starting from scratch it will take years of work to get such an organisation up and running. And it will also cost millions and millions of €. And where are those € millions coming from?
Another approach is to cooperate with existing organisations like CECUA and ISOC ECC . Those organisations already have an outreach to millions of users and this outreach could be extended to include RALO issues as well. This will only cost a fraction of the cost of starting from scratch and it can be done over a relatively short period of time. CECUA and ISOC ECC have already made representations to ICANN. But for this to happen ICANN has to rethink its position and change its bylaws and in the European tradition of representation by delegation allow organisations to become members of RALOs. CECUA asks the GAC to urge ICANN to make this change to its bylaws. It is the only way forwards. CECUA is ready to participate in such a cooperative venture with other organisations to get RALO into gear and quickly - a matter which is becoming increasingly urgent day by day.
Together we will win, individually we are bound to lose.
1The members were in addition to CECUA: CEPIS (Council of European Professional Informatics Societies), EFJ (European Federation of Journalists), EIUF (European ISDN Users Forum), EPA (European Parents' Association), EuroChambres, MIDEPH (Mouvement pour l'Information, les Droits et l'Expression de la Personne Humaine) and YES (Young Entrepreneurs of Europe. The Conference was supported by the European Commission DG Information Society.
2For Bill of Rights see www.cecua.org
is a member of the European Internet Foundation