Right for all to access the internet is ‘non-negotiable’, says Ravi Shankar Prasad at global cyberspace meet

"Cyberspace technologies must remain an enabler for our people. The quest for an open and accessible internet often leads to vulnerability," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi | Updated: November 23, 2017 11:53 pm
Nartendra Modi at cyberspace conference Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the inauguration of the fifth edition of the Global Conference on Cyber Space in New Delhi on Wednesday (Source: PTI)

Given India’s focus on keeping internet open for localised ideas and concepts, the right for all to access the internet is “non-negotiable”, Minister of Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday. His comments come at a time when the US Federal Communications Commission announced it would scrap the laws related to open internet access.

“Internet is supposed to be democratic. It is a big global platform, but must be linked the local ideas and concepts. That is the very clear focus of India, and therefore the right of access is non-negotiable,” Prasad said at the Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS) here.

The two-day international conference was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in presence of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union Houlin Zhao.

Wickremesinghe also supported net neutrality. “Net neutrality lowers the barriers of entry by preserving the internet as a fair and level playing field and helps businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive online. Similarly, open internet facilitates the marginalised and oppressed segments that are not adequately represented in the mainstream media, to tell their stories and to mobilise justice, as we have seen in recent times,” he said.

“When we were political activists in the Opposition in Sri Lanka before January 8, 2015, we had to go through political adversities such as blockage of ISPs. When we came to power…every citizen was encouraged to speak freely online, as we believed it was one of the ways of building inclusivity not only inside the state but also in the society at large. As a result, today, I have become one of the most disputable and maligned person in Sri Lanka,” Wickremesinghe said.

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister also exhorted on the importance of having a safe and secure digital ecosystem.

Prime Minister Modi, in his speech, also highlighted the importance of cyber security, which is one of the key talking points of the GCCS 2017. “The global community needs to approach the issue of cyber-security with confidence, as much as with resolve. Cyberspace technologies must remain an enabler for our people. The quest for an open and accessible internet often leads to vulnerability,” Modi said, adding that stories about hacking and defacement of websites were just the “tip of an iceberg”.

“They suggest that cyber attacks are a significant threat, especially in the democratic world. We need to ensure that vulnerable sections of our society do not fall prey to the evil designs of cyber criminals. Alertness towards cyber-security concerns, should become a way of life,” Modi said, adding that alongside addressing important questions about transparency, privacy,and security, the benefits of emerging digital technologies on the society must continue.

“The large multi-stakeholder participation at this event, is proof of the global endorsement that this platform has received. Nation states, the industry, academia and civil society, all need to work towards a formal collaborative framework. This will enable a secure cyberspace which improves quality of life,” Modi said.

He also highlighted that one of the key benefits of digital technologies was emergence of a level-playing field for not only the marginalised sections of society, but also for developing nations like India. “Today, digital technology has emerged as a great enabler…and it is helping to shape the future of business and economy. Through each of these ways, it provides the less privileged sections of society, a more level-playing field. On a macro-scale, it has contributed to emergence of a flat world, where a developing nation like India can compete on a level footing with developed nations,” Modi said.

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