The Zero Draft the ‘WSIS +10’ document was published on 9 October 2015. Apart from expected provisions (e.g. IGF extension, multistakeholder participation, protection of human rights), the Zero Draft introduces some new elements, as well as emphasising formulations already used in the World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) process. These include the following:
1. Net neutrality has been directly introduced for the first time in the official UN negotiation process (para. 35). Thus far it had mostly been discussed under the broader topic of open Internet. If the net neutrality principle is adopted, it remains to be seen if it will be implemented only on a national level – as is currently the case with, for example, Brazil, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and the USA – or if should also extend internationally to Internet traffic crossing national borders.
2. Development consolidates the centre position in the global digital policy:
- Almost half of the text of the Zero Draft deals with development (28 out of 58 paragraphs).
- There is a strong link between the WSIS process and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SD) process, including feeding of the results of the future WSIS review into the overall review process of the Agenda 2030 (para. 57)
- The Zero Draft lists all of the actors who should receive special attention in capacity development activities, ranging from small island states to youth and indigenous groups. This paragraph (para. 9) could serve as a check-list for future development assistance programmes.
- The right to development is emphasised in the section on human rights.
3. Governments have received higher prominence:
- The WSIS formulation ‘in their respective roles and responsibilities’ is reiterated three times in the Zero Draft. According to the WSIS Tunis Agenda, governments’ respective roles and responsibilities are in international Internet public policy issues which are likely to dominate global digital policy debate.
- Territorial integrity, sovereignty, non-interference and political independence were reiterated in two sections (paras. 5 and 48).
- In referring to cybersecurity, governments should play an ‘enhanced role’ (i.e. leading role) (para. 46).
4. International law applies to the Internet:
- in realisation of the WSIS vision, which de facto means applying international law to international digital policy (para. 5);
- in building confidence and security (para. 48);
- insofar as rules for human rights offline apply online as well (para. 42).
5. The document includes two contextual ‘square brackets’:
- ‘…A number of states called for an international legal framework for internet governance…’ (para. 36).
- ‘…We acknowledge the call for a convention on internationalcybercrime…’ (para. 50).
6. The need for evidence-based digital policy is highlighted in several sections:
- ICT as a development indicator (para. 7);
- improved indices for measuring cybersecurity (para. 50);
- emphasis on data collection, analysis and statistics (para. 56).
7. The Zero Draft reinforces the following trends in using prefixes:
- Security is cyber (cyber is used 14 times with reference to building confidence and security in the use of ICTs).
- Development is digital (digital is used 12 times in the context of explaining development issues).
- e- is ‘historical’ (e- is used 8 times, mainly in reference to the WSIS action lines).
- ‘net’ (not technically a prefix, but a similar phenomenon) is mentioned only once, to introduce net neutrality.
8. The most often-used umbrella term remains ‘information and communications technology’ (ICT), with 51 references, while the Internet is mentioned 16 times in the Zero Draft.
Linguistically speaking, ICT sounds like ‘retro’ jargon, since ICT as a term is used much less today compared to 2005, when the WSIS Tunis Agenda was adopted. In addition, most ICT today is Internet based (using Internet protocol: TCP/IP). With the fast growth of the Internet of Things, it remains to be seen if anything significant in the digital field will remain outside the realm of the Internet. The WSIS +10 outcomes may need to synchronise policy language with technological developments.
For detailed coverage of the WSIS +10 process, consult the GIP Digital Watch.