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Anförande på Digital Horizon

Anförande i Stockholm, Sverige

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for that introduction, and for inviting me to this conference. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be here - for a number of reasons. For one, it's encouraging that this event is taking place in Stockholm.

On the digital horizon, Stockholm is establishing itself as a digital hub.

It is a region with 1.25 million kilometres of open dark fibre and some of the world's lowest broadband prices.

And, a few weeks ago, we hosted the second Stockholm Internet Forum, with some 500 participants from more than 90 countries.

It is also a pleasure to attend an event put together by The Economist, which I appreciate not only as a great weekly magazine, but as a useful online resource and an often provocative, always well-informed opinion shaper.

And, finally, I am happy to join a crowd like this.

We often talk about - and defend - the multistakeholder model. This room embodies that model.

And this conference captures the essence of why it's needed: there is no way that the enormously complex digital agenda can be addressed by politicians alone.

Nor can it, by the way, be an issue for just business, just engineers, just researchers, just techies or just nerds. It's a simple idea: the internet is ours. We're in this together.

But this has proven difficult to realise - particularly in the political sphere, were politicians and bureaucrats sometimes seem unable to leave certain things alone.

I am not saying that governments should not be involved.

We are, and we should be, in order to reap the full benefits of the digital revolution and its potential for development, growth and freedom.

I'm just arguing that we should not be the only ones at the table, and that governance issues should be dealt with in a multistakeholder setting such as this one.

The model has served us - and the internet - tremendously well.

I welcome the fine tuning of it - to make it more participatory, inclusive and representative. But the basics are sound, and should be safeguarded.

The issues of this session are as relevant as they are timely.

New technologies do indeed affect democracy, political engagement and security.

We've seen this at home, in the streets of the revolutions, and among entrepreneurs, small hold farmers, the previously unbanked and unconnected.

I would like to use this session to speak about the basic principles, the threats and the opportunities.

Let me start with the basics, the values. Or as it is expressed in the conference programme: "& what we believe to be right or wrong".

The Swedish Government has worked on these basics, the values -freedom on the internet, and of the internet - for years.

The argument has been simple: freedom and human rights should apply in the online world as well as in the offline world.

Last July, we achieved a remarkable victory in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with the adoption of resolution 20/8. And earlier this week, some 70 countries came together around a statement reconfirming this policy.

In a high-tech world full of digits, codes, ones and zeros, this particular combination of numbers - 20/8 - is worth remembering.

The resolution confirms that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies online in exactly the same way as it does offline.

It was adopted by consensus. That includes China and Russia, and 45 other countries. It was co-sponsored by close to 90 countries - some of them unexpected.

We're not naive.

The commitment of some of these countries might be slightly less wholehearted than we would like it to be. But the fact that they all agreed on the resolution gives us a legitimate platform for our continued work.

With 20/8 we have an internationally shared principle. And forgive me for spending some time on it, but it is important.

It has encouraged activists.

It has transformed the political conversation in ways we hoped and intended It has acquired a symbolic significance well beyond many similar resolutions.

And it is our platform for the continued fight for freedom on the net - the most important front line in our fight for freedom across the world today.

So, the basics are there. Let's turn to the threats.

Much of the global discussion lately has come to focus on cyber security.

I was in Singapore a few weeks ago attending an annual Asian security conference called the Shangri-La Dialogue. Cyber security featured rather prominently among the presentations, and even more so in the media reporting. It was also at the top of the list of issues addressed at the meeting between presidents Obama and Xi last weekend in California.

To a certain degree, cyber-crime, cyber-espionage and cyber-attacks make headlines because they are easy to portray as spectacular and confrontational, sometimes even seemingly fictional.

Conflicts and problems are always more widely reported than cooperation.

But there they are also a very serious, very tangible threat to individuals, to businesses and to states; threats that we are probably only beginning to see the effects and magnitude of.

For us, cyber freedom and cyber security are one. It is about security to ensure freedom. Bringing these dimensions together is good for security, for freedom - and for the internet.

Security is necessary for protecting the life and health of the population, and the functionality of society.

It is necessary for safeguarding the core values of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression, openness and the right to privacy.

It is necessary for the flows of ideas, people, goods and services that constitute the core of globalisation.

As the previously unconnected gain access to the global internet, these challenges are faced by more and more states and individuals - and many of them are rather unprepared.

They might lack the hardware, the institutions or the legal frameworks.

I think that there is a clear risk of a political backlash when the first major data theft, large-scale fraud or virus pandemic occurs in a country that just does not have the tools to handle it.

These risks need to be addressed by building capacity, raising awareness and sharing experiences. So, there are the basics - freedom online and 20/8 - which I talked about initially.

There are the threats and vulnerabilities - crime, attacks, infringement of rights. And there are the endless opportunities.

The potential and importance of an open internet in creating vibrant, dynamic democracies can probably not be overestimated.

It goes far beyond politicians communicating on Twitter.

We see mechanisms for accountability that enhance trust in the political system, give voice to citizens and empower people.

There are innovative platforms for parliamentary dialogue in Tunisia. New, effective means of fighting corruption in India.

Creative ways of using technology to bridge the gap between traditional, communal decision-making forums and the national parliament in Botswana.

And this is only the beginning.

In a few years, with the current pace of technological development, these examples may appear banal. Today, they are quite remarkable and highly transformative.

The fastest growth of connectivity and number of internet users takes place in the developing world. The next billion users will be found in low and middle income countries.

Think about that for a while, and about what it will mean in terms of shifting balances of powers - between governments and citizens, between states, between other actors in societies and between different parts of the world.

The character of the internet and cyberspace is challenging the very nature of our state-centric international system.

In 2011, mobile broadband subscriptions rose by a staggering 40 per cent worldwide.

But penetration is still uneven: a bleak eight per cent in developing countries, compared with 51 per cent in the developed ones.

And even though the number of internet users in developing countries doubled between 2007 and 2011, only 25 per cent of their populations are online today.

Some 1.9 billion young people have no access to the internet.

So, while the digital gap is closing, and the digital future belongs to the developing countries, the digital state of the world is still uneven.

To contribute to a leveller digital playing field, Sweden will invest more than USD 63 million in ICT projects in low- and middle-income countries over the next five years to close the gaps and to increase internet penetration.

We will support innovators, developers and entrepreneurs who will use the internet to create new services, jobs and growth.

Let me end by reverting to the multistakeholder model and how we should take care of the internet. It was established to deal with the governing of the internet.

It is equally relevant for using and promoting the internet as a tool for innovation, freedom and development. Such an internet would change life as we know it.

It is already affecting international policy and politics.

And we, in turn, should use international policy and politics to create the most favourable conditions to make the open, secure and free internet fully beneficial to the world.

To safeguard the multistakeholder model. To work together to meet the threats.

To make full use of the great opportunities. And to fight for the basics - freedom online.

Thank you.

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