"What went wrong?" Anita Gurumurthy's statement at the closing ceremony of WSIS plus 10 review

8 March 2013

By Anita Gurumurthy

The statement by Anita Gurumurthy, Executive Director, IT for Change, at the closing ceremony of WSIS plus 10 review held by UNESCO from 25th to 27th February, 2013, starts questioning “what went wrong?” in the last decade since the internet should have been been equalising social and economic opportunity. Why did the internet, and the information society phenomenon not do what it was supposed to do?

And she adds: “The WSIS plus 10 review is a historic opportunity therefore to review the state of democracy – and I qualify, the state of global democracy”. In this sense, Gurumurthy highlights two tasks ahead of us: first, re-interpreting human rights, equality and sustainability in the information society. “This is a dialogue that must inform the other UN reviews and discussions on the crises of food, fuel, finance and climate change, poverty and deprivation, inequality and insecurity, and violence against women”; and second task is to explore the favourable conditions that can make the internet an equaliser. “As a global public good, the policy issues pertaining to the internet are simultaneously global and national. Discussing the global policy issues around the Internet should be a principal aim of the WSIS plus 10 review process.”

“Authoritarian states have had to come to terms with the power of interconnection in the network age. The Occupy Movement gave new hope to social movements. Yet, new configurations of power in mainstream spaces have more or less seen the political elite make way for a new class of economic elite – information society democracy remains as exclusionary as its predecessors. Perhaps more, _with little place for women and others in the margins, and oblivious of new forms of violence and misogyny in the open and ostensibly emancipatory corridors of the virtual world. Those of us committed to build a people-centred, inclusive and development oriented information society have to come to terms with and interrogate the roots of these crises – the unfavourable conditions that seem to have jettisoned the equalising propensities of the internet.” _

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