Discussion about the Internet and its Implications for DevelopmentsMay 6th, 2011 Development Aid | Seminars
Freedom, Aid and Democracy were the theme of a seminar hosted by the Hjalmarson Foundation on the Convention of the Moderate Party for local and regional decision makers.
“The number of internet users has doubled since 2005” Hanna Hellquist, State Secretary at the MFA and the Moderator of the session, opened the seminar. She then introduced the two panelists, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gunilla Carlsson and the US Ambassador Matthew Barzun.
“We need to make sure that developing countries gain access to the new technology. Today’s gap between rich and poor needs closing” Gunilla Carlsson emphasized in her opening speech. When asked what comes first, freedom or growth, democracy or freedom, she answered:
“Our aid policy focuses on promoting both freedom and growth, both human rights and entrepreneurship”.
“At the moment, there is an explosion in internet usage. This brings hope for the future,” Gunilla Carlsson argued. She then commented on what has been called the black hole of the Internet – countries were the Internet is banned or restricted by totalitarian regimes. These include such countries like Tunisia (at least up to the recent events), Belarus, China and Cuba.
“Just like the US, Sweden is in top when it comes to freedom on the Web” Ambassador Matthew Barzun argued. Both in the US and in Sweden, he noted, there is a need for balance between freedom and security. He illustrated his point by referring to the Vasa, a Swedish war ship that sunk in the Baltic Sea on its maiden voyage in 1628. The constructors need to remember the ballast; else the ship will fall over. The Internet too has a need for balance.
“If we over-regulate, we will block the development,” Matthew Barzun argued.
Ambassador Barzun and Ms Carlsson both promoted the Global Network Initiative (GNI). The GNI is a corporate initiative for regulations on the Web, approved by actors such as Yahoo and Microsoft.
“We need to include Swedish telecom companies as well,” Ambassador Barzun concluded.