Raúl Echeberría: Okay I do many things on the Internet. I’m the CEO of LACNIC. LACNIC is the region­al reg­istry for Internet address­es for Latin America and part of the Caribbean. This is an impor­tant role because we have a bureau­crat­ic func­tion man­ag­ing IP address­es in the region, but at the same time the orga­ni­za­tion is a key play­er in the devel­op­ment of the Internet and infor­ma­tion soci­ety in the region. 

But besides that I have at least two oth­er roles. One is I’m a mem­ber of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of IGF. I have been in that group since its cre­ation in 2006. The group has the respon­si­bil­i­ty of set­ting the agen­da of every IGF meet­ing every year and also to dis­cuss the for­mats and pri­or­i­ties for the meet­ings con­duct­ed, the open con­sul­ta­tions, and deal with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the public—it’s a very impor­tant func­tion, too. 

And prob­a­bly my third role is that I’m a mem­ber of the board of trustees of the Internet Society. I have been on the board since 2008. I served as chair of the board of trustees for three years between 2009 and 2012

Intertitle: Describe one of the break­through moments or move­ments of the Internet in which you have been a key participant.

Echeberría: Okay, this is dif­fi­cult to iden­ti­fy; just a few points. Probably respond­ing quick­ly, I think that one of the moments that I enjoyed par­tic­i­pat­ing in was the devel­op­ment of the Internet in Uruguay, my coun­try. I used to work at that time for a research insti­tute on agri­cul­tur­al issues. So we were one of the first orga­ni­za­tions con­nect­ing our­selves to the Internet. So I like to believe that I played an inter­est­ing role in devel­op­ing Internet in Uruguay. I was one of the main speak­ers, pro­mot­ers, of Internet at that time, more than twen­ty years ago. And this is prob­a­bly one of my per­fect moments. 

The cre­ation of LACNIC was also an impor­tant moment, espe­cial­ly for Latin America and the Caribbean. It was very nice expe­ri­ence because it was a group of peo­ple that just believed that we could have an orga­ni­za­tion in the region for man­ag­ing IP address­es but also for play­ing a role as cat­alyz­er of Internet devel­op­ment in the region. But we did­n’t have any­thing, so we start­ed from zero and so all the process for cre­at­ing LACNIC was very good, a very inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence and now we have evolved that orga­ni­za­tion to an orga­ni­za­tion that is well-recognized in the region as one of the most impor­tant actors in Internet and pub­lic pol­i­cy issues. It’s an orga­ni­za­tion of $6 mil­lion of bud­get. So I think that all those activ­i­ties cre­at­ed with the cre­ation of LACNIC con­sti­tut­ed also a very inter­est­ing moment in my life…in the part of my life that is relat­ed with Internet things. 

The third thing prob­a­bly is my par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Working Group on Internet Governance and all the process of WSIS [pro­nounced eg. whizis”], the sum­mit on infor­ma­tion soci­ety. In 2004, the UN Secretary General formed a work­group that was known as WGIG [pro­nounced eg. whigig”], the Working Group on Internet Governance. And it was the first mul­ti­stake­hold­er expe­ri­ence in Internet gov­er­nance. The respon­si­bil­i­ty of that group was to pro­vide some infor­ma­tion on and rec­om­men­da­tions to the sec­ond part of the sum­mit that was held in 2005 in Tunis. 

All the work in the WGIG was very inno­v­a­tive, and all the par­tic­i­pants in the group learned very much about mul­ti­stake­holderism and how to inter­act with oth­er play­ers. We had very lit­tle expe­ri­ence in that sense before that. Now it seems that it’s very nor­mal­ly to work in a mul­ti­stake­hold­er envi­ron­ment, but it was a very keen expe­ri­ence, the cre­ation of that group and all the— And I think that it was an inflec­tion point in the sense that we could not— After the WGIG work it was impos­si­ble to go back in the evo­lu­tion of the Internet gov­er­nance mod­el. My par­tic­i­pa­tion in that group led also to my par­tic­i­pa­tion in the sum­mit, rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try as part of the offi­cial del­e­ga­tion. So I par­tic­i­pat­ed direct­ly in the nego­ti­a­tions that were cru­cial for get­ting an agree­ment in the sum­mit that includ­ed among oth­er things the cre­ation of the Internet Governance Forum and oth­er things. So all my par­tic­i­pa­tion since the Working Group on Internet Governance, the nego­ti­a­tions in the sum­mit was an intense expe­ri­ence and a real­ly impres­sive thing. 

Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weath­er anal­o­gy and explain why.

Echeberría: It depends on what part of the Internet we see. If we see the impact of the Internet in the life of the peo­ple, so it’s bright. Because real­ly the Internet is chang­ing every­thing in the world. Every human activ­i­ty is being impact­ed by devel­op­ment of the Internet. But if we look at the Internet gov­er­nance issues, I could say that it’s part­ly cloudy. And so I would choose this. If I have to choose only one, I think that it is part­ly cloudy. Because it’s nat­ur­al that since Internet has become real­ly extreme­ly impor­tant in the life of every­body in the world, even impor­tant for the peo­ple that don’t have access to the Internet because they are being impact­ed any­way. So, the gov­ern­ments are more active in the dis­cus­sions. That’s nat­ur­al. Some gov­ern­ments have expressed some con­cerns about things. Many top­ics that are well-known, like cyber­crime, secu­ri­ty. So I think that we have a big chal­lenge in front of us that is to fit the expec­ta­tions of those gov­ern­ments and oth­er actors with­in the cur­rent mod­el of open­ness of the Internet. Because if we don’t demon­strate that it is pos­si­ble to address those con­cerns in a frame­work of an open and free Internet that is also a cat­alyz­er for the exer­cise of human rights— So if we can­not demon­strate that, the gov­ern­ments will look for oth­er ways to sat­is­fy their expec­ta­tions. So it’s part­ly cloudy not because some­thing bad is real­ly hap­pen­ing but because we have big chal­lenges in front of us.

Intertitle: What are your great­est hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?

Echeberría: It’s relat­ed with what I said right now. Some gov­ern­ments can think that the way to sat­is­fy their expec­ta­tions and address their con­cerns is through a wrong direc­tion. They could think that the right direc­tion for them to solve some issues could be prob­a­bly not the right direc­tion for most of the peo­ple. And so some­times we see for exam­ple that in order to improve the secu­ri­ty of their net­works or to reduce the impact of cyber­crime, some gov­ern­ments are tak­ing mea­sures that are reduc­ing the abil­i­ty of the peo­ple to exer­cise their rights. And some­times free­dom of expres­sion and right to pri­va­cy and oth­er rights are being impact­ed by gov­ern­men­tal mea­sures. Then in some cas­es those mea­sures are based in good faith. The gov­ern­ments real­ly are not try­ing, in some cas­es, to lim­it the rights but they think that this is the right path for solv­ing some problems.

In oth­er cas­es, we see that some gov­ern­ments take mea­sures that affect the human rights of their cit­i­zens. But it’s not sur­pris­ing because some­times they are the same coun­tries that are tak­ing the same kind of mea­sures in real life. So it is nor­mal to think that they would try to repli­cate on the Internet the view that they have about the soci­ety in general. 

I think that if we keep the Internet in the way that we think is good for the peo­ple, we will be impact­ing pos­i­tive­ly in the capac­i­ty of the peo­ple to exer­cise their rights. We can con­tin­ue cre­at­ing an Internet that is more open for some peo­ple than the life that they have today. We can help peo­ple to express them­selves, to access knowl­edge, to inter­act with more peo­ple around the world. So I think this Internet, if well-used, could bring humankind to a more open soci­ety and a more free soci­ety. Not free in the sense of not respect­ing rules. Free in the sense of free access to knowl­edge, free­dom to express them­selves, free­dom to com­mu­ni­cate with any oth­er per­son in the world. I see Internet as a plat­form for pro­mot­ing the devel­op­ment of the society—human, eco­nom­ic, and social devel­op­ment, and also as a cat­alyz­er for the exer­cise of human rights. 

And this is the bright part. When I see the chil­dren in the coun­try­side rid­ing hors­es with their small com­put­ers with them, going to school, I think that this is a won­der­ful thing. This is how tech­nol­o­gy is being used for bring­ing knowl­edge to peo­ple that before the Internet had more obsta­cles for com­pet­ing with the rest of the soci­ety. Competing in the sense of hav­ing the same rights or hav­ing access to the same con­tent, the same infor­ma­tion, knowl­edge, and edu­ca­tion tools. And also for peo­ple liv­ing in— It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for many peo­ple for doing a new kind of busi­ness and selling…experiences like peo­ple in a small vil­lage prob­a­bly pro­mot­ing tourism in the area or sell­ing hand­i­crafts or pro­mot­ing their local prod­ucts in the world. Also per­mit­ting the rela­tion­ship of stu­dents or researchers in devel­op­ing coun­tries to be in touch with col­league in uni­ver­si­ties in the devel­oped coun­tries, pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties, and par­tic­i­pate in activ­i­ties togeth­er and being engaged in research that is con­duct­ed in oth­er parts of the world. 

So the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the Internet are infi­nite. It depends on us, how we can trans­form the Internet in what we think that it is pos­si­ble to be. 

Intertitle: Is there action that should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

Echeberría: I think that it is impor­tant to con­tin­ue work­ing on increas­ing access. I think that when we used to speak about the dig­i­tal divide a few years ago, we spoke about the dif­fer­ences between devel­op­ing and devel­oped coun­tries. But the dig­i­tal divide has oth­er forms, too. Within the devel­op­ing regions, there are also dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. And there are coun­tries that have indi­ca­tors that are almost com­pet­ing with the indi­ca­tors of devel­oped coun­tries. And there are oth­ers that have very low access. And so I think that we have to work not only in reduc­ing the dig­i­tal divide between regions but also try­ing to have a more homo­ge­neous devel­op­ment in devel­op­ing regions and also with­in the coun­tries, because it’s not the same sit­u­a­tion for some­body that lives in a big metrop­o­lis even in a devel­op­ing coun­try, the sit­u­a­tion of some­body who lives in the coun­try­side, or in the for­est, or moun­tains, or in some regions where the access is more com­pli­cat­ed. I think that it’s very impor­tant to work in edu­ca­tion and bring the tech­nolo­gies to all the chil­dren in the world. This is some­thing that we have to work on every day. Bringing the tech­nol­o­gy to the class­room, but at the same time try­ing to pro­mote a dif­fer­ent view about edu­ca­tion process­es in order to take advan­tage of the new tools that the chil­dren have access to. 

And I think the oth­er thing that we have to do is to work with gov­ern­ments, and with all actors around the world, try­ing to help them to devel­op poli­cies that are good for achiev­ing the goals that we are propos­ing. The Internet by itself is not valu­able for any­body. The Internet is valu­able if it impacts in the life of the peo­ple. So this is what we have to work on every day.