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Anförande vid Budapest Conference on Cyberspace 2012

Anförande i Budapest, Ungern

Twenty years ago wasn't that long ago. The internet was something for a couple of academic nerds at best. I remember the first GSM telephone arriving - 2G - and the commercial potential of that was very much in doubt - whether one was going to invest in that daring new technology.

Today, two decades later, after the fastest introduction of new technology that we have seen in human history, we are on the verge of a world of true hyperconnectivity. Moore's law continues to apply.

Decade after decade, year after year, we see computing power increasing in a dramatic way. But we see an even more dramatic increase in all of the technologies of connectivity in different ways.

Today, there are more connected devices in the world than there are people. There are more than six billion subscribers to mobile telephones, four times as many as have landlines, seven times as many as have fixed internet.

But of course far more lies ahead of us. We expect mobile data traffic over the next five years to grow by a factor of 15. But even more important than that - because if it were only in Budapest or Stockholm or Tallinn or Washington, that would be one thing - but by that time it is expected that 85 per cent of the population of the world will be covered by networks for mobile data. In five years' time there are likely to be five billion mobile broadband subscriptions. Then we will truly be in a world of global hyperconnectivity covering virtually everyone around the world.

And this will of course also dramatically impact upon our societies in virtually every way. It will create new possibilities for growth and prosperity. Look at what's happening in Africa these days, where they are starting to introduce, far away from the cities, the new possibilities that mobile connectivity and mobile broadband bring. It opens up closed societies, although we also see hierarchies fighting back. It allows us to follow what's happening around the world. We have technologies like Skype (origin: Estonia), Bambuser (origin: Sweden), that allow us to see online the carnage, the tragedy, the inhumanity of the violence in Syria, in Aleppo, in Damascus, in Homs these very days. But we also see how these technologies will enable our societies, in numerous ways, many of which are beyond what we can envisage today.

Then there are now two major critical tasks: one relates to freedom on the net and the other relates to the security of the net. I mentioned, and President Ilves did as well, that as networks are challenging authorities, authoritarian regimes are fighting back. And we see increased tendencies in a number of countries to have restrictions on the freedom of information on the net.

In June of this year in Geneva, at the United Nations Council for Human Rights, they adopted a landmark resolution, which after considerable debate and deliberation said something that is fundamental. It said that the protection of the rights and of the freedom of the individual, and of expression and information that we have codified for many years, in what we now refer to as the offline world, should apply equally in the online world. That is a landmark decision that we should carry forward in different ways, and it underlines that the fight for the freedom of the net is the new frontline for the fight for freedom in the world.

Last week Freedom House published the latest of its surveys of the world in this particular respect. They looked at 47 nations and saw what's been happening in terms of the freedom of the net, and in 20 of those they saw a negative tendency. They mentioned in particular Bahrain, Pakistan and Ethiopia. But in 14 they also saw positive trends: Tunisia, Libya, Burma, Georgia, Kenya, Indonesia, are places where the freedom of the net is expanding and at the same time as we should unmask the restrictions that are there and try to fight them, we should of course highlight the advantages and the advances that are happening. This is in the interest of the rights of the individuals, first and foremost, but also the potential of nations. The nation that restricts the net and the freedom of its individuals on the net is a nation that restricts its own potential for development and growth and prosperity in the future.

We will carry these issues forward. Stockholm Internet Forum, which some of you have attended, will be held next year as well to carry these issues forward.

And at the same time, the second of these tasks that I mentioned - the freedom of the net is the first, the security of the net the second - safeguarding the security of the net. Because as the net becomes increasingly important for our societies, the security of the net becomes the security of our societies. It will not be possible to divide the security of the net and the security of our societies. If we don't manage the security of the net we endanger the security of the rights of individuals and we endanger the security of our societies, thus it is clearly an enormously important task for the future. And here, in the interest of time I will not go into very much detail, but I will just say that we must obviously do very much more together to share experience based on a firm base in the values underlying our free societies.

The Budapest Convention has been mentioned and is fundamental when it comes to fighting crime. We are doing quite a lot together with the Nordic countries. Estonia is one of the leaders in this particular respect. There was an important initiative announced by the United Kingdom recently; we are, as Catherine Ashton said, also advancing the important work that is done within the European Union in this respect. Global cooperation is necessary to handle a global task.

Final point. In all of this, the freedom of the net and the security of the net, we must safeguard the open governance model of the internet, what in somewhat bureaucratic language is called the 'multi-stakeholder model'. Whatever the details offered, and it's sometimes complicated, it has been an astonishing success during the last 20 years. We shouldn't endanger that success. There are those that try to change it - I think it is important for us to safeguard the open governance model of the net.

Twenty years ago everything was different. Twenty years ahead in the future, 2032, we haven't a clue what possibilities there will be, but one thing is certain: it will be decided to a very large extent by how we handle the twin tasks of safeguarding the freedom of the internet now and the security of the net. If we do that, the possibilities of the future are more or less without bounds and limits.


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