The UK has called for an open and borderless internet at the opening ceremony of the Seoul Conference on Cyberspace 2013 in South Korea.
Two years into the process, which started in London in 2011, to build an international consensus on the future of cyberspace, the world is facing a divide that must be confronted, said foreign secretary William Hague.
The divide is between countries like the UK who argue that the internet must remain open and borderless and those calling for an international legal framework that would enable governments to exercise exclusive control over the Internet’s content and resources.
But keeping the internet open, said Hague, is the only way to ensure the benefits of the digital age are expanded to all countries; that ingenuity and competition flourish; that investment and enterprise are rewarded; and that the creativity that spurs economic growth is not stifled by excessive regulation.
“I am convinced that placing the controls of cyberspace entirely in the hands of governments would be a drastic error that would have profound social and economic consequences,” he said.
Hague said the societies that embrace an open and vibrant internet will be the ones that develop and prosper most in the 21st century.
“We should have no illusions about the motivation of those whose calls for a regulated internet stem from a desire to control the expression and curtail the political freedoms of their citizens,” he said.
Although the world is making progress, including on capacity building to help all states tackle challenges in cyberspace, there is still no agreement on international ‘rules of the road’ or a set of standards on behaviour, he said.
“A fragmented cyberspace would reduce trust and co-operation, making malicious or subversive activity more likely and harder to detect,” he said.
Hague called for all countries to come together to ensure that the internet is not only secure, but remains an engine for progress the world over.
“At a time of such global economic uncertainty, making the wrong choice would have profound consequences for the future,” he said.