London Conference on Cyberspace: why it matters

Just under a week before its launch, growing attention is being paid in the mainstream media to the London Conference on Cyberspace.

Inevitably many will ask why we need another conference on the Internet. Hardly a week goes by without one turning up somewhere, maybe with a slightly different spin, or a slightly different cast, or in an edgier location?but essentially looking at issues which are either well aired already, or are not going to be taken much further forward by (yet) another conference.

We would like the London Cyberspace Conference, which takes place next week, to be different. This is why we have partnered the British Government to help organise it.

So what are the chances? There are three reasons, we think, to be optimistic.

A prime example of multi-stakeholder governance

First, this event is genuinely multi-stakeholder. Governments, businesses and non-governmental groups experts will work together on a common agenda. It?s easy to dismiss ?multi-stakeholderism? as simply a fashionable buzzword: but as far as the internet goes it?s the only way of working. The recent Economist feature on internet governance is a great primer on this issue. For those wanting to strip away the tech-speak and the high-politics, a good parallel is a busy, successful shopping mall, where lots of people come together to make it happen: local government, developers, retailers, police, road builders, bus operators.

It?s the economy, stupid.

Second, in the current economic climate, the internet matters more than ever before. The internet is no longer simply a smarter means of communication. It is no longer an agent for disrupting traditional retail models. It is a force in its own right: creating new goods and services, and transforming economies all over the world?including those at the lower end of the development curve. If we get the policy frameworks right, there is huge potential for the internet to be a catalyst to kick start renewed global growth.

An agenda that matters

Third, this Conference is tackling the big issues. From investment in infrastructure to security, through privacy and reliability. The key issues that need to be address to maximise internet-led growth are on the agenda and up for discussion.
So whilst it?s right to say that this Conference won?t be able to find all the answers (see recent Reuters coverage), our hope is that it will launch an inclusive process to identify best practices and clarify roles and responsibilities on-line. It?s therefore absolutely vital that all those with an interest in a vibrant and reliable support it.